Art & Development

o! the joy of teaching

I had a great day of sharing knowledge. I presented my work in Sydney Cohen‘s 2-D class at CCA, and taught my Sketchbook Drawing class at the ASUC at UC Berkeley.

The 2-D class is for first-year undergrads in all departments. Though my work is fairly conceptual and 3-D, the students seemed responsive to my non-art materials such as the night lights in Dark into Light. They also asked great questions, like Do you come up with a concept first to execute? (While I often start with an idea, the project takes form as I’m working), and this gem: You mentioned your frustration with the limit of available materials — would you rather have any imaginable media to work with? (Yes, but no, the material’s manufacture and limitations often inform the work). Another student asked How do you choose what books to read? (The Road is perhaps bleakest of novels, and Dreams of my Father is most optimistic of memoirs. Psychology books are is easy to find, because psychologists always reference other researchers.)

My talk is littered with quotes and references, but the unglamorous reality is that I don’t actually retain much of what I read. I’m too much of a spazzy multi-tasker to absorb and recall information. I have to synthesize it. And the only way I’ve found to synthesize and retain information — my personal method of aperception — is to write extensive notes by longhand in my sketchbook. In fact, I looked up Holly Schorno‘s name in sketchbook #15 today, so I could present her work in my Sketchbook Drawing class.

I proposed Sketchbook Drawing, a six-week class, to the ASUC at UC Berkeley. They run art classes open to Cal students and the general public.

My goal was to make the class fun, safe for experimentation, and keep the students — who had a variety of previous art experiences — engaged. I skimmed fundamentals like figure drawing, gesture drawing, cartoon skeletons, contour drawing and color theory. My interest lies more in creative self-expression and mixed media fluidity than realism or mastery. In my own experience, drawing everyday is the only surefire way to improve one’s observational skills, and a sketchbook practice is a great place to start.

I had taken a few years off of teaching, and I had reservations about returning to it. But students that are responsible, self-motivated, and eager to learn has made teaching a dream. It’s been fun to present the work of artists and illustrators filtered through my tastes (Eric Drooker, Henri Matisse, Jess, Weston Teruya, Charley Harper, Maurice Sendak, Raymond Pettibon, Michelle Blade, John Audobon, Dan Eldon). Of course it’s really great that many of my students responded appreciatively to the class and are enthused about the next 6-week section, Intermediate Sketchbook Drawing, starting Wednesday, November 4.

I value transparency, so I was happy to talk about professional practices with the students at CCA. When I was younger, I thought of the “art world” as monolithic, and I regarded it with suspicion. It was nice to explain my new position that the art world is in fact comprised of a network of people, most of whom are bright, hardworking and benign. I encouraged them to consider their role in the network, and how their behavior shapes others’ opinions of art and artists. I put it rather bluntly, but I think I got my message across.

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