studioNOTES: support for artists/ideas and information

Number 26

August - October 1999

Eleven-Headed Guanyin
8th C. CE
51 in. high
Eleven-Headed Guanyin If you could tell your students only one thing, what would it be?

Art can stir up trouble; art can fight trouble; art is a vice for some and a virtue for others. The artist whose work does not embarrass someone occasionally is no more effective than the coward who looks the other way while a victim cries for help. Try to make every work have some quality that someone will disapprove. Expect to be criticized for your views and be prepared to continue expressing them.

 - Evan Lindquist, Professor of Art (drawing and printmaking), Arkansas State University, Jonesboro AR

Being an artist is the same thing as running a small business. There's a lot of paperwork and boring stuff-it ain't all about making art. If you want to succeed you've gotta work at the business of art. Promotion, networking, education, market research, etc. The point is, that being an artist isn't as special as many neophytes (like myself in my teens) believe. It's really more like a job. Sure you get to Make Great Art, but if you want people to see it, there's the business side that must be attended to.

 - Guy Marsden, sculptor, Vallejo CA

Do what makes you the happiest and content so that you have ownership of your life and that it is well lived and satisfying for you and your family. And maybe more importantly, know and have the courage to know when those things (that make you happy) change and grow and become something else.

 - Gabrielle Fennmore, Assistant Professor. of Multimedia Systems Technology, Ohio University, Lancaster OH

The art world is much tougher than you think-whether it is the practice side, the theory side, the history side, the gallery side, the classroom side, the selling side, the buying side, the working side, the thinking side. Therefore, be prepared to work extra hard from the beginning on everything you undertake, but do not undertake too much. Too many students today try to do too much-resulting in work that is fragmentary and not up to their potential. The intentions are sincere, but you really cannot do it all well. Focus on what is important and on what your professors tell you is important. Let the rest just fade into the background. This is the way to become really good at something, and the sooner you start doing it the better you will be at whatever you decide to do. Trust yourself to do your best, that is the beginning of originality.

 - Catherine M. Soussloff, Professor of Art History and Patricia and Rowland Rebele Chair in Art History, University of California, Santa Cruz CA

Be prolific. Do, do, do. Try out every idea you have. And don't let anyone talk you out of anything you feel strongly about even if it's a big shot professor.

 - David Ernst, painter, Benicia CA

I am a teacher of English at a community college. In academic writing, logical cohesion is pretty much everything. In fiction writing, emotional truth is what makes a work tick. If I were an art teacher, I would probably tell my students that, although mastering techniques and media (the grammar and sentence/paragraph structures of art) is very important, developing your own vision and learning to trust it is the most vital concern you will have as an artist. To an enormous extent it is your vision that determines the choice of techniques and media.

 - Mariel Osborn Morison, painter/photographer, Antioch CA

Don't worry about individuality or self-expression until you have mastered the basics. The rest will come naturally or it won't. It cannot be forced.

 - Erik Keilholtz, painter, Oakland CA

See education as a banquet offering opportunities to try out the unknown, get more of what you enjoy, nourish yourself and your work.

 - Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Professor and Director of Studies in Graphic Design at Yale Univ. School of Art, New Haven CT

Always have a back-up.

 - Tom Burke, Professor (theatre design and technology), University of Washington, School of Drama, Seattle WA

What do you value most about art? When you have your answer pursue it with passion.

 - Norman Sasowsky, Professor Emeritus (formerly in charge of training future art teachers), University of Delaware, Newark DE, who added "I asked a similar question to yours in starting my teaching: "If you could only teach one lesson to your students what would it be?" And, I asked them to plan and teach it.

In a nutshell, art is about reaching deeply into oneself to grab onto the roots of one's personal vision. This is impossible without a serious excavation of art history-not to know names and dates but to find fragments of the images, forms, combinations, etc., that will be building blocks of your vision. We can't worship the past, but neither can we turn our backs on it without looking foolish in our work.
   Real modernity springs from seeds planted long ago by artists who went down the path before us. Maybe our job is just to tend the garden well.

