Teaching and Learning Styles part 3

class website: Welland Park students, tutor: Vivien Blackburn

This is a website I set up for the classes to show off their work - you'll see the wide range of subjects, media, styles and experience - the differentiation I talked about in my last post on teaching styles.

website address: http://sitekreator.com/wellandpark it's worth a look - there are some talented students in my classes :>)
previous posts on teaching in this series: http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/teaching (2 posts) and http://vivienb.blogspot.com/search/label/teachers where I talk about the good teachers I've studied with .

Core elements in painting and drawing

Teaching I believe is being a catalyst. You are aiming to bring out and develop the talents and increase the understanding of students.
Core elements for me are:
  • encouraging an open minded exploratory attitude from the very beginning (a relaxed atmosphere as explained in the first post, enables students to do this without fear of failure - there is no failure, some things work, some don't, it's all learning) I don't want students to think that they will, or should, produce a finished painting every week in the lesson. I encourage thumbnail sketches and little sketches and paintings working out particularly difficult sections of texture or colour or form within the painting, working out beforehand the visual language of marks and colour that will express it best in a final piece. Painting is a language and you need to develop the vocabulary - which is colour and marks. I'm there to help work out options, more than one way of dealing with particular problems, so that students use the solution best suited to them.
  • drawing and painting are not distinctly separate things - charcoal and pastel are painterly, paint can be used to draw - the division, if there is one, is blurred. The loosest paintings with no drawing before paint is applied, need sound underlying drawing skills to hold them together.

  • a good understanding of colour and colour mixing is essential. I advise all my students to invest in a copy of Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie - a really good way of considering colour and its interaction. I get them to mix complementaries to see the fascinating range of colours that, for instance, Alizarin Crimson and Viridian make - dark deep forest greens that remain translucent to deep dark burgundies via black. Then thin the mixes down and see the range of beautiful coloured greys. We repeat that with other complementaries. Then there is glazing - another subtle way of altering colours and adjusting 'wrong' colours - a banana painted with yellows straight from the tube and looking far too loud can be fixed with a thin glaze of complemenary purple for instance. Just this week a real beginner had the foreground grasses really good natural colours but for some reason the far hills were emerald green - a wash of orange over them and they looked great - suggestions of bracken and the colour knocked back. Good colour can make an interesting painting even if the underlying drawing is a little off ;>)

  • observation. observation. observation. Look very very hard I tell them and don't go onto automatic pilot - don't draw what you think is there - look what is actually there. Perspective comes into this - how to cope with ellipses. the perspective of buildings, scale and interlinking shapes. Then there is Aerial recession - how to use the weight of line or colour to suggest the landscape going off into the distance. I encourage the use of sketchbooks to work in regularly, drawing anything and everything - mundane to beautiful, just to keep practising the hand-eye coordination and observation skills. In class it is sometimes necessary to work from photographs but I encourage as much working from life as possible. You'll see on the website that a lot of work is done from life - pears, flowers, teddies, shells - a long list.

I tell them not to throw away their 'failures' - they may appreciate later that some things were working and how will they judge their progress if they don't have something to compare.

Then there is the importance of talking to fellow students, discussing work, media, techniques, aims and objectives .... they will get a lot out of it. Knowledge of local sketchclubs or exhibitions visited is shared over coffee.

Beginners usually have a rosy view that they hope to achieve a stage where they are satisfied - I warn them that the goal posts always move forward as they improve so we never get there! or if we do, we've stopped learning and developing.

It's important that copying from other artists is only done as research, to work out how, investigating colour, composition and visual language. Copying is like trying to walk in someone else's shoes though - the fit may not be good ;>) - you don't know the thought processes and observation that led to the painting or the order of marks and layers - it's important to take elements of technique or whatever it was that was interesting and make it their own, adapt, adjust and be true to themselves.

My teaching plans - schemes of work and lesson plans - are flexible. Students often bring up topics they'd like covered and the whole class express an interest - so we look into it. At other times someone may bring in a really interesting book (like the ones by Shirley Trevena) and I'm asked to show them how I'd use some of the techniques - that can really put me on the spot! I have core issues to cover and beyond that it's tailored to the individuals and their particular needs. It means it's much more fun even though it's probably harder work. I'm made to think around different problems and frequently learn new things myself or am introduced to new materials on the market that I haven't tried.

Vive la Difference! I like Differentiation and it starts even with these core elements.



Anita said…
I hope your students know how lucky they are to have such a wonderful teacher!
Making A Mark said…
A very helpful post Vivien - I'm going to be featuring it on my "who's made a mark this week" post on my blog tomorrow
vivien said…
Hi Anita :D

they are lovely students!

thanks Katherine :D
Rose Welty said…
Vivien, this is a great post! You really have some good thoughts in here. I think your four "essentials" points go a long way to explaining what being an artist is really like, especially for those that don't really understand it.

Thanks for the series.
vivien said…
thank you Rose :) - and I enjoyed visiting your blog
Jeanette Jobson said…
The blog 'gallery' for your students is a great idea Vivien! Also your points on teaching are spot on. Great post.
vivien said…
thanks Jeanette :) I'm off to tell them this morning that they are featuring on Katherine's and my blog :D

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