Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Opening (and Closing)

"I'm tired, but proud." - Norman Rockwell
*note: all photos are from the 2009 Fall semester student art show @ the UAF Art Department.

Almost a year ago now I embarked on this experiment of documenting my personal experiences teaching a Beginning Drawing class. Starting with the Spring semester of 2009, then carried over across the insanity and intensity of teaching Summer Sessions, and then finally this past Fall semester, the goal was to put everything out there (here), warts & all.

The perspective from the other side of the drawing pad has been and will continue to be a self-reflecting process: actually putting things into writing and providing a running commentary to many projects turned into something akin to a Director's Cut DVD on making & teaching art. There's no end to resources, ideas and inspiration from peers, books and websites on both doing and teaching art out there; Ink & Snow's just one more voice in the wilderness (literally).

Putting everything together in one place can still be the antithesis of my artistic process, and about as fun as herding cats: my thoughts don't tend to coalesce anywhere near as easily as they do when focused on a drawing. Still, I've been rewarded with insights that I hadn't experienced yet in the traditional method of creating, along with a weird objective disassociation when monitoring one's own actions, constant questioning of motives and rating of relative effectiveness. "The unexamined life is not worth living" - Socrates would most definitely have been a blogger (not to mention a major Facebook presence), but probably sucked as an artist, seeing as how so much of this way of life defies logic. An awful lot of this introspection yields nothing more than toeing up to a line and just acknowledging that it's there, as in, I sometimes have no clue why, or how, I have no answer, and that's okay. One part habit, one part constant search for clues.

Humbling and frustrating to look back in retrospect and see how much I really don't know, how much more there always is to learn, and to teach - myself and from others. Disappointments and mistakes happen as much in the classroom as on any piece of paper on my drawing board. But I still think there's an awful lot to be said for dissatisfaction being a primary motivation in art: nothing ever really seems to manifest itself the way I originally envision it, and if it ever starts to, well, then there's no real reason to keep doing it once it's been done.

The public display of one's shortcomings and strengths in a blog isn't really any damn bit different than showing your artwork in any public venue. Criticism and rejection go hand in hand with any accolades; learning both to overcome fears and reign in the ego is a characteristic of many artists I admire, as is the instinct to share knowledge, information and, oh yeah, your own damn opinion. I think it's also somewhat second nature for both visual artists and members of the media to explore different venues such as blogging, and cartoonists are the last people overly concerned with coming across as idiots, so there ain't no shame in letting it all hang out.

So after reformatting, editing and uploading well over 500 images (68 MB is only 6% of my allotted space here on Blogspot - so there's still plenty of room for more) and who knows how many thousands of rambling words, it's time to scale back a bit. And yeah, back in May I said I'd stop blogging about teaching drawing; but this time I mean it...
Re-channeling the time, energy and attention into new directions and applying the insights earned after this little side-venture onto upcoming projects will eventually bear some strange fruit: can't really dodge the discipline needed for some bigger projects now that I've established a pattern of regular output.

Since the inexorable expansion of topics on Ink & Snow parallels the creative mission creep I experience in my own artwork, the plan now is to maintain a shift over into more or less all things cartoon related, excepting the intermittent community art-related event, featured artist profile and the occasional review and exhibition critique. I also hope to expand a little and incorporate some guest posters in the future, maybe even monetize the site so as to help out with expenses. Posts will probably get even more narcissistic and pathological, and the content simultaneously stupider and more provocative. Much like my cartoons there's usually something for everybody, amuse, educate, irritate and inform.

So here's to hoping some of you will still visit, and many thanks for your patience and curiosity. Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged from the lurker contingent, I'll appreciate any feedback. CHEERS!

[Handing out awards, from the left: Da-ka-xeen Mehner (Native Arts), Todd Sherman (Printmaking + Department Chair),
Mike Nakoneczny (painting), College of Liberal Arts Interim Dean Eric Heyne]

"It is important to know: 1) You are OK just the way you are. You need a strong stomach, a tough hide, and to be able to take rejection well. 2) Do your homework. Check out galleries. Don't just walk in with your work. Be as professional as you can. 3) ... there is a gallery for everybody." - Kay WalkingStick

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