NINE PRINCIPLES FOR THE ART TEACHER by Andrew Bell
1. There is no such thing as an Artist. Making aesthetic considerations and responding to the material world around us is an innate human function. Expression exists in many forms, all humans do it to a degree whether it’s filling grout, placing books on a shelf or cutting hair. Using the term “artist” elevates the few above the many. As everyone creates and responds with expressive intent, every human is an artist. As every human is an artist, the term “artist” is redundant therefore null. There is no such thing as an artist.
2. Art is more than just “art.” Any object or idea created with intent to express emotion is art. A book of poetry, a cake for a loved one, a hand-made rocking chair, a vase of flowers. Many different forms of human expression exist beyond the classical canons of the art studio. The key to differentiating between art and not-art is the intent of the creator.Art exists in many forms beyond the ones found in a museum. Art is more than just the fine-art that the word normally refers to.
3. Art mediums have no boundaries. Every material or immaterial object we encounter has potential to simultaneously act as canvas, paint, brush and palette. Creative urges know no boundaries – both physical and mental. Everything may act as a conduit for human expression- albeit some behave better than others. Limiting the realm of art to the confines of an art supply store restricts expression and is a disservice to our creativity. A shoe can be the paint. A dead fish can be the pallet. A kitchen sink can be the paintbrush. Art mediums have no boundaries.
4. Museums aren’t the only place for art. Art isn’t always in a museum. The best piece of art in world might be standing in someone’s backyard. It might be hanging in a dental office. Not every museum curator can see every piece of art – the same as every artist isn’t able to hang their work in every museum. Good artwork can be found in many unexpected locations, and art should not be dismissed simply because its location doesn’t have the prestige of a being an art museum. Much of the fame ascribed to artists is a matter of being the right gender and the right race, in the right time at the right place. The location and audience of an artwork has no bearing on the quality of a work art. Museums should be seen as a mere sample of the breadth of the collective human endeavor in creativity.
5. Bad art is usually just incomplete art. Opinion is entirely subjective to the viewer. As long as the creator’s intent is honest and true, the art is good. There is no hierarchy of value in creation beside the values of the individual. When the individual deems their piece bad, the piece is therefore unfinished and a step in the process towards being good. Some pieces are never finished as many artists give up. That failure to finish is ultimately a step in the learning process that will inform later, finished work. The only exception to this rule is creating something bad with “bad” as the intent. This is perversion of the artistic process and is not an authentic form of expression.
6. Only authentic expression results in art. Gimmicks and false emotions make for inauthentic results. Artists use their mediums to express themselves. When the “self” is replaced with something else, the artist is inherently disconnected. The results of such routines create superficial attempts at expression. This is commonly seen in artwork that is disconnected from artistic meaning and value. A portrait must have feeling ingrained in its process of creation or it is simply the work of shoddy camera. Every work that wants to be taken seriously must come from something authentic and human.
7. Welcome obstructions and failures. “The Enemy of Art is the absence of limitations.” – Orson Welles Obstructions come in many forms and they should be welcomed by artists as an important part of the process. Whether it comes as a limitation of material or “writer’s block,” a size constraint or a time limitation, a budget issue or government censorship; the artist will face a litany of obstacles in the process of creation. Looking to history, one finds that artists throughout time have faced these same obstacles only to overcome them in ingenious and inventive ways. These spaces created by the limitations and obstacles facing the artist are the most important, and usually this is where the most fascinating results lie.
8. Art says what words can’t. “Talking about painting: there’s no point. By conveying a thing through the medium of language you change it. You construct qualities that can’t be said but are always the most important.” – Gerhard Richter. Talking about artwork and evaluating the piece for different characteristics has a lot of educational value. Learning to speak about work helps us grow as artists by helping us understand the potential for different mediums expressive abilities. But there are many things in art that are intangible and beyond the limits of human language. If we could say these things, why would we make art? The dynamics of creating a visual expression explores multiple planes of human communication and understanding well beyond the limits of language. Sometimes a painting says what we are unable to say with emotions we don’t have words for. Art is a form of communication that may run congruent to the written word, but can’t be replaced by it.
9. Learning about Art is never complete.Speaking of artistic mastery is a strictly a relativistic pursuit. A three year old draws more competently than a two year old. A four year old better than a three year old and so on. Beyond that, the ability to compare seemingly disparate pursuits in the arts is challenging as no one is ever finished. No-one rests in art learning because each new piece is a lesson in action built upon skills learned in the past. The BFA or MFA is not the capstone of the art world because the pursuit of artistic knowledge is never complete. Start learning early and never stop.