Professional Practices – Assistant Teaching – Week 11

This week Ernie unwittingly answered a big question I had without me asking it. There is a particular student in our class who has always been something of a renegade, drawing in a crazy style without regard to what has been covered in class. His drawings are all heavy-handed, a frantic buildup of unsophisticated lines pressed into the page. There is never any sense of composition, light source, value structure or space. It was almost as if he hadn’t heard a word that Ernie had spoken all semester. I had wanted to approach the student about his work, but was completely baffled every time I thought about how to do so. I am all for individuality and unconventional approaches, and admittedly have a soft spot in my heart for anyone who marches to the beat of their own drum. However, these drawings simply were not working. Worse yet, the student didn’t appear to mind.
How do you convince someone who is trying to avoid instruction that taking heed to your instruction is exactly what they need to do? If nothing else, this student certainly displayed some energy in his work and the last thing I wanted to do was kill his enthusiasm. I would say that another admitted soft spot I have is for an energetic, fast-paced artist. But again, his work was not effective and was also not getting any better as the course progressed.
When Ernie approached this student in class this week, I was all ears (and eyes). He sat down with the drawing and began by telling the student that “I like what you’re doing here…” So he began in a very positive and encouraging way. He even used the word “crazy” to describe the student’s style, but again in a positive way. He spoke of the drawing’s “craziness” as if it were an asset. Then he very smoothly transitioned into a more critical mode. He told the student, “Don’t lose your craziness; there is something nice about it. But you have to control it. Don’t let it control you. Be more logical, more in control. You can be crazy, but you still have to follow the rules.”
Wow. And the student responded quite well, without loss of enthusiasm. Now that’s how it’s done. And in that one brief teaching, he taught two lessons: one to the student, and one to the graduate student.


About AlexEConrad

Fine artist. Freelance designer.
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