Art can be a very rewarding thing if you approach it in a very open way. As a teacher and businessman in the art and illustration fields, I have seen and experienced art at many, many different levels, everything from a high-pressure, under-the-gun approach to a very easy-going playful experience. I can truthfully say I like the playful approach much better and sometimes it is hard to adapt from one level to another. If you are fortunate enough to run into good advisors along the way as I have, the experience can be one of positive growth.
I do not teach art at a professional level anymore. I had more than enough of that training employees just out of art school. The reality of creating on demand was somewhat new to them. The overnight deadline really threw them. The extreme pressure is very real and has a tendency to create mental and physical trauma. I now teach for the pleasure of creating something my students like and want to do a good job when finished. To that end I draw upon a lifetime of experiences to help them in the process. But what is more important I help them measure their progress and let them know what to expect out of themselves realistically. As they then progress we take on new and different challenges, if they wish. “If they wish” being the key idea for how fast they wish to move. Often I will actually hold them back from certain projects because I know the many extra challenges they will face and I do not feel that it will be a positive experience for them. The end painting is not really the objective but the total experience is.
We are a society devoted to the end product and this is the source of most of our frustration. In the type of class I conduct I focus on the total experience of the painting process. The end product I have learned through a lot of experience will take care of itself especially if the total painting endeavor has been a good and positive one.
Right now, in all of my classes for the last few years, it has been focused on the pleasure that one gets from painting. I use a hands off approach for most of my classes unless I am demonstrating a technique. When there is a need for advice, I am there. I usually give several ways to resolve their perceived problem and they can choose one or combine some to help them move on to the next step.
I believe that painting when presented in easily comprehended segments can be a very enjoyable process for both the student and the teacher. Some people in my class use it as a safety net in case they need help. Most of the time they work on their own just fine. I do not feel that I should impose my ideas or thoughts on them. I let them proceed at the level and speed they feel comfortable with. The actual class environment may be more of a social time than an educational time. The safety net environment is beneficial to most who enjoy working and learning on their own. Art is enjoyable only when it meets or fits your needs or expectations. My approach is very low key and seems to fit most of the participants needs and desires.
If someone wants a highly disciplined class environment, the colleges and art schools provide this need. There is a step between the low key and highly disciplined and that is usually in night classes provided by art guilds or gallery studio classes. They are especially good for beginners who want more of the whole story of creating with an objective or goal in mind. Guild and gallery classes provide a good environment for this group with higher motivations. This is a good stepping stone for those who think they may want to make a career out of art. A few of these classes are very helpful in preparing for college or art school studies.
There are a lot of opportunities to learn art at different levels with different goals here in London, Ohio.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. He can be reached at (740) 852-4906 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.