Dec 15 2008
The image above is a painting created by Jutta Reichardt. It illustrates the use of an acrylic image transfer, acrylic surface techniques, and stenciled gold leaf that I introduced to my Mixed Media class, taught through Portland Community College last semester. Jutta produced some really amazing work during the class, and I wish my camera didn’t keep running out of batteries every time I wanted to photograph my students works! In this particular piece, Jutta was inspired by learning about a pioneering woman journalist, Nelly Bly, who was famous in her day for traveling around the world in 72 days. She also revealed the conditions of the working class around the world, and exposed mistreatment of people with mental illness. It seems to me that having an intense interest in a subject (any subject) can propel the work to its own successful conclusion.
I’m sort of relieved to be on a teaching break til mid January. It’s good to have some time to get back into my own work more fully, to listen more carefully to what drives me personally… which in the end, I think will make me a better teacher.
I love teaching, as it re-awakens my passion for disseminating information about art. After all, if making art were just for myself, it would be a pretty selfish thing, wouldn’t it?? The truth of the matter is that the desire to create is both selfish and selfless. I create because I must, because I am an endlessly frustrated human being if I do not have an outlet for all of the images and thoughts that pour through me. Whenever I give myself to my creative expression, I return to the most sane aspects of my self. I become more grounded in my experience of practically everything. It improves my relationship to myself, to others, and the world around me. Teaching can also be a very connective experience, and it gives me great pleasure to see anyone grow in their confidence in expressing themselves.
The catch-22 about teaching is that creating art is not merely about having a handle on technique. Yes, techniques are important. They are the tools we use to express ourselves visually. But it’s having a connection to our personal vision that’s most important, and that’s a very difficult thing to teach. To some extent, we can learn it from example. I give my students a lot of examples of what other artists are doing, in terms of both subject matter and technique, which I hope might be inspiring to their own works. This is the reason I’ve posted so many articles on this blog related to various art inspirations (see index for these articles here).
I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of what the class experience is about is providing a space where students are given permission to allow their creative selves to emerge. I give specific assignments related to using colors, surface techniques, image transfers, etc… but it’s mostly a matter of giving the students a place to create where they feel encouragement, gentle direction, and the immersion of being with others who are also creating, which becomes a large part of the learning experience. I think that artists need a combination of experiences which include the isolation of working alone, the creative atmosphere of learning from others, as well as a number of other life experiences that provide the ideas that feed their work.
I strongly suggest some form of journaling to record one’s thoughts (both visually and verbally). Sketching, doodling, or photographing things of interest to you are all helpful in gaining access to your personal sources of inspiration. Your process of journaling and what to include in it really depends on what ignites your creative furnace. You might also enjoy gathering things from walks in nature… or gathering ephemera from old magazines, thrift store finds, etc. If you enjoy textures and patterns, you might collect cloth, lace, or decorative papers that can later be collaged into your works.
I personally enjoy a mixed media approach to creating art, simply because it opens up the range of possibilities. Practically anything can become fodder for creative exploration. I enjoy books that provide lots of ideas for how to bring ideas together, giving the reader permission to try anything.
I occasionally check on the blogs of other artists to see what they are creating, and I just found out that an artist I’ve been following has just released a book about exploring collage. I’ve just checked it out on Amazon, and this looks like a really good one to get my hands on, so I’m spreading the word:
Susan Tuttle‘s new book is called Exhibition 36: Mixed Media Demonstrations (Amazon link)
Here’s an example of one of the author’s assemblages, titled, “I Went to the Woods”:
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