Thursday, September 4, 2014

Teaching, or why I came here

Friday, August 1st,

When plans change you go with them.  Instead of teaching my planned for week long monotype course I would be teaching a three day intensive workshop.  Last minute, Carmen worked her magic and I ended up teaching the most wonderful group of students.  I was lucky enough to have a few current students of the design school, going into their second year, and a handful of alumni who lived locally and wanted to be at Altos learning art again. I had painters, drawers, and installation artists.  I had the most engaged and engaging students a non-Spanish speaking nervous teacher could ask for. I had assisted teachers all through the past year in various community collages around New York but it was my first class to teach all on my own.

I had to restructure my class the night before, but with the level of artists I had in my class I was able to teach them just as much information in the intense short time we had together. Painting, scraping, drawing with sticks and q-tips--a whirl of monochromatic prints, watercolor, Japanese paper handprints and experiments in viscosity.  My students ventured outside to paint from life, using the beauty of their surroundings. They used themselves and each other, still life, found images, and their imagination.  I drilled image after image by Degas (an avid maker of monotypes and a favorite of mine) into their heads. I spoke about the importance of contrast, wiping out the lights, and about negative vs. positive. I showed them current working artists as well, showing them how varied monotypes can be.  They showed me, that even with a language barrier, I can show a class what I know and in return they will show me their voices as artists.  The students worked very hard and the amount of prints they made revealed their excitement for the process, leaving time to joke, listen to music and experiment with accidental prints of course.

The smile on everyone’s face as they lifted the paper from their plate, the moths diving into the water baths where the paper was soaking outside, the tables covered with an increasing number of prints--then suddenly the students hugging me and running to catch a bus, it was Friday and the workshop was already at an end.  I left feeling the students were as excited about the monotype process as I am…success! Everyone had helped everyone else, sharing paper and translating and critiquing each other’s work.  By the end they were helping each other print on their own and they didn’t need me anymore. They were self-sufficient printmakers. A far cry from the first morning when at the very beginning of my lesson on how the monotype evolved throughout history, I was interrupted repeatedly in the middle of trying to say the inventor’s name, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, by the local cat Cheese’s loud meowing.

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