Monday, September 29, 2008

Finding your own way

Two of my (8!) classes this semester are for students who need "professional development points" -- that is, public-school teachers who need to expand on their current knowledge and abilities in order to maintain teaching certification in the state of Massachusetts.

What wonderful students I have! Dedicated, enthusiastic and talented. There's a watercolor class and an acrylic class.

After two weeks of seeing their work, I notice a common issue. It's one that all artists share, but particularly those like my students, who find themselves in the position of spending all day helping young children make art projects but often don't have the time they need (or sometimes ANY time) to develop their own visions as artists. It's like working in a candy store, but not being able to eat the candy yourself.

The most important thing for an artist, I believe, is having the opportunity to experiment, try and fail. That's the only way to learn and grow.

Many of the students in this class are going back to their own art, as part of this class, for the first time since college. It's interesting to me that they are finding their interests and abilities are back at the stage they were in college, yet they are more experienced, mature and aware as people than they were at 22. So their visions have outpaced their abilities to express them.

Many of them want to branch out and explore, take a risk, but they're unsure of how to do so. It is a pleasure and an honor for me to be in a position to advise and encourage them.

I believe that one of the best ways to deal with feeling stuck when painting is to do something, anything, even if it's the "wrong" thing. Paint a layer of yellow all over the surface. Tear up random papers and glue them all over the surface. Take a big oil stick and scribble all over the surface. Anything to make a change, cause a spark, get yourself moving.

It takes bravery to push yourself like this, and risk wrecking the painting, but if you stay where you are, you'll never move forward.

We artists must never settle for a painting that is OK but not what we really meant to say. And in order to be honest painters, we must paint who were ARE, not who we were.

The above painting was one that I almost gave up on, but extra intuitive layers ended up tying it all together.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I can definitely identify with the idea of pushing on. Mediocrity isn't an option.

Catherine Carter said...

Glad you agree, Martha! So many artists have trouble going as far as they want to due to lack of time ... but you have to find a way!