Teaching Painting: A Growth Opportunity

JenK-teaching-pic-smTeaching can be an important component of being a working artist. It leads to further study, clarification, and immersion into art. Interacting with students provides a wider perspective, a release from the self-focus inherently required to make one’s own art, and the reward of facilitating the growth of others.

Preparing to teach is a process of research, remembering, and organizing what you know. It’s like packing for a trip. Pull out your most essential items, maybe add some new ones, and organize them in an accessible way. The more elegant and complete your packing is, the more smoothly your leadership will go.

Teaching a group is much like tending a garden. There are collective and individual needs, different perspectives, learning styles and personalities. A consistent delivery of information and guidelines for practice will help students grow. Students must also be guarded from the pests of discouragement and negativity that come from inside and out, in the form of positive feedback and good information. The teacher must share the joy of making art, and lead students to a productive state of creativity. A student’s progress is the fruit of all that work.

Teaching is also a service. The best parts of oneself are offered up to contribute to the enrichment of others. The challenges of learning and attempting something new can bring out uncomfortable emotional states, but a supportive teacher is adept at helping learners to navigate this stage, by showing assuredness and cheering them on to the finish line.

A good match between teacher and student can lead to symbiotic benefit and communal advancement that transcends any type of ownership of the knowledge shared. Communicating a skill set or area of knowledge is the very essence of teaching. It truly is a passing of the torch, making way for a larger purpose to continue and grow beyond the individuals who practice it.

— Jennifer Kane has been a working artist in Pennsylvania since 1992.