My portrait-drawing class starts Wednesday. I’m sort of looking forward to it, which is a little surprising. I don’t have the easiest relationship with education, especially on the receiving end. It was often a wrestling match for me to learn, the times I bothered to pay attention. The default attitude was resentment. I felt annoyed and inconvenienced by the hours wasted in classrooms. I didn’t respect most of my teachers and rarely connected with classmates. School was, for the most part, a real drag.
I dropped out of grad school after a semester thirty years ago because, among other realizations, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to be a college professor of art. That is the primary reason to get a master’s in painting aside from having a free couple years to fuck around before starting your adult working life. I thought of higher education in this country largely as a scam. I still mostly do.
I gave private lessons now and then over the years but never taught in a classroom until Frank called and asked if I’d take over two classes for a colleague who had to take a medical leave. It was winter of 2021, full on COVID restrictions, and colleges all over the land feared shuttering for good. This is why I was hired with no prior experience. The place was desperate to stay open so the usual barriers were down.
I had five students in one class and eleven or twelve in the other. About half capacity. Everyone was masked except for the model in the figure-drawing class. They posed unclothed behind what amounted to a giant sneeze-guard. The curriculum was in place so all I had to do mostly was follow it. It was surprisingly easy.
The class that begins Wednesday will be my own. I have materials from previous iterations taught by others but plan to adjust what I teach according to where my students are at. I won’t know that until I meet them. I’m going into this with an open mind. Perhaps I can give the twelve kids who signed up something I rarely got in my own school days.
Most of them will not go into art. They are taking this class as an elective; a break from whatever field they’re training to enter. What I can offer, if I do it right, is a way of looking that they may not be familiar with. Using eyes to look at the world rather than a screen is a dying practice. It will be my job to show them there’s some value in observing those around them using a pencil rather than a lens. It won’t be easy.
I’ll try anyway. We’ll see how it goes.