The artists of the future need better teachers

art teachers

The art teacher shown here is most likely better than what I’ve seen in school.

On Tuesday morning, I did a somewhat improvised painting in a class session, but unfortunately, my particular style drew ire the art teacher that presided over that lecture. She argued that my style of painting was lazy, and she tried arguing with me about developing a saleable painting style by insulting my own unique style. After I continued making my point intellectually, the teacher, unable to come up with any intelligent counterargument thereafter, resorted to comparing my art to that of a five-year-old. Given that I have a five-year-old nephew, that was the most insulting thing I have ever heard from a teacher since my days in primary school.

Of course, I really should get over this, except that’s been on my mind all week for two reasons – (a) because the teachers general attitude has been a recurring problem for me and my classmates, and (b) because thinking it over allowed me to see that it was representative of a bigger problem that reminded me of my school days.

The art teacher in question was the kind who would belittle anyone’s art that didn’t conform to her preconceived notions of art. Specifically, she was having us all imitate the Cubist stylings of Pablo Picasso. Consequently, I worried that much of my artwork was going to be the same under that direction. In my mind, all the good artists, Picasso included, rebelled against the current of art to create their own unique stylings. By attempting to restrict our stylings, she is blaspheming against all that is wonderful about art, and slandering anyone who tries to deviate from that pattern only compounds this.

All that aside, I look back and wonder, if she acts so much like a grade school art teacher, then what kinds of art teacher are our kids getting? As my experience has taught me, a teacher can make a significant, life-changing impact on how children perceive their future, and indeed themselves. If art is to continue growing, then the next generation of artists need teachers who recognize the talent and the potential of young artists, and who will help to nurture that talent. At the moment, I don’t think that happens in school, and as for British colleges, this largely depends on the tutor. Then again, where I come from, college is not as different to school as we’d like to think.

I recently read something that Picasso once said that I believe is relevant to the subject in question. He once said that “all children are born as artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. In that regard, I think the art teacher has a role to play in that struggle. If the art teacher has no faith in his or her student, or teaches art the wrong way, then the student will not be enthusiastic about his or her own art. I remember not wanting to do art again because my A-level Art course was such a frustrating experience. It took until 2014 for my enthusiasm to return, and that’s a very bad sign. If that happened to all young artists, there’d be no new talent. Just more old artists anchoring the art world to old ideas, and that would cause the art world to stagnate horribly. The only way that stagnation is prevented is for young artists to contribute fresh ideas, and that cannot happen as long as the next generation has teachers who insist on anchoring them to outdated ideas.

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