Teaching what you know
If you be a lover of instruction, you will be well instructed.
When I insisted on attending art school instead of a traditional university, my mother balked. She kept insisting that I at least study teaching art, so I’d have something to “fall back on.” However well intentioned and practical her advice was, I determined never to be a teacher. So — how odd to find myself teaching now that I’m in my 50s and have much less patience than when I was younger. I tend to be less than organized, to be polite about it, and often can’t see the forest for the trees, but I’m learning. It never dawned on me that a grown person wouldn’t know you had to rinse your brush periodically, until a student asked me why her entire painting was brown.
I thought it was lip service when I heard teachers say they learned as much from their students as the students learned from them. It’s true! Preparing lessons forces one to really think through their process, and watching others come up with solutions for their ideas can lead you in all kinds of new directions. Creating ways to teach what you do in a limited time frame is also a great exercise. I’ve been silk painting for over 20 years and was stumped when Jerry’s Artarama asked me to teach a two-hour class. After wandering around the store with my hands in my pockets for a while, I came up with a short project idea that would whet students’ appetites. It came off quite well and each student’s project was completely different from mine or anyone else’s.
Sharing knowledge does not diminish one’s talent.
Which leads me to a point often brought up by artists and crafters: why teach someone else to do the thing you’re trying to make your living at? Aren’t they just out to steal your ideas? Am I shooting myself in the foot by sharing my ideas? No, no and no! Teaching a person to read doesn’t mean they can write your story, does it? Teaching someone a skill can often make them appreciate more fully what goes into the making of your art. Altruism pays!
+Isocrates the orator, not Socrates the philosopher, in case you were worried about that.