I believe it is important to create a classroom environment where students feel safe to speak up about their art and hear and process constructive criticism. My job as professor is to introduce students to a variety of ideas and methods so they can find what materials work with their hand, and build their own individual style and practice. I found art late in college, and I only allowed myself to try art after exhausting my interests in several other fields. At first, I saw my inexperience as a detriment to my studio practice--I had never even taken an art class in High School—I later found that my past experiences made it easier to try new materials, learn from failure, and embrace the unexpected.
It is important for students to learn new ways of seeing and thinking. Introductory drawing and painting courses teach perception. Understanding how to look at the three-dimensional world and translate it onto a two-dimensional surface is what perceptual drawing is all about. Students learn how to look and translate what they actually see, not what they think they know about an object or space. Once students are able to understand the basics of composition, line, value, and perspective, they are able to manipulate them to find their own style. I stress the importance of two-dimensional design by assigning semester long sketchbooks assignments. Sketchbooks create momentum outside of the class and cement the importance of cataloging ideas as they come.
Painting and drawing courses follow the same progression: structured introductory courses with clearly articulated rubrics and homework assignments. Courses are built around in-class demonstrations, lectures, and supervised work-time. Flexibility is key to teaching courses tailored to each individual’s artistic facility and inclinations. I use homework assignments that follow what was addressed in class each week. This allows for the structure, especially in advanced classes, to keep pace and change with how the class as a whole is processing new ideas and methods. As students progress to upper level courses, assignments become more self-directed and students learn what materials and practices work for their art. My role is to provide as many techniques and material options as I can. My various backgrounds in mechanics, weaving, textiles, woodworking, and construction are constantly engaged as students experiment in their coursework.
Art courses are for everyone. It is important to make each class accessible to ensure that each student is being graded on their own personal growth. I have taught introductory to advanced classes for majors and non-majors. Each student requires particular support. For example, one of my students painted from his wheelchair with limited mobility. We worked to find a way for him to draw on a table both inside the classroom and when we went outside in the spring to draw the campus sculptures. In addition, I have developed special strategies to make room for students with ADHD move and regroup so they can focus on their work in the classroom. There have even been times when it has been effective for my student-athletes to literally do jumping-jacks before putting paint brush to canvas. Each student comes in with a different background, different skill sets and artistic facility. My goal is to make every student know that their voice is heard, and that they are being evaluated on their own personal growth as an artist. When writing homework assignments, I do my best to make sure living and transportation situations will not impede any student’s ability to complete assignments. I look forward to meeting new students and working with them to create the best learning environment possible.