Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Great Art Teachers

Creative people can find inspiration anywhere. A song, a smell, a leaf on the breeze, all of these things can spur someone to get creative. When the impetus hits, you create. But what about those times when being creative is expected on cue? Counter intuitively, school can be crippling for creativity, especially the college classes of an art major. For this installment of Cultivators of Inspiration, I'd like to share with you how I found spark in the dark thanks to someone incredibly special.

My piece, A Fine Autumnal Day
wouldn't be the same without
Sr. Diane's nurturing of my love
for color and nature.
A professor of mine, Sr. Diane Taylor, recently celebrated 45 years of service to my university. As I made my way through the tumultuous years of college, she kept me on track when the rails were broken and the bridge was out. When creativity was expected every day, she helped me look in unexpected places. Whether it was schooling me in the finer points of color theory or teaching me to keep the solder neat on stained glass, she wasn't just a teacher, she was a master and we were the apprentices.

Part of being a success at anything is knowing how to help others succeed. Sr. Diane was especially good at sensing her students' capabilities. She knew what you could do, how well you could do it, and if you didn't push the limit, she firmly but kindly suggested you push harder. She was a great listener and knew how to be silent long enough for you to work out the solution on your own. You would learn how to make amazing messes but also how to clean them up.

It's one thing to be a creative person, to make a life for yourself with your art; it's another thing to be a creative person who helps create other artists. One of the most difficult things about teaching artists is dealing with their odd natures and varying skills. It's like teaching a room full of students in ten different languages. To harness the chaos long enough to not only instruct the student factually but help them hone their varied skills is the mark of a true educator.

Inspiration isn't always the otherworldly things of sweeping landscapes and thunderous symphonies. It doesn't always come though the photographer's lens or the painter's brush. Sometimes inspiration is sculpted by a master of a different kind. Great teachers are sculptors, but great art teachers are extremely rare. If you, as a creative, have known a teacher like mine, you understand. My portfolio is her portfolio. I thank you Momma D for helping to make me what I am today. When times are tough, knowing you believed in me keeps me going.

This piece was done in 
Sr. Diane's stained glass class.

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