A place for effective teaching presupposes a climate of shared confidence, openness, and compassion. I nurture the confidence first and foremost by giving students access to skills, a sense of craft, and the hands-on experience of studio work. I view the learning of craft as a means for the students to be able to manifest their vision in the world. In studio classes, the work is the thing, and it is as important as contextualizing or conceptualizing the work. Indeed, craft enables concept and communication of an idea or intention, and artists need to be able to make, as well as think. In the printmaking studio, I encourage the learning and use of both traditional analog and digital printmaking techniques, as well as the combination of the two. Although it can be outside of my technological comfort zone, I do not shy away from new media, as it is the future of art. I challenge myself to learn about new media, as well as its application to printmaking. If I do not facilitate a certain amount of knowledge, comfort, and ease with technology, the students will not be able to keep pace with others in their field who use technology with ease and to great effect.
Students come to the studio with a diversity of experiences, abilities, needs and expectations. To that end, I try to identify their needs, whether intellectual, visual, or hands-on. Most students enter the studio with a combination of those needs, so I provide a blend of approaches to excite and further develop their abilities, and to balance weaker aspects with stronger. This includes providing relevant or pertinent texts, visual images in the form of Power Points, books, and journals of art related to the topic being covered, and the hands-on, physical craft of studio work. My style in the studio is to go back and forth between directing my attention to the class as a whole and to individual students. I try to meet them where they are in terms of their own artistic process and who they are as people, and teach them how to take their work to the next level. They, in turn, develop confidence in their own abilities to learn and make work.
I encourage risk-taking and the constructive failure inherent in risk. I allow students to fail, and I encourage them to not be afraid to do so–using failure not to end in a sense of defeat, but to reveal new approaches and hybrid possibilities. I believe that taking action despite your fears is essential to the process of creating art and to the process of uncovering who you are as an both an artist and a person. Mistakes tend to teach much more and provoke deeper understanding than does instant success. The happy outcomes of failures often communicate spontaneity and lead to an authentic responsiveness to the medium and to the unique sensibilities of the artist. Mistakes provoke critical thinking and creative problem-solving. Through a dynamic risk-taking, students develop their own methodologies and work habits that stay with them throughout their careers.
I encourage students to keep sketch books, journals, or blogs to write about specific assignments by addressing their own concepts, ideas, inspirations, and research methodologies. I require them to identify the lineage of their work via other artists, histories, and disciplines. I believe in an interdisciplinary approach to art making that motivates students to look beyond their own discipline and to look at the wider world of knowledge available through other disciplines. I also try to teach them to take great pleasure in their self-directed research. I teach them to be disciplined, to spend time in the studio, and that learning their craft requires time and time management. I assess my teaching goals by regular assignments completed and promptly evaluated. I direct critiques and portfolio reviews to reveal the effectiveness of the work’s communication and technical execution. I encourage a diversity of voices as well as how to articulate, well-informed responses: a language of critique that nurtures mutual respect and pride in the craft and in art-making and an openness and willingness to be part of the critique. I strive to teach my students how to keep themselves inspired, so they have techniques to keep themselves in the studio and to prevent the attrition that often plagues art school graduates. I also try to address the challenges of making a career in the arts, and possible strategies for making that a reality.
I demand of myself an openness to all kinds of students, to their different backgrounds and perspectives. My intention is to provide a vibrant, friendly, and welcoming studio environment that fosters a spirit of collaboration and creativity combined with a strong work ethic. I am a deeply social, verbal, and curious person, and I try to translate this to my teaching and to the time I spend working with students in the studio. This requires that I maintain an acute awareness of my own assumptions and the assumptions of my students. I offer mentoring, guidance, and encouragement in the studio and in the classroom. I aim to maintain a safe, secure classroom environment where all students feel comfortable exposing themselves and free to share their work and ideas without the fear of personal attack. I encourage students to do their own research, to look outside their comfort zones, and to expose themselves to outside sources and influences that excite engagement in their own work. I constantly emphasize the dialogic relationship of their work to issues of race, class, gender, politics, religion, history, and the other arts and sciences.
In the end, my teaching philosophy is to promote critical and conceptual thinking through role modeling active studio and research practices for my students. I believe that showing my own fiery passion is one of the best ways to inspire and motivate my students. I speak from my own personal experience as a self-directed, lifelong, independent artist who has had to develop strategies for inspiration and motivation, and who has always entered into the process hands-on, through the craft. As a teacher, I take the greatest pleasure in watching students learn and grow, waking up, and catching fire and, hopefully, finding a lifelong passion for making art.