Why Don’t We Teach Art Technique?
This weekend I had the biggest hissy fit. Hissy fit. Temper tantrum. Melt down – whatever you want to call it. It was totally embarrassing and I’m grateful there were no witnesses. It’s been a long time since I was that emotional about anything. So what was all the fuss about? Doing art. Or trying to do art.
Now this may seem a bit ridiculous if you know me. I’m the founder and CEO of Young Rembrandts and have a degree in studio art. I love art and doing art but I must admit that while I’m busy every day around art, I don’t spend time doing art for myself any more. And I miss it. So this weekend I dusted off my watercolors, bought some new brushes, cleaned the old palette and made time to reacquaint myself with an old friend.
So again, why the fuss? I knew it had been too many years away from watercolors to pick up where I left off so I planned to retrain myself by going through some books and tutorials. But, as much as I was ready to be a beginner again – I was enormously frustrated. Beyond frustrated. Learning watercolors from a book is close to impossible no matter how experienced you are and, it stirred up so many emotions from my time in art school, specifically from my watercolor class. You see there’s this ridiculous unspoken belief in art education that you can’t give too much information or training when it comes to doing art because if you do – you’ll stifle the artist’s natural creativity. As a student I wasn’t aware of this unwritten rule and actually thought that when I dragged my watercolor boards and paints all across campus, and sat down in class, I would learn very specific techniques for using watercolors. It didn’t happen. Instead the professor gave us assignments and told us to explore our new medium. Week after week he sat and read the newspaper, while we experimented. Week after week there were critiques and grades, but still no demonstration. No teaching.
Why? This made no sense to me then. It makes no sense to me now.
Can you imagine going to statistics class and having the professor say – explore. Look at these numbers. Read these new problems and give it a go. Try and figure out how to make numbers do that. No explanation. Not even a text book. Why is it that way in art?
Eventually I taught myself how to do watercolors. I taught myself one way of doing watercolors and was pretty good if I do say so myself. But I wanted to do so much more. I want to understand and know my craft so completely that when I sit down to paint – I can really go at it. I can paint what I see. I can let my creativity spill out on the page, without the burden and limits of not having taught myself the necessary techniques yet. Gaining that level of mastery in art comes with a depth of technical training and practice. Mastery of any kind in any subject requires training and practice.
As much as all this makes me crazy on a personal level, it is the fuel behind what we do in Young Rembrandts. I have met so many people that say “I can’t draw’ – and I’m sure it’s because no one showed them how. This ridiculous idea that you are just supposed to figure it out on your own – if you’re really creative is absurd and keeps a tremendous amount of people from ever being able to express themselves creatively. It’s like there’s a conspiracy to keep people from doing art, all because we won’t show them how. Art is fun. Art is for everyone. Everyone can learn how. And at Young Rembrandts we teach 30,000 kids a week how to draw because I want them to grow up knowing they can.
So what about my watercolors? I got rid of the book in lieu of YouTube tutorials. I’m doing some drawing and coloring and I must say never underestimate the value of time spent coloring! And I’m still looking for the kind of training I want to master watercolors. If you think you can’t draw Young Rembrandts’ has some simple How to Draw tutorials on YouTube that can whet your appetite. Don’t give up and think it’s not for you. Press on. Dig in. Anything’s possible.