My teaching philosophy is rooted from my journey as a master’s student. Coming into an MFA program, I had unclear intentions of my direction. By going through the program and tracking my steps from inspiration and exploration to my thesis and conceptual body of work, I realized that every step added another piece to molding my identity as an artist. Through all the research, experimentation, and making, it brought me joy and confidence in what I was doing. This experience has given me the motivation and desire to mentor others in the midst of establishing themselves in the art world.
My approach begins with an open conversation; asking students a simple, yet complex question; why art? In addition, What made you choose this over any other discipline? What experiences from the past have motivated you to pursue this as a career? These questions are not meant to be answered immediately, but having those points addressed will keep students aware of their own direction. It’s important to inspire students of art’s potential. Whether it be it’s application to marketing or ability to spark social change, it is a discipline that has infinite pathways. Understanding how student’s foresee it’s value from the beginning will promote authenticity in their work.
The journey begins with inspiration, sparking curiosity outside the classroom. My approach lies within a tangible experience. Although videos and readings are assets to a curriculum, experiencing the discipline in a tactile fashion adds further value in initiating student development. For instance, a student interested in wood carving should spend their studies in a woodshop with the materials, or reaching out to a professional in the field with a similar interest. That in turn gives the student the full experience and connection to other like minded artists in the industry. Within exposure lies experimentation. By reducing the need for a finished work, students are more comfortable in taking risks and experimenting in various directions. I guide them to create models, scalable forms that are able to be studied and understood. Through this preliminary phase of inspiration, students begin to understand their process. My professor noted how the “process is the foundation towards self expression, creating a systematic approach to understanding how you see art and its authenticity to you.” For my students, I emphasize the importance of creating a unique process that is comfortable, yet open to evolve as they continue to grow in their area of study. With a defined process, conceptual meaning will begin to take root.
There’s an excitement in the making process and I advise my students to be ambitious, creating a piece that is out of their comfort zone. In my graduate program, I created an overly ambitious sculpture. I even had instances where my work wasn’t what I expected. Instead of seeing this as a failure, I learned how to be a practical artist. I started to understand my capabilities and know that there are alot of moving parts when making art. It’s okay to slow things down, gradually scale up, ask for help, and take the time to enjoy the small acts of change in the development of your work. School is a time for mistakes and these faults can ultimately strengthen our core as artists.
As their body of work begins to take shape, I critique in a challenging, yet empathetic approach. I start by highlighting the strengths to the work such as the intricate use of line or strong detail to color application. Although a piece might be well executed and tied strongly to a concept, the last question is what now? How can they take this idea to the next level? For some it’s a change in the material, or maybe an alteration of scale, but ultimately it’s how the work will continue to develop and grow. These prompts are meant to challenge a student to think of their art outside of what makes them comfortable. As artists, it’s about creating your own path to success. With that being said, we have to see our work in multiple contexts to understand its deeper meaning. It also ties back to our identity. As we begin to change, so does the work.
Sophia Baymiller, Tyanna Bowers, Ethan Bradley, Grace White, Jurnee Blatche
Cherokee High School Art Club