Teaching helps me to figure out what art means for me
This June I graduated from my second master in Fine Art : Beaux Arts : 순수미술 (literally translated as pure art). That means I now have three professional degrees in this discipline. I am not saying this to brag about it at all. I am trying to understand myself why I have been doing this. This is definitely not a practical degree. At best it prepares you for an occupation that does not exist. Visual artist is not recognized as a profession in Switzerland unless you are are selling A LOT… but most of us in this industry don’t, so we have a second or third job that pays our bills and tries to do our best to check in at our studios as much as possible in the remaining time.
My studio is my living room and my second job is being a stay-at-home mom. So I “work from home.” More than half of the time, I am also doing care work including cleaning, playing with kids, cooking… etc. So I don’t know when my work number 1 and 2 starts and ends.
(STOP getting distracted with your artist-mother stuff!!! Get back to the point!)
Today I want to think about why I want to teach drawing. I have been teaching Asian calligraphy and drawing to children of age 8-10 at an English speaking private school once a week since this fall. I discovered a lot of things about what I value in art through teaching.
Teaching helped me to understand what art means to me in much more effective way than what my formal education at three different art schools did for me. I think in choosing what to transmit to others, it becomes clear to you what it is that is most essential for you. The fact that I chose to teach drawing rather than sculpture or conceptual art, for example, tells me that it a medium that is closest to my heart.
So for me, foremost drawing is a pleasure. I take such a pleasure in drawing and calligraphy and I can’t think of anything else that gives me this particular kind of joy. What more can be said about this?
Secondly drawing is an outlet… for my emotions. My way of letting out my emotions through my art work is indirect and subtle in comparison to more expressive art that we see, but my emotions are surely in the images I create. It is because when I am drawing, painting, or printing I allow my mind, eye, and hand to actively engage with the image that I am working with. When finish a project, I often experience a feeling that I have let go of something that is dear to me.
Thirdly drawing is for me a space where I allow my questions to be. As I get older, I get more easily overwhelmed by people’s different perspectives and puzzled by events that arrive at my door day to day. I try at first to talk about them with people I trust but then there are some things that can not be articulated in spoken words in a logical way. Visual language allows more room for paradox and contradictions to exist as they are without asking them to get neatly sorted out. I know poetry does the exact thing, and that’s why I like poetry.
Ironically when we are learning art in higher education (at a college or university), we are asked to explain our art with logical words. It is to encourage and push the students to think deeper about their art and develop it further… I also benefited a lot from this training. I learned to extract key words from a glob of enmeshed subjects that I am dealing with in one art project and identify my own “position” on a particular theme that I am engaging with. Sometimes students are asked to make her or his position clearer–to push it further. In a opposite situation, when a student’s states her or his position outright in a too obvious manner, it may be advised that the work needs more nuance. All these are very interesting processes, but very much leaning toward employing our cognitive faculties.
Those of us who prefer to work more spontaneously and intuitively may have difficult time at an art school. But I want to encourage them (I am one of them) to persevere. Two years pass by quickly and you can get back to your studio practice after graduation. Mostly likely your art have gained depth from these years.
As I am teaching art to children of age 5-10, I want to do my best to create an environment or situation where they can experience art as: finding pleasure. letting go of their emotions, and/or engaging with a question. When these accounts accumulate, they may become confident in pursuing what they think is good.