Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

The Pleasures of Teaching

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

I love to teach. Sharing my own pleasure in painting and helping other adults find pleasure in it as well excites me and keeps me motivated to improve my own understanding and skills. Sometimes it’s a real challenge to keep ahead of my students. But that’s satisfying, too, because it means they have been benefiting from what I’ve taught. The challenge keeps me studying, delving into the “why’s” and “how’s” so I can explain more clearly what we see happening on the paper. Understanding the theoretical principles and physical phenomena more deeply, myself, gives me greater control over the medium, and thereby improves my own skills even as I help my students explore their capabilities.

But more important than any of that is developing my students’ confidence, teaching them to relax and enjoy the very process of painting.

Class

This month marks the beginning of a new teaching season. Because of the transient nature of our community, some students may attend only a few class sessions, some a weekly class for a month or two, and others may attend all twelve weekly sessions. Some of the students will have never painted before. Others will be returning students seeking to hone their skills. Yet others may be experienced, well-trained artists who are looking merely for encouragement and motivation to return to painting regularly. While I feel that one of my responsibilities is to teach beginners the basics of watercolor application, without overwhelming them, I also want to provide enough fresh information and guidance to keep the more advanced students interested, motivated, and challenged. Because of returning students, I avoid repeating projects from year to year, so I’m always on the lookout for fresh subject matter for our exercises.

Difficult? Stressful? I’m tempted to toss off a casual “No prob!” But the fact is that planning for such mixed classes takes considerable forethought and preparation. It forces me to establish clear goals for each session, and then provide appropriate projects that can be approached with a wide range of degrees of difficulty to meet those goals at a variety of skill levels. But once we get into the classroom, I tend to adapt each lesson to the specific students attending, the questions that arise during the demonstration and work sessions, and to suit the unforeseen needs of the situation. That approach keeps us on track while keeping everyone relaxed enough to enjoy our time working together. And yes, we do have fun!

It’s always exciting to meet a new group of students. Some are eager and full of questions and observations, some quietly focus on mastering the skill of the moment, while others are gregarious and regularly share their frustrations and successes with friends seated nearby. Each mix of students is different but represents to me an ongoing opportunity to grow as an artist, a mentor, and a colleague. I can hardly wait to meet this season’s mix! Will you be joining us?

I’m also available to teach private classes in SW Florida. Email me (Charlotte@charlottemertz.com) for further information.

The Enrichment of Problem Solving

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Every painting I undertake is an exercise in problem solving. Not only must I discover what I want to depict or express in a painting, but then I must decide the most effective way to compose the image. What format? Which medium? What color palette? How can I make it interesting and appealing? And the questions go on…

The more I paint, the easier it becomes to find answers to these and other questions that invariably arise. Over the years and stacks of paintings, a kind of encyclopedia of information has developed in my experiential memory. Every additional painting I work on supplements it. I can also draw on the information other artists and art historians share from the wealth of their own mental encyclopedias.

Sharing information I have learned does not deplete my own store but rather reinforces it, encouraging me to review the decisions I made in my earlier problem-solving efforts, why I made those decisions, how effective they were, and how the outcomes might have been improved. So when I teach others, my problem solving database continues to build on its own discoveries, enhancing my original experience and finding them multiplied as I help my students seek their own solutions. That’s one reason I love to teach. Another reason? I love to see others learn and become problem solvers, too.