Note: The video can be viewed at any time. It's
about 7 minutes long.
There are literally two ways of being "an artist".
The first of these is the public persona that each
artist chooses to portray. Ever since "Lust for
Life" (Vincent Van Gogh), "Pollock (Jackson Pollock
and Lee Krasner)", "How to draw a bunny" (Ray
Johnson), etc, etc, etc.... The public awareness
of what an artist "might be like" is now part of
the "cultural literacy".
Next is the artist as themself; and often by
Between these two poles (absolute antipodes in
a way that perhaps only the deaf or the blind
understand in any way) is the "life lived". And
that is a part of who we are and what we do.
But, beyond this is the idea of teaching art.
Oddly enough (or not really) some of the best
artists make the worst teachers - unable to
"teach" what they do or what "an artist is
supposed to do". Curiously enough (and not
too surprising), some of the worst artists
do make the worst teachers - as if since they
haven't got "it straight" in their own work,
they somehow feel compelled to "spread it
around". Usually, this last group is the ONLY
group of artists (if we can call them that
without gagging) who actually make money at
"being an artist".
In modern society (especially, American wiz-bang,
in-your-face, film-at-eleven, oprah/jerry-springer/etc
YOU ARE WHAT YOU ARE WORTH), artists must compete
for existence like a fish gulping for air at the
top of a tank whose water aerator has gone bad.
Gasping for air.
Everyone that *i* know has a day job and then does
art, as that IS their life. We keep either bumping
into each other (or into someone who is a mutual
friend) at art shows, book stores, and of course
museums. And for what? For having the self-satisfied
smugness that we haven't "sold out"? Hardly, given
the choice i think that any of us would sell out
(what-ever that actually means) at the drop of a
hat (what-ever *that* means, as well; too: Of).
So, we go on - we bring the focus of our life and
times/culture/training/etc to bear on what we are
trying to say. And oddly enough (like written works)
art allows to look at it and study it and try to
find the something in it that we put there. For
So, as a teacher what do we do? Or rather (since
overtly, this IS supposed to be part of a portfolio)
what do i try to do?
It's like Betty Edwards says in her "Drawing on
the Artist Within" -
Everything is easy,
once you get past the
first 5000 mistakes.
I try to keep the student from falling appart as
they are battered too and fro on the 5000 shocks
and ups and downs that they must endure to - if
they finally decide to - become an artist.
And like many crafts (here i'm thinking of the
Navajo tradition of letting children "play at"
art right next to the master crafter - making
mistakes and starting over: All part of those
We teach by example.
My favorite scene in recent times is that one
scene in "Ghost" at the potters wheel. That is
really how it is done; well, usually not with
the sexual overtones. The potter sits across
or beside the student and places their hands
outside the student's and for usually about
15 to 20 minutes they guide by touch alone.
But, even that is a "calling". If the potters
wheel "calls" to someone, then they will take
that path. Others (like me) are "builders"
- as opposed to "throwers" who use the wheel.
For me, the way that each piece attaches, every
scratch that i make - again line, not colour -
seems to be calling out from within the clay
that it must BE. Of course, Michaelangelo
(Lodoviccio) said that he was simply freeing
the statue that was inside.
In every art form (so much like pure mathematics)
we don't know what is in there until we start
exploring the structure of the matrix at that
particular point in time and space - and of
course in mind.
And yet, every path has been trod before, and
it is our duty (as guide and shaman) to take
our own lessons and pass them along to the next
generation. And yet even that is only a partial
truth - the interaction of artist to student
and back again is along that same way of how
the art material becomes the artist - since in
the end, all we (or society) has is the work
itself. And what it tells us.
And the key to that is what the artist saw and
what they felt. We can only too readily judge
art by the cannon: How long did it take? How
complicated is it? Does it look like what it's
supposed to be? etc, etc, etc.
But, it is that elusive goal of seeing the art
in the context of the artist and their time and
their way of being - and that can only be
illuminated by the artist and art history.
Of course, this way of "seeing" is just as painful
as any of the other falterng 5000 mistakes thru
which any artist must pass to find their way
to their own voice in the time that they live
in, in the way that they live their life.
My favorite quote (found as with so much else that
we do, by complete accident) is by two artists in
their book "Art and Fear",
Artists come together in the clear knowledge
That when all is said and done, they will return
to their studio and practice their art alone.
Your job is to draw a line from your life to you your
art that is straight and clear. [Bayles & Orland]
Make no mistake, the most fundamental thing that we
know - that we must teach - is to not be afraid and
to not give up. Of course, we have to make it clear
that to choose to be an artist is artist to be
certain that your work will only be appreciated
by other artists and that you probably won't be
making a million dollars at Southby's. Well; until
after you're dead - amazing what that does to prices.
fleeding @ hotmail.com