October 4

The Art Police


My daughter was home from college this weekend ( hooray!) and she had some friends over for a study-fest Saturday night. While making curry, the girls got to talking about the awful teachers they had when they were young…..

Kind of half-listening, I heard about how in 1st grade one girl talked about how she was coloring a coloring page of an outline of a gingerbread man for her parents for “open house” so the parents would know which desk belonged to them when the parents visited. Up to that point, she had always grabbed a bunch of crayons in her hand and colored across areas with multi-colored strokes. She was having fun until the teacher grabbed her paper, told her that was not the "right way” and ripped up her paper.

Literally ripped it up! The teacher then gave her another paper to try again. Not understanding what the problem was, the little girl proceeded to color in her own way again. The teacher came back and got very angry with her and this time didn’t give her another paper for her parents, she just didn’t have one now.

To make matters worse, the teacher held up the gingerbread man of the little girl next to her ( who had colored everything very realistically and very neatly) and said, “THIS is how we color”.

This friend of my daughter’s is now 20 years old, and you could tell this memory has stuck with her all this time as though it were yesterday.

Bad teachers = bad memories.

How teachers and their words affect us is unbelieveable. I have a few horror stories of my own. But really? 1st grade? Is it so necessary to squash any kind of individual creativity so young and parade what is “right” in front of potential artists? No wonder so many talented kids “quit" art so young and never look back. I have met SO MANY people in their 50’s and 60’s that have stories of how they wanted to be artists when they were young, and yet were told to pick something “sensible”with "right answers" for the rest of their lives.

I meet them now and I hear their stories about how they are trying to play catch-up to all they missed. That joy of creating, of being an artist and of "coloring things in their own way" is coming late to them and only now do they realize how much it means to them.

So sad.

I saw a post on social media a while back pleading for others to give them advice on how to "paint looser”. Maybe I am always looking for an artists' intention, but the first thing I thought was “why?”

The artist was saying things like painting “loose" was so hard and that is didn't come naturally……..Ok…..so paint the way you want is my answer. You like detailed tight painting? Hyper-realisim is a goal? It brings you joy? Then study Ingres, Bourgereau, David Kassam and Daniel Sprick. Those that have mastered painting “tightly” . Did they need to be looser?

Who says there is a right answer? This is not accounting.





I think a fast and easy “cop-out” for any teacher is to say “don't do that”, "do it like me!” or….. “paint or color like her!”

What does that teach? There is no art police. There is no one "right way" to do things in art. Otherwise we would all be pretty boring. Maybe that is why I hate Vuitton bags. They smell like conformity……..sorry- my idiosyncrasy.

So dance to your own beat. Paint to your own rhythm. Color with a fistful of crayons. Learn what you can as you go along, but beware of who you are trying to learn from……..






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