On creating art. My first post as a response.

Mrs. ATHG,

Glad you posted this and had your epiphany to see how you create. I think just being an art teacher–or a teacher period–is a creative outlet. However, it’s not for me–it’s for them. I also went long periods without making art. Last summer I got into poly shrink and made a ton of charms that I now have to put onto string and such to make into jewelry. This year I’ve been drawing images related to words in a small paperback dictionary and I’ve been “doodling” with some micron pens I got for Christmas in a sketchbook I keep with me. In my classroom I pulled out a large canvas that I’ve been literally scared to mark on for YEARS. I got some sharpie paint pens and I’ve been doodling on it 5, 10, 15 minutes at a time here and there between job-related tasks. Sometimes after school I’m waiting for my kids at sports and I can’t do another school-related task, so I draw on my canvas. When I’m in the car waiting for my daughter at piano lessons and girl scouts, I doodle in my book I carry in my purse. I draw while the TV is on. Last winter I made a series of watercolor birds from my favorite bird-watching book from when I was a kid. After my first 2 years of teaching I started putting my own artwork in the art show. One year it was an illuminated initial I did as an example for my high school art history students. Last year it was the bird paintings. This year it will be the giant canvas doodle.”What’s that?” my students ask. “It’s a doodle,” I tell them. “No it’s not! A doodle is what I do in the margins of my notebook.” “You’re right, a doodle is something that doesn’t get planned out first. That’s what I’m doing, just on a larger scale. It’s still just spontaneous drawing.” “Wow.” Yeah, that’s right wow! Art is art and art doesn’t have to be something that requires long amounts of time like when I would work in the dark room for 10 hours straight in college. I still sometimes draw for 4-5 hours straight when I’m at home… well, I might take a break for a snack or potty, but I know I’m starting episode after episode of some series I’m bingeing on while drawing.

I do think it’s important for art teachers to be artists. It can help us understand and relate to our students if we are creating art. We expect them to do it, to sit for 45 minutes a day or at least once a week and use their creative energies and work on something diligently until it is finished. Why shouldn’t we expect a fraction of that effort of ourselves?

We expend a lot of energy planning and implementing our lessons and projects with and for our students. We don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to devote to our own art, but we can find some time for it.

I am inspired by friends of mine who continue to make art for themselves. Good for them! They push me to do the same thing without even meaning to.

Sincerely, Ms. Elle

When I was student teaching, the other art teacher in the school said she didn’t like to do her own art. I think everyone in the faculty room was a little surprised by that. She shrugged and asked the math teacher if  she liked to do math on her own. “Uh, yeah, I do! It’s fun to just do problems just for the sake of doing them.” Well said. I like doing art “problems” just for the sake of doing them. I open to a page in the dictionary and scan for a word that spurs an image in my mind. Then I draw that image on the page. Problem solved!

Will I ever “show” my dictionary art? I have grand ideas of cutting out the pages, pasting them to other paper, and adding more drawings and paintings to them… maybe gluing pieces of lace or broken jewelry around the borders. We’ll just see if I ever get to that.

Another way I do art is summer projects. In the past I have spray painted frames black so that I could frame some of my art I did in college and put it on my living room wall. I’ve also spray painted metal yard furniture a pretty blue. I painted a chair to use it as a planter. I painted 2 end tables to match my couch pillows. I always have an idea for a summer project brewing all year long. This year I want to draw my fancy doodles on a wall in my bedroom. I also want to paint my night stand.

Unless you have to work in the summer or have little children to take care of, you have many days for your own studio time! Art teachers unite! We are artists! We have degrees in art for god’s sake–let’s do what we have studied to do: create!

One of my college advisors told me you have to be a teacher first, then an artist. I go back and forth with this theoretically. In actuality of course I am a teacher first. It’s my job. I make my livelihood by teaching, not by selling art. What do you think? Are you an Artist/Teacher or a Teacher/Artist?