April 8, 2019
One of the best parts of working on Art Prof has been all of the opportunities we’ve had to travel internationally, something I definitely did not anticipate when we started many years ago. We’ve traveled as far as China, Taiwan, Canada, and trust me, we are not stopping there!
This time, I was invited by Whitehorse Academy in Vancouver to teach for 6 days. Luckily, my spring break lined up perfectly with their spring break, so we were able to have a 6 day intensive workshop. I got to work with the students for 4 hours a day, (24 hours total) so we had 2 days on Two-Dimensional Design, 2 days on Drawing, and 2 days on Three-Dimensional Design. By far it was the most substantial amount of teaching and time I’ve gotten to spend with a group of students abroad. Depending on the school, sometimes I’m there to give a lecture, a one day workshop, or some other combination so I don’t get much of an opportunity to really get to the know the students.
This time, I really did get to know the students, which was really fulfilling. The students were really driven, eager to learn, and very hard working, qualities that really make all the difference in the world when you’re teaching. You can focus entirely on the content without distractions which I’ve learned to appreciate, given that I’ve taught at so many different types of programs over the years.
While the 2D and 3D projects certainly got the students out of their comfort zone with the wide range of materials, I’m convinced that the most challenging day of the week was when I had them do very quick gesture drawings. We started with 2 minute gesture drawings, and the students all looked at me like I had 10 heads. As is common in many schools, the students told me that they were not accustomed to such fast drawings, as well as drawing from direct observation. (they told me they all drew from photos)
So while the students were initially really uncomfortable with the gesture drawings, (and yes, I did quite a bit of metaphorical butt kicking during the class) a lot of them told me later how much fun it was to draw in such a totally different way. They saw the difference between their first drawings, many of which looked stiff and diagrammatic vs. their later drawings which felt more naturalistic, looser, and more dynamic.
With international trips like this where my time with the students is so limited, (compared to having a student for an entire college semester) my greatest goal is to expose the students to something totally unfamiliar and new. If I show up and just repeat what they have done before, and reinforce what they already know, that’s doing the opposite of what I as a visiting artist should be doing. Given the short time period I spend with students in a context like this, they simply cannot master new skills. But, I can give them a new experience that gets them thinking in a different way for a moment, in a way that can open up future possibilities.