It's been about a year since Jake Parker and I started our SVS online Live & Recorded illustration classes...WOW! We've had a lot fun and gotten to know so many of you who we've met on Facebook, Twitter, or on our blogs. I'm going to introduce our newest class at the bottom of this post but before I do I want to talk about the title question: Why Do Some Art Teachers Refuse To Teach Art?
I can't tell you how many artists have told me via facebook, twitter, youtube, this blog, email, skype, etc that they have learned more from our short SVS classes than they did in four years of Art School at 500 x the price! As much as I'd like to pat myself on the back I won't. I won't pretend that I'm doing more than any art teacher should be doing.
How can this be happening? My theory is that art was never treated as a serious subject in K-12 and as a result students enter college completely unaware of what they need to learn in a visual arts program. "But Will, I had a great teacher in H.S." It happens, but more often art teachers spend most of their time managing students that were dumped in their classrooms from the counseling dept. - I know - I taught H.S. art. I believe that teachers that don't teach either never became accomplished in their own work and never learned the rules. Perhaps they've simply become lazy and willing to take advantage of the system -a system that pays them for being a great teacher or a lousy one. It could also be that they are afraid that they will create clones of themselves who will take away their work - pure nonsense.
Drama majors, English majors, Music majors, and Dance majors come to college with much more experience than illustration or art majors. They come with more experience because in Drama, English, Music, and Dance they are taught rules. You can't have a school play if the actors are taught to act their "feelings". Obviously you can't write a story without learning rules about plots, sub plots, climax, resolution, and of course grammar. You can't make music if everyone is doing their own "interpretation" of the song and you can't be an effective dancer without learning "moves" moves that were developed by other dancers.
"But Will, you're talking apples and oranges." Baloney (see what I did there?) In a play you have a climax - that's called a focal point in a painting. In writing you revisit the same theme throughout the story - that's called repetition in an illustration. In music you you have to have balance, unity, divisions, and emphasis and it's no different if you want to visually communicate in a picture.
Art teachers on the other hand have been getting away with murder. Not all of them - I know many many great art teachers at the college level and I have to put in a plug for UVU where I teach - a great illustration program with teachers who rock! I also know many who have perfected the art of NOT teaching. Their apathy towards their students is sickening. I hear reports that teachers tell students to "paint their feelings" to "experiment" to "explore" and just "figure it out". I had an illustration teacher tell me over and over: "If I tell you how to complete the assignment you won't learn anything". I'm not saying that telling a student to experiment is a bad thing - but if that's the only "teaching" a student gets - IT'S BAD!
My question is what's different about the visual arts? Why and how do these teachers get away with NOT teaching the Rules of art? Are there rules of art? If there are rules for actors, musicians, writers, and dancers why not for visual artists?...THERE ARE!
If you were never taught to keep your elbows off the table you could be offending people without knowing it. If nobody ever taught you to floss - your teeth might be falling out and if you were never taught to swim - you might be reading this from heaven. My point is that awareness comes from education and without it you might be walking around totally unaware that you are in desperate need of something.
One of our most important classes is coming this MAY and it's called Creative Composition. Many artists don't realize that there's a big difference between drawing and designing and that in order to create a GREAT image you need BOTH. We grew up like weeds. We were given pencils and paper and told to have fun. Having fun is good but without instruction it's just play time. Does your art look like play time? Our Elementary teachers had no clue how to teach art and most of our H.S. teachers never learned the rules of design either (and I'm talking about a lot more than rule of thirds).
I get about 50 to 100 emails /interactions on social media per day asking me about how to get better at art. Most aren't serious. Most don't have the kind of commitment needed to improve. Many want me to tell them how good their art is as if my blessing will help them convince themselves that it isn't that bad. It's bad. We all start out bad. I was horrible and I've blogged about that often. Horrible with a capital H - so don't think I'm rude when I tell you that if you never learned the rules your art is probably suffering. It's hard to give a good critique but honesty is the only thing that will help you get better. It's time to stop pretending to be an artist and start being one by taking control of your future.
If you're serious about getting better I promise you that this composition class won't be a waste of your time...and we won't tell you, "Just experiment."