I was recently listening to David Choe on The Joe Rogan Experience. He’s the guy who made millions painting Facebook’s office, way before they were big, in exchange for stock.
Long story short, they were talking about art teachers they had in school and how they completely killed their motivation to pursue art both personally and professionally.
I started thinking about art teachers I had growing up and I feel the exact same way.
Almost all of my art teachers were the fucking worst.
It’s not just that they were bad at teaching art…I have some thoughts on that.
It’s that they seemed like miserable people. Kids have an interest in their craft that they teach every single day and they didn’t care to cultivate that one bit.
Is it as simple as they’re miserable because they didn’t “make it”? They expected to achieve something more with art and now they’re teaching 3rd graders?
Art is about as free from constraints as you can get. Sometimes that leads to modern art which objectively sucks. But sometimes that leads to amazing art I see every day on Instagram.
It’s hard to get a miserable person to change their ways. But in general, the entire approach to teaching art is completely wrong.
If a kid spends all of their creative time drawing Iron Man and The Hulk, why are they learning about Pablo Picasso on Day 1 of art class?
Shouldn’t they be spending more time drawing exactly what they want to draw? Shouldn’t constructive criticism be made about the drawings they want to draw rather than shoving pastels and Van Gogh’s Starry Night down their throat?
I couldn’t think of a quicker way to get that kid completely uninterested in art. Skip the watercolors, skip the pastels, give that kid some pencils and markers and let him draw superheroes.
If you want to get crazy, give him a ruler and suggest creating a few comic panels.
So why are we trying to get the 8 year old to see the beauty of Georgia O’Keeffe’s cow skulls?
They need to study the greats! There are so many lessons to be learned from them!
No shit. I’m not saying those lessons should be ignored. I’m saying those lessons need to be taught in the right way at the right time.
I heard Ben Shapiro talking about religious stories that forever changed my perspective on them. He said you can’t teach kids values. They mentally check out.
Instead, you have to tell them an interesting story and slide the values in. Without the story to pull them in, they’ll never want to hear the values.
Whether you agree with those values or not, it’s hard to argue against the stories when they’re still be talked about thousands of years later.
Art needs a similar approach.
Let the kid draw Iron Man in front of a mountain. Eventually he’ll realize his Iron Man in front of a mountain doesn’t look as good as the comic book artists he admires. A bit of frustration and they’ll wonder why.
That’s where the art teacher comes in to teach them about perspective, horizon lines, and vanishing points.
On Day 1, that lecture will put most kids and adults to sleep.
On Day Why-Doesn’t-Mine-Look-As-Good-As-Theirs, that’s an epiphany.
On Day 1, most kids learn about values and lighting by drawing some stupid sphere or apple.
Why not introduce these concepts on Day Why-Doesn’t-Mine-Look-As-Good-As-Theirs instead?
On that day, you have the kids full attention. You’re adding to their art and showing the transformation that takes it from “good” to “whoa!”.
It’ll be the biggest WTF moment since they started art.
On Day 1, every kid is spaced out. Nobody is paying attention. The kids who really can’t pay attention may even be sent to the nurse, diagnosed with ADHD, and put on Ritalin.
But most teachers have the mindset of the shitty standup comic: It’s not my jokes that suck, it’s the audience.
When the entire audience isn’t laughing it might be time to rethink your delivery.