Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Pontificating Pedagogue

The art class talk went fine, I think, although I'll have to await a final review from my girls. In addition to touching on a few of the points I mentioned here December 1, I raised some ideas tailored to art students looking ahead to university studies and careers in the field. I'm pretty sure these things are true:

--"Write (or draw) what you know" is good advice, except too many people don't know anything interesting. You've got to be curious and observant about the world. The best artist in my high school fizzled out immediately after graduation because, although he was technically proficient, he had no other interests and nothing to say. The last time I saw him he was airbrushing t-shirt art at the county fair. Technique by itself is empty and insufficient.

--Work the Seams. By which I mean, create a niche by being a little different. Apply your own quirky interests and specialization to whatever you do. Don't just be an artist; be an artist with a passion for astronomy or medieval literature or bottle caps. Find a place where two or more interesting things come together and bring as much of that collision to the table as you can. Someday, something you do will connect with someone.

I hope I wasn't quite as preachy as that makes me sound. I don't think I was. Mostly I talked about the process of creating Mom's Cancer and publishing the book, and saved the sermon for the end. The class seemed interested and asked questions until we ran out of time. I enjoyed it.

6 comments:

Kristi said...

Hi, I found your blog randomly (although not by accident, now it seems!) -- anyway, I graduated college a few years back and am just now getting into drawing and painting. I think I've found one of the dormant passions that has been kept inside for so long! I am just starting out and will hopefully visit your blog to learn some stuff...and also Lynn's blog (she commented on a few posts of yours) Do you have any suggestions for good reference / how-to books as I get started? I have young children and no time to take a traditional course right now....Congrats on the book. God bless --

Kristi said...

--- I just read on one of your links about your mother passing away. I did not know she was not fighting cancer anymore. I am sorry to hear of her passing. I am sure you have had a rough couple of months. I hope your book touches many lives.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like they loved it too! You were a screaming success if you even had one question to field. Remember high school? If the students didn't like you there would have been dead silence. Kids don't worry that much about hurting your feelings... at least not when I was in school! Wish I could have heard you speak, it's always interesting.
XO,
Nurse Sis

BrianFies said...

Kristi, I'm glad you found my blog and wrote. Thanks for your condolences. Mom was 100% behind my book project and it feels kind of like I'm honoring her by getting it done.

I took some studio art classes in college but never really studied from books. A lot of people love "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" as a good resource for interesting techniques but I've never actually read it.

I'd recommend just buying a sketchbook and drawing from life as much as possible. Still-lifes, people, animals, architecture, flowers, whatever. Don't put any pressure on yourself to be perfect; this sketchbook is just for you to fool around and make mistakes in. Go to an art store and pick up some different media to experiment with: conte crayon, charcoal, colored pencils, etc. You might find something that really clicks with your style or artistic vision.

As far as painting, probably the best medium to start with is watercolor. It's inexpensive and you don't have to master a lot of technique to get started, so you may not get as frustrated as you would with other media. I like a book titled "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Watercolor" by Appellof. One warning, though: a transparent medium like watercolor takes a whole different mindset than an opaque medium like acrylics or oils, and it can be hard to switch back and forth. So if you think you want to do oil paintings, I'd say go ahead and start with acrylics or oils.

As far as time goes, do what I used to do and paint with your kids! (Especially good with watercolor, which I think mostly comes out in the wash.) I just laid a bunch of newspaper on the table, gave them each a piece of paper and a couple of brushes, and we all painted together. It's not exactly contemplative, but it can be fun.

Sis, thanks for the high school memories. I think the kids liked me OK and the time flew by. I'll let you know if I hear any reviews.

marian said...

Hi, all.

I'm Marian, compiler & editor of those "Everything . . . Watercolor" and "Everything . . . Oil Painting" books, which were published many years ago and have stayed in print ever since. (In case it matters, I worked on these titles while on salary and thus never reaped any royalty or other related kinds of payments.)

About cancer: At an Easter dinner at my aunt Janet's house in 1982, her brother--my dad, Ernie--announced to the family and friends assembled at the table that "a mass" had been discovered on one of his kidneys.

I remember responding with anger at the time; who wouldn't?

But there's too much to say going forward.

marian said...

Hi, all.

I'm Marian, compiler & editor of those "Everything . . . Watercolor" and "Everything . . . Oil Painting" books, which were published many years ago and have stayed in print ever since.

My dad never "got" what my interests in art were, but he usually shored me up even when I think he thought my pursuits might amount to, uh, not much.

About cancer: At an Easter dinner at my aunt Janet's house in 1982, her brother--my dad, Ernie--announced to the family and friends assembled at the table that "a mass" had been discovered on one of his kidneys.

I remember responding with anger at the time--verbally, which was very uncharacteristic of me!

Why would Dad conceal such important info from us?

That was his usual way.

Dad died in 1983