Learning to love to Draw

Last week I was moaning about my struggles to live and survive as an artist. This has by no means subsided however, as Robert suggested in the comments there is a sort of gift to being able to pursue a creative career. In addition I'd like to express some gratitude that in a way I have found two passions at a rather early age, whereas I hear of people discovering their life work later in life.

In addition to my art practice, one of my other life works is a as teacher and I gotta say that I find it to be an extremely fulfilling endeavor. As you know I work several jobs at one time. One of my very favorite jobs is my position as visiting artist/teacher at Marian Middle School. I work with a group of girls from every neighborhood in St. Louis and from all sorts of backgrounds. I am struck again and again by their enthusiasm for art and the supportive encouragement they give me. When ever I go to school I hear excitedly "do we have art today?". Each day I am guaranteed to be gifted a couple of hugs or a "you look pretty". People give middle schoolers a bad rap I think. When I tell people I work at a middle school quite often I hear "that must be hard". I find them to be engaging, questioning, and honest. I am totally rewarded with all the times they go into the zone while working on a project and then actually complain that class goes by two fast! At my school you have to earn respect and now in year 3.5 teaching there, I can really say that they have taught me as much about how to be an effective teacher as I have taught them about art. These days no matter what else is going on with my art career, I leave Marian with a smile.

After three years teaching design classes at Jeffco, I am also proud to say that I am teaching my first official college drawing class on my own, and I find it to be about the most fascinating endeavor I have had in a long time. I put in time teaching the beginning adjunct's requisite "Art Appreciation", which I enjoyed although I have to say that it was not second nature to me. With drawing I find that I go into a sort of teaching zone when I am working with the students. Beginning Drawing is especially fascinating because of all the mental blocks that I get to go up against; the mind's eye, perfectionism, laziness. As I prepare for the class I imagine how the lessons will build on top of each other. I notice practices and tricks that I use that are ingrained, but that I too once learned in a drawing class.

Image by Amy Cutler

In truth, throughout college I had a love hate relationship with drawing because I went to a school where life drawing/observation drawing was emphasized over any sort of playful geeky drawing-(Johanson, Shrigley, Cutler, Dzama), like I now see in books like Vitamin D. (Drawing is one area where I sometimes think thank God for conceptual art). My own perfectionism was often a roadblock to developing a drawing hand that I felt comfortable with and in addition I remember one of the most talented sort of playful image makers (Sarah B.)not receiving the sort of support I thought she deserved for her wacky fantastic drawings.

At grad school I was able to really come to peace with drawing as I TA'd for Mary Borgman, who I consider to be about the best drawing teacher alive and I got to watch my boyfriend draw. These two worked in very opposite manners but each of them inspired my own practice. Mary Borgman broke drawing down to such specific tricks, that I realized I could draw anything I needed to. Meanwhile Cam drew and composed almost completely from his head and he taught me to do the same. Combining these practices has been important to how I build drawings and paintings today. When teaching beginning drawing I realize that the observational drawing goals of that class are really just tool building for whatever later practices may occur. Also watching a drawing come to life as the teacher is akin to watching a time lapse video, just marvelous.

The upside of living as an artist is having small fulfilling jobs and in these jobs being able to experience the sort of life learning that happens as a teacher.


nosey parker said…
i think there are no rules...just the ones you follow. of course you need to learn those other rules until you can make up your own rules. take the jump whenever you're good and ready.

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