 - Philip Koch, Professor of Art (painting and drawing), Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore MD

Think laterally and don't limit yourself to predictable and existing solutions. Explore as widely as possible the world around the thing you are interested in and find ideas/links from where- and whatever ever you can. Analyze the special characteristics of these ideas/links and draw out of them those elements that will assist your understanding and application of ideas. Interpret and then generate ideas with which to begin your personal journey.

 - Judy Scothern, design and photography teacher, single-sex Independent school, Auckland, New Zealand

Were I to be teaching today, I believe that I might still teach with a jaundiced eye on the art world's lack of awareness of forming and metaphor through the forms, but my emphasis would be on the time-bound nature of any system, and the need to develop specific metaphorical forms for every situation, each different from the other. I don't think I would emphasize the Venetian-French tradition as the highest good, but as one metaphor with specific meaning, among many. I would teach pictorial metaphor through the forms, through ideation and visual perception.

 - Gabriel Laderman, Retired Prof. of Art (painting), Pratt Institute, Queens College, et al., NY

Skills, transferrable skills (e.g., drawing, design, editing, etc.) that can be used in different media or to communicate ideas. You can have all the greatest theories and ideas in the world but without basic skills, the capacity to survive or communicate is very low.

 - Craig Caldwell, Professor of Animation, Univ. of Arizona (currently on leave of absence to Disney, Burbank CA)

Throw out your first 1,000 paintings. Challenge all widely held assumptions.

 - Caroline Anderson, Visiting Assistant Professor, Computer Graphics, Cleveland State University OH

Prepare to evolve.

 - Steve Murakishi, artist in residence and Head, Printmaking Department, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills MI

After 29 years of teaching at the college level, I've concluded that work space is the most important. So here's what I'd advise a student about to graduate: I'll assume that you already have come to terms in some way with the persistent self-doubt that goes with the territory of being an artist. I'll advise you then to always have a place where you can do art. Make a space. It isn't good enough to clear the kitchen table, or to move some furniture and spread a plastic drop cloth when you want to work. Just thinking of having to do such mundane things will quickly dispel any urge to make something worthwhile. If you have that space ready you will work in it, and you will work at times when the pressure to do other things will drive you to the one sane thing you know how to do. The rest of it won't matter.

 - Dennis Dykema, Professor of Art, Buena Vista University, Storm Lake IA

It doesn't matter how much time you have to do art, be in the studio, dance, write, etc. It is the consistency with which you do it. Set your schedule and put your mind there. Sometimes that is wandering around, or sitting in a chair, but your mind is working. I even allow eating lunch and taking naps in my studio. It is the being in the studio that matters. Thinking regardless of the level precludes doing.
   In class I say to my students, college and above, I don't care what you do as much as I care about your being here. Just get here. Walking in that door means commitment. Sometimes that is all you can do.

 - Patricia Tavenner, Oakland CA

I'd ask my students a similar question: "If each of you were teaching, and could tell your students only one thing, what would it be?" as that would open up a discussion of some kind.

 - Ann Phelan, Crockett CA

The one thing I would like to tell my students is go make all the art you can about whatever you feel a real passion for. Then we will meet, look, and talk about it in six weeks. This will allow me to also go and make art about things I feel a passion for. However, this kind of instruction would not work within the expectations, responsibilities and obligations of academia.

 - Lew Alquist, Professor of Sculpture, School of Art, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ

Make choices that have eternal significance.

 - Jacques LaFrance, Professor of Computer Science, Oklahoma State University, Tulsa

Keep a fresh set of eyes.

 - Diane Roby, Associate Faculty (drawing), West Valley College, Saratoga CA

Don't be afraid to make art. By the time students get to me, so many are discouraged It happened to me. When I was in first or second grade, I "shut down" with regard to art. I had put a blue mustache on someone and the teacher told me it was wrong. I just figured at that time that I would do other subjects that didn't get me criticized. It wasn't until I was 30 that I began to go back to art-and with some success. I try to never tell my students that something is wrong. I tell them that other choices might work better. I tell them to try whatever to see what works as a creative solution.
   I got over my fear. It changed my life. If I can find one kid a year to set free like I was set free, then what I'm doing is worthwhile.

