Thursday, April 14, 2016

A teacher in the closet....


Emerald City

For the first time in my life I'm having lessons  in a one on one situation. While they're not art lessons, I think the experience of learning in a situation like this definitely translates to other activities.

 I'm the only student..and after about a dozen lessons,  I have realised just how wonderful it is to be the only student.  Would that I had had a personal tutor all along!  It's just amazing the progress you can make when the teacher is totally focused on your performance and no one else's.  Although, of course, a little intimidating at first being the sole focus of another's attention - or at least it looks like that!  The teacher could be mentally compiling a grocery list!

All At Sea


It's very hard and very slow,  learning in many group situations - I remember being largely bored in school as a child, reading a book hidden on my lap under the desk!  I did get very good at hiding books and reading!!  Even got away with it later on when, as a potential juror in a large court room, we were absolutely forbidden to read anything - as they interminably asked 100 people the same four boring questions!! it was a choice between going bonkers and reading illicitly!

Pond in Winter, looking East

I've often thought that I could make art so much better if I had a really great teacher constantly available...Nancy Crow in the closet, or Emily Richardson at the next table...maybe Cezanne offering suggestions from an armchair, or Hans Hoffman coming by every few minutes.  Do we learn from making mistakes? yes definitely...but not if we keep making the same mistakes over and over - then all we're learning is how to make mistakes.   And I have learned a LOT of them.

On the Latch

I don't know how one could get the same effect as that "teacher in the closet" if you were totally on your own...perhaps having frequent review sessions with oneself?  I know it's hard to stop and really look at what you're doing when you're in  a sewing frenzy and hoping to get the piece done by some deadline...but we  probably need to stop and look - and change horses in midstream (love mixed metaphors) more often? 

Anybody got any other ideas?  anybody willing to come and reside in the alcove of my sewing room?
I could make it quite cozy AND bring you nice cups of tea.....

If you have been, thanks for reading!  and do write and comment...I love hearing from you....
Elizabeth

15 comments:

irene macwilliam said...

I know people who are constantly going on courses and it seems to me they find it so hard to settle down and produce work without a tutor pushing, suggesting, encouraging, throwing out stimulating thoughts etc. Some have never got back into producing work, they just say they would love to be doing but nothing happens. So maybe we do not really want the someone in the attic as of your dreams.

Melanie McNeil said...

I'd enjoy having someone to help me see more clearly. I don't really have anyone, other than myself, who offers effective feedback, either while I'm making or when a quilt is done. My husband is surprisingly helpful when I ask him about color choices, layout, etc. But I need to ask specific questions like "should the border be applied with points in or points out?" and then show him examples. We talk through what we see, and I appreciate the feedback, but it is limited in scope. There isn't anyone else out there (in my real world or in the online world) who is focused on making medallion quilts. I would LOVE to find another resource to teach and inspire me in their making, but they aren't out there. So YES PLEASE, bring me a teacher in a closet!

Kathy said...

i think incremental change we need to push ourselves through reflection but for major change, yes, expert others input is needed.
it made me think of how the kids at uni from a fancy school didn't know how to push themselves as they'd always been pushed by their teachers, whereas the kids from the local school had developed self motivation

Elizabeth Barton said...

Well it's not a case of motivation that I"m talking about really, I so agree with you all on needing that inner drive...it's more the expert guidance when we're making the wrong step AGAIN and AGAIN....e.g. As we begin to choose our fabric pulling together a frantic miasma of different colors, the voice from the closet..."remember it will be stronger and more harmonious if you have fewer colors, how about making that one in your hand the focus color and building the others around it?".......
so it's not so much the pushing, but rather nudging in the Right Direction rather than the wrong one....
"

Melanie McNeil said...

Elizabeth, there's also the need for a voice that asks, "What? You're doing THAT again? Why not try something fresh? Come on. Take another look..." Even if you're doing something that works, if you do it all the time, it can become not very interesting.

Jo Vandermey said...

