Art Student Treasures

My art students are like family.

When they fall short on maximizing their art potential, I get so sad, I can’t believe it. Sometimes I have whole families of students come in. I race the clock, trying to pour in as much as I can to each individual, seeking to pull out as much as I can while I have them. I always believe they’ll stay with me the ten years of many of my art disciples (Old Masters’ painting is a master-disciple system based on loyal imparting of pertinent skills). However, sometimes they just don’t see it my way and I am ineffective in imparting my vision to them for themselves. Sometimes, they just have another vision.

Sometimes I Cry
When a student I have primed and prepped to really make it begins a portrait, and leaves before I can show them how to paint the face, the agony is palpable. I show my disappointment or come close to showing my hurt beyond what is socially acceptable. Maybe there’s even a little bit of anger that what I hoped and dreamed for a finish we will never see.

Painting is a living thing. You can’t just toss aside a painting one day, pick it up 5 years later, and expect a viable image to emerge. It might, but more than likely you will have grown past it or in some way find yourself unable to patch the time frames together. Or the paint will have aged beyond good adhesion. So I have to yield, give up, and have a good cry.
 * When a student fails to finish the face after working on it for months. I can’t fathom it, you know, when only a few lessons would do it. Why won’t people pay for the little extra stretch the professional is waiting to give? To me, it seems like false economy.

*  When a mom leaves her son’s sketch book in my studio and I save it for years, and she finally tells me to throw it away. It’s unbelievable that discarding it causes me more pain than the mom!

* When a student quits before a final lesson would complete her absolute masterpiece, and won’t even pick it up from my studio.

* When parents and grandparents won’t pick up their daughter’s framed, beautiful art work to hang at home. I still have one. It makes me cry, since her sweet grandmother wanted so badly for her to study art with me. Now she has died, her hope, with her.

My Failings as Teacher
  •  I regret the days I am sad, preoccupied, or so tired I can barely move–even when it motivates the student to push harder.
  •  When I am so into the art medium’s struggles that I fail to hear some current struggle, major or minor, that the student is going through.
  • When so much is going on I fail to mention their prom night pictures, which were awesome.
  • Making students struggle on his or her own. I know so many teachers cut it up finer and finer to make the bites smaller and more appetizing, and somehow, instead, I try to get them to fight their medium and push and pull it beyond their current capabilities without much demonstration and with just a little help, by prodding and a well-placed idea. Sometimes the student finds this unforgivable. Once, telling a student to go to the bathroom to study her eye in the mirror hurt her feelings so badly I lost her.
  • Not going to all of the extra things my students are interested in. Some weeks it is all I can do to make it through my own paintings, framing, struggles, roof leaks, some sort of showing, texting, posting students’ art pictures to Facebook.
  • Talking to future student possibilities or makeups at 10p.m. at night.
Surprised into Joy: Other times this art teacher is surprised and delighted with unexpected pleasures like the following:hands-in-marriage-stuart
  • an old student walking in just because they knew and loved me, just wanting to catch up and remember old times.
  • A 10-year student bringing his two children to art years later for a year.
  • A former student returning for adult lessons, wanting to really go far, knowing he and the teacher left a lot on the table.
  • Amazing conversations with people on the deepest of levels, at vulnerable moments when they want a meeting of souls.
  • A granddaughter picking up her father’s discarded art talent and loving doing it with me.
  • A daughter painting a funky painting on her own and hanging it in her house.
  • Someone pinpointing in your paintings what you hadn’t even seen yourself.
  • Turning a student’s tragedy into a raging success. I don’t think Thorne Gregory would mind my telling his story of working on a beautiful rendering of a fish from an educational coloring book. He had almost finished his free-hand version in pen and ink, when the pen nib (the medium is always a pain), hit a bump in the paper and ejected a filled pen’s worth of black ink onto the paper.
Poor Thorne; I thought he would have a nervous breakdown. It was all I could do to keep him from tearing his work up. It was all I could do to calm him down. He was devastated and despairing. His mamma came quickly. She helped calm him. I had no idea what I would do, so I asked him to wait until the following week.
Meanwhile, I did research. I looked up exotic, deep-sea fishes on the web. Finally, I found the impossible, the unthinkable: the existence of a creature called an ink fish! The ink fish’s quills looked just like the spikes in the projectiles of Thorne’s black ink. So we painted the first fish’s shadow companion, the Ink Fish, which went on to win a show prize, it was so good, better, even, than the original!
My Number One Goal is to turn good art students into master art students. Step One being to sign them up today. And then to find a way to write, draw, or paint a happy ending.
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