Some thoughts on art instruction

8 Sep

Last Monday I went to a free trial lesson for a portrait drawing course at my local community college, and during the break I got to talk with one of the other would-be students. She told she had been drawing for quite some time with another art instructor, but got to know him too intimately, and needed a fresh start, to become more loose in her art.

My argument that the instructor doesn’t really matter much, and that it’s the atmosphere, the model and your peers which makes up most of the benefit you get from art classes didn’t receive any agreement. She wanted an authority figure to tell her how to become more loose. In my mind she wanted a prescription how to become less prescriptive.

I have had some art instructors in my past, and not all have been very helpful. That was largely to blame on myself, because I, too, was after an authority figure, that could tell me how to create art. I guess it requires some maturity to realize that you don’t really need an art instructor to create art. A good instructor will help you to become self-sufficient enough to not need an art instructor. After that, the art class becomes a safe haven to create art (without having to validate yourself to non-artists).

So for me, this means that once you’re on your way to become a better artist, you’re doing it mostly on your own. An instructor is just there to give a second opinion, to help you reason about your art. You should not need an instructor to validate your art (at least, that is my strong opinion). The reasoning that there is bad and good art (or professional and amateurish art) demeans in my mind the artistic expression. Yes, there is skill level and technique, but that gets better over time. The artistic vision should not depend on someone else. There is, of course, art that sells easily, and art that requires more work to be sold, if selling art is what you are after.

So, it seemed to me that this person was after some kind of art guru, who would provide her with a fountain of wisdom and skill, from which she could drink. I think that is perhaps true in a world of talking ponies and unicorns, but in the world we live in, art is a lonely business, in the sense that you have to do it all on your own. No one can help you to be more free at your art. It is something you have to figure out for yourself.

It is removing these mental roadblocks, and seeing beyond the here and now which make creating art so appealing to me. Instructors can inspire me to continue, but they cannot do this exploration for me or tell me how to explore. I really have to put in the effort myself, based on what I want and are comfortable with.

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