New seascapes - blue summers day and teaching - differentiation

Blue Day. Oil on canvas. 24 ins. Vivien Blackburn

A new seascape finished, it's oil on a 24 inch canvas. Started with free calligraphic marks and finished off with glazes to get the subtle changes in the colour of the sand. Really quiet, calm and simplified, trying to get that lovely feeling of walking down to the waters edge on a blue blue sunny day.

I thought after all the rain and cool weather paintings it was time to do a warm and sunny day :>) .

and .........

Teaching Part 2: Differentiation

Differentiation: teaching allowing for different skill levels and interests and developing the individuals skills and addressing individual needs and projects - not a one-size-fits all method :>) ........... nor one subject, one medium, one learning style, one ................

At all the classes I teach I'm working with mixed ability students - some are total beginners and some very accomplished and every ability level between The comfort zone I talked about in the last teaching post is vital here so that newcomers don't feel threatened and inadequate and the more able don't feel bored and un-stretched.

I like mixed ability groups and workshop style teaching - the more experienced hear me talking to newcomers about the basics and it reminds them to continue considering basic principles and the newcomers see where they can go with their work as they improve - and they always do improve. My ongoing students are friendly and generous, showing starters their early not-so-good works and explaining their progress.

Work often shows promise that a beginner doesn't yet see - the painting is seen as a disaster but actually contains elements that show promise. It's important I believe to explain these, to say that though they may not 'get' it yet, that I can see things that are working. I tell them do NOT throw the painting away as they need it as a benchmark of progress and to look back and see that there were elements showing promise there which they'll understand later. I never give false praise.

I explain that subject matter is their choice. I could set up a still life that I think is wonderful - learners may find it boring - or they may do a great piece of work from it but it simply isn't something they want to hang on their wall. If they choose a subject they feel passionately about or are at least interested in, then that will come through in the work they do.

Medium is also up to students preferences - many start off in watercolours but then realise they'd like to try pastels or some other medium and I encourage experimenting, finding out which materials they relate to most strongly. I also encourage combining media appropriately if their subject matter needs it.

So ...... I have classes where one is working on large scale oil paintings, another on delicate experimental landscape images from memory (student having sketched plein air), highly detailed flowers, abstracts, landscapes, people, animals, small still life set ups, close ups, drawing, oil painting, watercolours, pastels, coloured pencils ................... and lots more!

This way they learn a lot from each other as they walk around chatting about each others work at break (I tell them at the beginning that they will learn as much from each other as they will from me - I always did in classes I attended) and I often get to have a play with new materials too when they bring in stuff I've never used and ask for a demo of how I'd use it, like Inktense and Graphitint when they came out ............ being put on the spot is errrrrm interesting! I enjoy getting a chance to play with new media like this though and working out what they'll do is fun even if in the glare of the spotlight! I just do quick sketches to see what the materials can do, what marks I can get etc

So ........ we celebrate originality, individuality and differences. We don't all work on the same subject or in the same medium. The styles are widely different - and it's a buzz :>)



Martha Marshall said…
This is my favorite approach to teaching. And I always learn from students, no matter what their level.
I was a primary school teacher until retirement and I taught every child in the class as an individual each having their own progress program. It was so much harder to teach that way but as you find - the success results were so much better and the children loved having their own program.
Hope your students appreciate your approach and how much harder it is to teach that way.
vivien said…
Hi Martha and Shirley

yes, it's certainly hard work! but as you say, so much more rewarding, more interesting to teach and I learn too - and success rates are definitely good :)

I bet your class loved it Shirley
sharon young said…
Hi Vivien
Your classes sound magical, I wish I lived near enough to take them :-)
Billie Crain said…
Vivien, you sound like the 'dream teacher'. i envy your students! i love that the students not only learn but you do also.
Cindy said…
Must be very exciting teaching with the various materials...oil, pastels, cps, w/c.

Even though I teach colored pencil what I am concentrating on is the basics, value, drawing, composition, color theory. A relatively small amount of time is spent on the particulars of cp.

It's always so exciting when the light goes on in a students eyes that what you are teaching in cp also applies to their w/c or pastels..etc.

Really enjoying your teaching posts.
vivien said…
yes - that light going on is a great moment!

thanks Cindy, Sharon and Billie for the vote of confidence!
Robyn said…
Blue Day is wonderfully evocative for me, Vivien. I recognise the patterns in the sand from my childhood. The beach may have been on the other side of the world, but the wonder was just the same. This is a stunning series.

I'd just like to join one of your art classes. Sigh. So near and yet so far. Anyway, even at a distance, you did encourage me up to try mixed media. And many thanks, it's saved the day on a number of occasions!
vivien said…
thanks Robyn :) I'm really glad you got into experimenting with mixed media - it's so expressive :)

I'm also glad it has a universal appeal, triggering memories for people - Cornwall is very very special to me.

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