Tuesday, 16 June 2009

CalArts Part 2: Teachers and Trusting Yourself

I don't know who I'm really writing this for exactly. I guess it would be for art students.
But it's something I feel like I need to talk about because of some of the discussion that's been going on lately.

I had some great teachers and some not-so-great teachers at school. There were also some teachers that I didn't take advantage of enough, because I didn't know what questions to ask them yet. Some teachers that a lot of people loved and thought were awesome, I personally didn't get as much out of, go figure. The following is a continuation of that unpublished post I wrote a while back, and it is about teachers:

A teacher can only take you so far, and some will be better than others. A teacher can share their knowledge and what they think is important, as well as give out assignments they believe will help their students to learn and improve, but the responsibility mostly lies upon the student as an artist to do the work, run into problems, critically self-evaluate it, and then come back with questions to the teacher. The student must also make the effort to find their own answers elsewhere through research and study outside of the classroom to supplement their education.

Why wouldn't you be researching things if you are truly interested in the subject?
I think this is an important question.

I had an instance at school where I asked a teacher a question about the movement of the character’s head in a walk cycle that I was really struggling to animate. The advice that teacher gave me directly contradicted information that I looked up later in the Richard Williams book. At that point it was up to me to decide what to do, who to trust, and figure out what appealed to me. I went with what the Williams book said, because I decided that I’d rather take the advice from an author who had worked with Ken Harris and learned from Milt Kahl, over a teacher that hadn’t. There was also another route I could have taken as well, which would have been to actually frame through some animation to figure it out, or better yet, frame through some live-action reference. The point being that I had many other ways to figure it out and learn beyond the teacher’s advice in the classroom.

Sometimes what a teacher likes might not be in line with what you like, and then there's no right or wrong answer. It's completely subjective at that point, and you have to be brave enough to make your own choice, trust yourself, and choose your own direction. Some teachers might even try to dominate you or make you dependent on them. They might try to scare you into thinking you will never be as good as them or that you will always make a bad decision without their help, putting you in constant doubt of yourself and what you like as an artist. At which point they often become more of a hindrance than a help, because you are not thinking for yourself anymore.

As I stated earlier, I had some issues with my education at school for sure, especially the Basic Design instruction. That's one reason why I've gone so much into researching Chouinard, Donald Graham, and other things that I've talked about here. But as frustrated as I got at school sometimes, I never stopped reading, watching lectures, and trying to figure things out on my own or with friends. Some people are so naturally talented that they didn't have to do things like that, but I had to work at it and research things. Still do.

Okay, I'm done pontificating for now. I'll post more artwork next.