My interest in helping aspiring artists develop their work stems directly from my own positive experiences with former mentors. I was very fortunate as a student to have group of young, energetic instructors that took a personal interest in my development as an artist. Their excitement and enthusiasm was contagious, and gave me the desire to learn and to work hard. They were very open about their own studio process, which helped me realize that my professors were at one point in their art-making career at a similar ability level as myself. This realization that most successful artists probably were not born with a natural ability to create great artwork, helped me understand that the most valuable attribute for a young artist is desire.
I strongly believe in the importance of hard work and desire, over natural ability. Although there is the rare occurrence of natural talent, or genius, the vast majority of successful art is a result of hard work and tenacity in the studio. As an instructor, I am interested in instilling these ideas as soon as possible in my students.
I believe in the importance of strong fundamentals in introductory levels. As an educator, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with many of my peers and observe a broad range of approaches when teaching foundation level courses. While developing my own teaching priorities I have found that although I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, I lean towards a formal and technical approach in beginning level classes. When I teach foundation level courses I start with very basic and comprehensive studies in formal procedures that prepare students for a better understanding of what is to follow. I focus my energy on helping students develop strong observational drawing skills, understanding of color relationships and design principles, paint mixing, material handling, etc. While the projects are fairly structured, I believe that it is crucial to give students a context for the skills that they are learning. I make it a point to show historical and contemporary examples of artwork that relates to our projects as often as possible. On top of this I start the majority of classes by showing an artist interview. Most of the artists that I choose to show are contemporary, and sometimes do not relate directly to projects that we are working on that particular day. The purpose of this is to generate class discussion. I feel that it helps students tremendously to hear established artists talk about the process and concepts going into their work. This gives students the opportunity to ask questions and develop informed opinions rather than dismissing work because it is difficult to understand. Why does Philip Guston paint in such a way that could be considered naive or childish? Why would an artist choose abstraction over a representational approach? Although art history is not the focus of studio courses, I believe that it is part of my duty as an art educator to provided historical context in conjunctions with studio work.
When it comes to technical and material handling skills I tend to be very hands on. I do a lot of demonstrations especially early on in the course. My goal is to help students become comfortable with the materials and gain technical skills that will give them confidence to experiment, and express their unique ideas. As their work becomes more specific and personalized, naturally the students will become more excited about their own work as well as the work of their peers.