One of the benefits of teaching is learning. I have learned more as an educator than I ever did as a student at art school or university. The whole exercise brings out the natural researcher in me.
In order to come up with interesting projects for my adult students, I hunt. Hunting involves lots of things such as
- reading about what inspired or preoccupied artists of the past,
- discovering, dissecting and understanding provocative activities that other instructors have come up with,
- investigating and learning about techniques that I am unfamiliar or not entirely comfortable with, or
- fishing for symbolism in various dictionaries and encyclopedias.
Adults keep me on my toes. Children have a direct line to their psyche. Until grownups start telling them what an image should look like, they make wonderful art.
Adults however often have to burrow through layers of life experiences which inhibit quick access to their uniqueness. Personal histories may initially block creativity, but generally, once the valve has been pried opened, reminiscences, anecdotes, and recollections nourish ideas. Establishing a positive, encouraging "think tank" atmosphere stimulates everyone involved, including the teacher.
As my students explore possibilities, tons of ideas shoot through my head. If they are excited, it fuels my own practice. Fascinating how that happens.
In my "Stretch Your Imagination" class, I recently had students explore analogical thinking as they examined exotic fruits and vegetables. They had to ask questions: What does this particular fruit remind me of in different domains? What is the perfect veggie like? What symbols, myths, stories come to mind as I examine it? What if I were to become the veggie? How would I feel? What would I look like? (This is starting to sound like an acting class. BECOME THE VEGGIE!) We examined grid systems, branching systems, radiating systems and many more that occur in nature.
Well, I came home totally preoccupied with broccoli. All I kept thinking about was broccoli: its colour, structure, odour, cluster system. The more I examined it, the more I realized that it wasn't the one that I wanted to work with. Maybe cauliflower?..nope, too much like a washed out broccoli. Finally, out of nowhere, it hit me. Brussel sprouts!
I love it when local produce hits the shelves in Quebec. The interesting stuff usually comes out in mid-summer. The brussel sprout plant is particularly fascinating. Wee cabbages grow on a stalk. Examine each carefully and they soon look like the heads of little people.
Right now it's February in Canada. The sprouts in grocery stores come from a warmer clime. Somewhere in the world, someone is decapitating little heads, dumping them into black or white styrofoam containers, covering them with suffocating plastic wrap. How can the little heads breathe? Families are destroyed. Individuals are separated from one another. A little one is squeezed in next to a big one. Oh my, what horror!
This is known as running with an idea.
Inspired, I created this pen and ink drawing of The Brussel Sprout Family. I'm not sure if I'm going to continue with this theme in the long term, but right now, I have an acrylic painting on the go.
Love your brussel sprouts people. They've been through a lot.