I have this somewhat in the small group we formed. 4 people at different points on our journey. We meet at least once a month and share, do a technique, go on a field trip. In between we can email each other or visit.
Also entering a mentor relationship would be similar. Oh how I wish there was a greater willingness of people to share and guide others. Teaching as our parents learned their skills from neighbours, women's institute, Jr. Farmers etc. my mom learned many skills through her women's institute group. These she past on to me. She is still my go to resource for sewing techniques and other crafting. We also dub her the Betty Crocker hotline.
In a day and age where (although please don't get me wrong I understand why) everyone is teaching and charging making has become an expensive luxury for some or a race to get more done!
I love experimenting with my group. We draw on the talents and strengths of each other. That being said it would be lovely to study under someone. Oh how I wish locally we had a city and guilds or fiber programs of any kind.
Meanwhile I learn as I can and save to take more foundational classes.
So yes I would like a mentor in my basement to while away the hours with me.
Jo

Elizabeth Barton said...

I do see the need for "not again"!! as you suggest Melanie...I see people dropping back into comfort zone so often...
and there are a lot of classes out there as you say Jo, some good, some just waffle (believe me I've experienced my share of those)...but it's having someone right at your elbow just as you are about to do something that won't work....in square dancing we call those people "angels" and each student has one as they learn....love those angels!

Janis Doucette said...

Well, I think I've just found the kind of friend who can do this! After taking Jane Dunnewald's Creative Strength Training Workshop, I discovered that it's me! But you do have to work for it! http://www.janedunnewold.com/ast/

But I love what you're doing!

Sew Jacky O said...

Yes a one on one would be ideal. I love doing my City and Guilds but there are parts which I absolutely know doesn't suit my style and other parts I would love to linger on and develop. But of course we have to push on to cover the syllabus. A personal tutor would recognise when to skip a bit or dwell on another, there would be a dialogue and understanding. I think it's the dialogue with another expert in the field that is important. Love reading your posts Elizabeth, always prompts me to reflect.

Nina Marie said...

One thing I've learned that when I'm in a group setting for classes - there is a learning curve for the teacher too. It takes a while for the teacher to get to know where you are in your creative journey and what your abilities are. Not to mention your learning style is. Recently I had a teacher who took one look at me and because I looked so much younger than everyone in the class - thought I didn't know what I was doing. It took 3 days for her to realize that I didn't need my hand held. Annoying!! Working one on one would be so much nicer since your teacher and you could get to know each other faster.

Elizabeth Barton said...

or the other, and equally undesirable situation, you do look as if you know what you're doing so they pass you by "well you know what you're doing".
But what I would like is someone who stops you when you're about 5 minutes into the error...STOP, think! there's something to consider here!
I've been reading a book, though, that says mistakes are necessary as long as they are honest mistakes!!! Now all I have to do is figure out the honest from the dishonest!!!

Connie in Alabama said...

I think it takes a VERY experienced teacher to stop someone early-on from making a mistake. I was talked into a 5-day watercolor workshop with Charles Reid, who has been teaching painting for at least 45 years. I had painted two figures on horseback and was beginning to put in a background when I heard a roar of "Stop!" from the back of the room. Charles came up and said to blot up the background paint, that I was getting ready to ruin it. It takes a really experienced teacher to know exactly what to say to a particular student, and how to say it.

Elizabeth Barton said...

So interesting!! I love Reid's work, Connie. He says so much with just a little, just hints at things and yes watercolor is one place where it's very dangerous to do too much, to be heavy handed at all. Lucky you - a 5 day workshop with him!
And what a great story!

Textile Werke said...

10 years ago I was spoilt living in South Africa with a lot of creative people living aroung me. I was member of a textile art group and we did a lot of activities like show and tell, visiting exhibitions and discussing and examining the art work. Asking questions like "Why does it appeal to me or why not?". How is the colour choice?, why the composition is done in this way or in anohter, .... Doing art classes together with direct contact, insiration and critique. It was a wonderful and productive time for me. I really enjoyed the direct contact and input from fellow artists.
Then I moved to Germany living in a rural environment. 10 years down the line I am just settling. The attitude of artists is different, not so much sharing, more working on individual terms. In rural areas are not even many artists that would like to share with textile artists. It is difficult. I occasionally join in online classes or try to find real classes for direct exchange and contact to like-minded people. I would enjoy a person in the closet that would challenge me re-thinking, evaluating or pushing me out of the comfort zone.

Elizabeth Barton said...

That does sound like an idyllic situation in S. Africa. The company of other sharing artists, no matter the medium, is so stimulating. I try to get together with painters to discuss and critique each other's work...I'm also finding that as a beginning pianist, the same holds true...getting together to play for each other is so rewarding and motivating! Hope you find some kindred spirits soon.