 - Susan Embler, primary school teacher, Dallas TX

1. Know your tools! If you don't know how to use a hammer, you're going to hit your finger a lot of times until you get the gist of it. 2. Praise is good-but that and a plunger will unplug a toilet. In other words, know what your needs are (possibly monetary) and keep them clear and in sight. 3. The only difference between an amateur and a professional (in the arts field anyway) is confidence.

 - Jay Daniel, photographer, Instructor in Photography, Academy of Art College, SF CA

Be keenly observant and pepper it with curiosity.

 - Susan E. Metros, Professor of Art (graphic design) and Director of Innovative Technologies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

How important the now is and that it needs to be recorded, which requires a sketchbook-for notes, designs, poetry, hate, love, sketches, plans for future.

 - Sasha Sun, SF CA

Be willing to make mistakes, and use those mistakes to grow. If I had the option to say one other thing it would be to watch out for Polonious and all his good advice. To be true to ourselves is of course primary, but never without an understanding that we are all part of a great interconnected wheel.

 - Terry Low, English teacher, public high school, Kapa'a HI

Make Your Deadlines.

 - Deeno A. Golding, Assistant Professor of Art (computer, graphic design, and commercial illustration), Morehead State University, Morehead KY

Make a mess, make mistakes-or what you think are mistakes. . . . If you get frustrated, all the better; use the energy. Even if you destroy a piece, or think you've destroyed a piece, you can usually rework something. After all, the destruction is probably only the loss of a few hours of work and some dollars, not the end of your life. You have to destroy something in order to find something new. Have courage, make a mess! After all, out of the mud grows the lotus, or something like that.

 - Lisa Esherick, Instructor (drawing and painting), City College, SF CA

I teach art to aboriginal, Metis, and white adults and children, and they have taught me one thing they are not even aware of. Therefore, I try to show them this lesson in reflection: learn to listen to your inner voices and stay close to the earth, both literally and figuratively. While you are listening, you will not be speaking, and knowledge will be gifted to you. While you are listening and looking and smelling and touching, you provide no obstacle to the flow, and flow is the state of creative grace.

 - Hedda Zahner, Longview, Alberta, Canada

Writing checks to get someone to do your job for you is no kind of education. Paying tuition is a small part of the process, no matter how much it costs.
   Education requires active participation by both parties. Stay on your toes. And for god's sake, especially if you're an american, try to be humble.

 - James Alan Johnson, Professor of Art (painting, drawing, etc.), University of Colorado at Boulder

Listen, read, write, create and explore as much as you can, because even though you will never find all the answers, revelation happens when en route to somewhere else.

 - Gary Mesagaido, Asst. Professor of Art (computer art, color theory, computer animation), Morehead State University, Morehead KY

Just believe in yourself and your ideas. Your point of view and reasons for being an artist are what got you there-listen to your teachers but don`t become them.

 - Kurt Weiser, Professor of Art (ceramics), Arizona State University, Tempe AZ

Make a commitment to continue to create your art, be patient about success, and get spiritually connected with your materials and processes. I sum this philosophy up as "Work Produces Results."

 - Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, Professor of Fiber Art, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY

Never Give Up.

 - Zee Zeleski, Berkeley, CA

Because of limited space, we've edited some of the answers above, and had to omit many others. Thanks, too, to Carol Durham, Amy Claire Trachtenberg, Birgit O'Connor, Anne Weinholt, Celeste Parcell, Emily Faxon, Flora Davis, David Lofton, Karen M. White, Leah Jakusovszky, Steven Gordon, Nikki Ausschnitt, Paula Van Blarcom, S. Ebel, Randall Schmidt, Ruth Parson, Susan Hyde, Emily Duffy, Tobey Kaplan, Steven R. Migone, Kay Weber, and R. Eve Solomon.

PS: If you have not yet sent in your answer, we still want it, as we are planning to publish a separate collection of teacher and would-be teacher advice.

Copyright © 1999 by studioNOTES

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