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Posts Tagged ‘Teaching’

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If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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Only have a minute before I head out to Penn Yan to lead a two day painting workshop. I am a hesitant teacher, not really ever wanting to teach for a number of reasons. It’s hard work, for one thing. I never feel qualified to teach, for another. There are plenty more. But I have done this for the past five years now because of the folks that come and what they claim they get out of it. It can be fun and it’s always gratifying to see them complete a real painting, one beyond they expected from themselves.

But the quote above  from the author from the The Little Prince  reminds me that what I should be imparting goes beyond technical instruction and copying forms. I should be trying to get them to recognize their deepest emotions or strongest reactions and putting them in the paint.

Make them long for the endless immensity of the sea…

Well, got to run. Hopefully, that task is within my reach.

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I am prepping for my annual two day workshop next week in Penn Yan at the Arts Center of Yates County. Below is a post I wrote just before the first workshop. I have to say, after the first four years, they have been both a lot of fun and pretty stressful for me. Every year, I am not sure I can do another one. But I keep coming back, mainly because of the kindness of the folks that come, the many laughs we share, the fact that I think they are taking away some small bits of knowledge, and the hope that they getting more than they expected when they signed up for the workshop. So far, I think that has been the case.

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Why does one not hold on to what one has, like the doctors or engineers; once a thing is discovered or invented they retain the knowledge; in these wretched fine arts all is forgotten, and nothing is kept.

Vincent Van Gogh, Letter to his brother Theo 1888

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When I read this quote from Van Gogh, I flashed back to a conversation I had several years back with an artist friend who was urging me to begin filming my painting process. He said that a deer could jump in front of my car going home from the gallery that night and nobody would ever know how my  paintings came about. He thought would be a loss.

That made me think but I still didn’t follow his advice and protected my process, except for small glimpses here and there, for years like an alchemist greedily withholding their found knowledge. It was one of several reasons for my lack of enthusiasm for teaching.

But time normally changes all things. I began to realize that it was a fool’s mission in keeping my process to myself. The  process was simply a tool for expression– it was not the expression.

An artist often has individual expression that transcends subject, material and technique. For example, an artist painting exactly like me– same trees and process– would produce work that would be different than my own. It would have a different soul, if it had one at all. If this artist’s purpose was mere copying, it would not. I can say this because I’ve seen this before.

So, after a bit, I came to understand that showing or teaching my process would not diminish my work in any way. In fact, I began painting the way that I do because I initially wanted to see paintings that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else. Wouldn’t it be great to spur that same thing in others?

To that end, as I announced earlier, I am teaching my first two day workshop,  September 17 & 18 [2015],  at the Arts Center of Yates County in Penn Yan, NY.  It’s a lovely town sitting at the end of scenic Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, famed for their beautiful vistas and multitude of wineries.

I am pretty excited about this and am starting to put together just how I want to teach this. I don’t want to spend any more energy hiding my process and I plan to fill each of the two days with as much info as I can get across while still making it entertaining and educational. So if you want to spend a couple of late summer days in a beautiful setting learning a form of expression that might spur other good things for you, contact the Arts Center of Yates County.

Hope to see you there.

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Paulina Garces Reid Ecuador In My Heart 2015

Paulina Garces Reid- ” Ecuador In My Heart” 2015

At the end of my workshop last week, one of the attendees presented me with a painting she had completed during the second day.  She even titled it for me!  Called Ecuador In My Heart it reflects many of the elements- the cities and villages, the sea, the mountains and the trees and flowers– of the native landscape of Ecuador-born artist Paulina Garces Reid.  I love this little painting, the way in which the blocks come together to tell their story and the manner in which Paulina  modulated her colors, which she pointed out are the colors of Ecuador, with dark glazes.

GC Myers Early Experiment 1994I was moved by her sharing this painting with me and amazed how far she, like all of the students, had progressed in such a short time.  I explained that she was at a point with my technique that had taken me months and hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours to reach.  Looking around the room, I could see on every table something that I know I could easily find in my bin of my own early experiments.  I saw one specific experiment of mine (shown here)  in Paulina’s piece, one that hadn’t reached as far as she had in just a handful of hours.

These students had shot past my own learning curve, had easily grasped concepts and processes that took me a long time to develop and master.  Going into this, I didn’t know what to expect as to what I might see from these students or how I might feel at the end.   I do know that after the first day I had absolutely no expectations and couldn’t see myself doing this again.  But that second day changed everything.  Like the students, I had my own learning curve to conquer and seeing the work from Paulina and the others  made me feel that it was something I could quickly get past to make my teaching more effective if there is a future opportunity to do this.

And I guess that’s the thing I take from this.  It established a starting point from where my learning curve began and I can see progress along that curve.  And like the students, it’s exciting to see progress in any endeavor.  So, I may teach again not just for the thrill of seeing others being excited by the work they produce as a result but for my own excitement in learning how to better deal with people, how to better communicate my own experience to them.  Like y paintings, it all comes down to communication…

Thank you again, Paulina, for the beautiful gift.  I will hang it with pride in my studio.

 

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