I particularly enjoyed teaching my Continuing Watercolor classes this spring. The small class size of dedicated students meant that we could closely focus on each student’s needs and development goals. It was very satisfying to me, as an instructor, to observe my students’ advancement and their grasp and implementation of the concepts I presented.
Unlike the pattern of most of my classes, instead of actually painting during the class, my Continuing Watercolor students all asked to spend the bulk of class time observing as I painted and applied the precepts I’d just presented to them. They preferred to work on their own, outside of class, and to review and discuss their work at the subsequent class session. Although it surprised me at first that they didn’t want to work in class where I could respond to their questions as they arose (as I have done with beginning students), this alternate approach has worked well for this group of students.
I expect that the limited class time placed them under an uncomfortable sense of pressure, which was removed when they could work at their leisure. But I also came to realize that they appreciated and learned from the ongoing commentary as I talked through my thought process and decision-making while painting a demonstration piece. Their immediate feedback in the form of questions and correlations encouraged further discussion. Critiquing their work during the following class session integrated opportunities to review and reinforce the previous week’s lesson while transitioning into the new lesson.
The change in approach benefited me, as well, because it forced me to think through and explain my reasoning. This not only enlightened the students but reinforced the lesson in my own mind. Because, like it or not, when we become too familiar with certain principles, we often tend to overlook or undervalue them. The old adage that familiarity breeds contempt may be overstating the case, but we do have a tendency to under-appreciate those things we are overly confident that we understand. So these classroom demos helped my own work, as well, by reminding me of fundamental lessons and clarifying the why’s as well as the how’s throughout the multi-faceted decision-making process.