© 2009
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authored by
Marvin Bartel

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I imagine that all artists experience some time-management issues and frustrations.  When I was a full-time art teacher in public schools, I had very little time for my own artwork.  Most of my own serious artwork had to be done during the summers.  Sometimes I was able to begin something during short school breaks and then come back to it on week-ends for short time periods, but it was challenging to give much concentrated attention to serious creative work during the regular school terms.  Teaching requires a lot of creative energy.

Teaching in a small college allows more autonomy and discretionary time, but has its own challenges. There are always many important demands begging for attention.

I found that university teaching allowed even more autonomy and discretionary time, but it too could easily expand to take all one's time and energy.

Life is art

As artists, we experiment and learn to integrate ways to live artistically. While gallery artwork is an important laboratory for learning the artistic thinking and expressive processes, being an artist is a discipline that weaves itself into all of life.  One way that I cope with limited studio time is by expanding my own definition of art beyond gallery artwork. Everything I do is art. Art is part of everyday experiences, events, family life, housing, transportation, recreation, dining, gardening, and so on. Rather than competing with life, art is at the core as well as at the creative edges of life itself.

Reciprocal Learning

I find that being an artist informs my art teaching.  Teaching art without being an artist would be an incomprehensible job.  Teaching would merely concentrate on knowledge about other artist's stuff and the production of similar stuff.  By being an artist, the teaching includes ways to inspire the challenge to search, discover, learn to think, to feel and live artistically.  Creating art is a complex life-encompassing process that requires all kinds of thinking and feeling processes.  It would be very hard to think of ways to design authentic art learning experiences without being involved as an artist.  It turns out that teaching art full-time in public schools does take too much time, but teaching helps raise important creative questions and teaching also clarifies a number of issues.  When I teach my own thought processes, idea generation processes, media skills, persistence, discovery strategies, invention strategies, and so on; I too become more capable of self-inspiration.

Student Inspiration

Students have the right to expect us to be artists. When they see that we value our own creative time and our own ability to make art both the core and enhancement of our lives, they too are inspired to learn. Our teaching becomes easier. When students are inspired, teaching becomes a pleasure.

I generally do my studio work in private in my own studio rather than in the classroom with my students. Before I had my own studio, I often used the art room during the summer or during school breaks. I can get deeper into ideas when I am not teaching at the same time.  Also, I do not want students to feel that they should make work that looks anything like my work.

I make a point to have my artwork on display in places that students frequent so that they know that I am seriously involved as an artist.  My students are brought on field trips to my home and studio toward the end of every semester. There they are exposed to my ways of integrating art into all of life.

Benefits of Starting More Than We Finish.

We have all been taught to finish what we have started before beginning another project.  I find this to be a half-truth or less.  Ultimately, I believe that I accomplish much more when I have many more projects started than I could ever see my way clear to finish.  There are many moods and when I have a group of projects started, I have many options to be productive.  My subconscious mind is aware of all these projects and is continually developing strategies in the background.  When a inspiration strikes, it is not lost, but it is initiated; either in the form of a new project, or if it is about something that I already started, it may be exactly the idea I needed to jump start the stalled project that was started several months ago.  Life in art begins at conception, but not until it takes some kind of materialized form does it insist on being born.  To delay the beginning until all the loose ends have been tied up can allow the idea to wither on the vine.

Of course this has implications for how we teach as well.  How often to we encourage our students to start a new project based on an urgent idea when we see that the student already has several projects that are not yet finished?  How do we help ourselves and our students learn the best way to maximize our own creative imaginations and productive outcomes? In studying the traits of the highly creative it has been found that they have a greater tolerance for many unfinished projects.

Benefits from Teaching

As I watch a kindergarten artist, I see attitudes, ideas and approaches that my own work lacks.  In of group of any age students, I often see unique perspectives. As the art teacher, I see many ideas. Creative and expressive students often experiment with ideas that I would not have thought of. As I see what they are doing, I cannot help but be effected and inspired to experiment with ideas that I may have never considered on my own.  Of course, my work has its own character and maturity. If my work incorporates my prior experiences, it is not obviously derivative.

Art teachers may also be freer to take risks and express creative ideas in their own artwork because they do not feel as much pressure to produce work that can be marketed.  As teachers we have another income which gives us the freedom to be as creative as we wish in our artwork.  We may self-censor work that we intend to exhibit in the school, but we can still experiment in private with whatever artistic ideas we can imagine because we are dependent on sales to survive.

This update May 20, 2009


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: These photos, drawings and text are copyright.  Reproduction and publication other than scholarly review is not permitted without permission from the author.  You may link your page to this page.

updated 06-14-2010


Drawing to Learn DRAWING

by Marvin Bartel - 2010 - is Now Available


This is a book written for kids who can read who want some good ways to practice their drawing skills. Us older folks who still want to learn new stuff can also use this book. It is also great for artists who want some ideas on how to help children learn to draw better. If you are an artist, you could start a Drawing Camp or some after school art classes using the ideas in this book. Parents can use this book plan a really cool and creative kids art party. Many art teachers will find new ideas and inventions never before published.

It is a low-cost online pdf downloadable book. You can read it on the computer or print it out.

See the order page for a
Table of Contents and more about this book