Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Advice from the classroom....

Being back in the classroom on the opposite side of the desk so to speak has been an enlightening experience at the introductory college level. For my license renewal, I must take 6 credit hours every 5 years so twice a decade I go back and sit with the 18-20 year olds and pretend to be a novice. Sometimes I can get away with it and sometimes not. What follows is a list of suggestions for current art students (the young ones in undergraduate school for the first time) who want to be successful in the arts someday.

1. Come to class on time and be ready to work. If a class starts at 1:10pm, be there by 1:10pm and at your easel with supplies out. Don’t’ come wandering in at 1:20 or 1:30 and expect to find out what is going on. The expectations of the assignment have been set and instruction has begun. And a note to the instructor please be on time too and ready to start the class without waiting on those 4 or 5 that are always late. Why do I have to wait for them too? I paid to be here for a set amount of time and want my money’s worth. In the real world, your boss expects you to show up to work on time.

2. Don’t wear those dang headphones. How can the instructor talk to you? Even worse, and you don’t understand this yet, but your senses are dulled by the distraction. When drawing from life, you need to observe your subject with all the concentration you can muster in order to train your eye. If your brain is occupied by sound, your eyes are not getting all the power they can. You don’t know it, but I see it, you are not looking at the subject. You are working the hand held device, adjusting the ear buds, fiddling with the cords, and moving to the music which affects your marking.

3. Don’t talk so loud and joke around with those working next to you. Because of those ear buds, you are talking louder than you think you are, the model can’t concentrate, your laughter is rude, and I can’t focus on my own work because you are being a jerk. Be respectful of the classroom and others in it. If you like being the center of attention, make some good art and you will be singled out for performance, but the center stage shenanigans of your behavior is just juvenile at the college level.

4. Use your time wisely. A short break to allow the model to stretch does not mean a 15 minute smoke break, a dash to the local fast food place, or an extended chat on the phone in the hallway. A break means to stand up, look at your work, stretch your own muscles then sit back down and focus. Also, don’t wait 20 minutes for the instructor to get to your side of the room for a review of your work. Keep drawing or painting or making art until it is your turn. Just sitting there doing nothing is a waste of your own time. Don’t know what to do to fix your drawing? Start a new one and then when it is your turn, either the problem is better or you can go back and look at the first piece, but no time was lost staring at your phone or spinning around on your stool or just staring off into space, lost in the music from the headphones. Somebody may have been closed out of this class because of you and just warming a seat is not fair.

5. Don’t text behind the instructor’s back or hunched behind your easel so nobody can see. I can see it. I would ask you to leave the room and come back when ready to use the time wisely. Take care of whatever personal business has to be done, but not in my classroom. Cameras are on those things and the models deserve the right to privacy. That incessant clicking noise of the keys is also distracting and rude.

6. Stand up. I know that is rather a silly thing to point out, but sitting down to draw while at an easel is not the best way to learn. It stops your shoulders and elbows from becoming part of the process. Plus your posture is horrible and your back will hurt when you are my age.

7. Don’t leave early unless absolutely necessary. If a class runs until 3:30, stay until 3:30. Don’t pack up slowly beginning at 3:10 and start edging towards the door at 3:22. These are the same kids who whine that they can’t draw. Well no shinola sister, you aren’t there long enough to learn how and practice.

If you want to succeed in the art world, as an artist, you need dedication, self motivation, perseverance and a good old fashioned work ethic because once you leave the sheltered environment of studio classes, nobody is going to force you to work on your own work. You have to want to do it for yourself and that quality is lacking in many of you. College instructors can’t make you be there, attendance is optional, but there can be consequences for absences. Problem is, many kids just don’t care.

Because I lack an MFA ( I only have an MA in art education therefore according to the university, once kids hit 18, I don’t know how to teach them anymore…weird, but whatever) I will not get to have my own college classroom. That is probably a good thing. I have some very high expectations for those who wish to enter my profession which I take very seriously. After 2 weeks, probably only a handful of students would be left in the room, but at least they would learn some valuable lessons.

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