As a practicing artist, some of the things I confront on a regular basis are the fears that are often thought to only belong to those at the beginning of the journey. The blank canvas, the problem of what to paint, the sense one may not be up to the challenge, the anxiety that the work will be received poorly – these are part and parcel of the peculiar joys of being an artist.
As a teacher, I let students know that we all face these fears and that, in order to put brushes into action, we have to overcome them. I try to help them build their own particular strategies for navigating the complex relations of their creative desires and the work they need to do in order to transform them into artworks.
For this reason, I place a lot of emphasis on process rather than product, so that students understand that each work they make is part of a journey that never ends. There is no perfect work, only a process of growing toward some constantly changing idea of perfection deep in our imaginations. This takes the pressure off them to produce a finished product and allows them to find their own particular artistry, rather than simply having a recipe for success that is limited, and ultimately, boring.
If, at the end of a course of painting with me, my students feel excited to continue the journey, a little nervous about the challenge but confident that they have enough tools to embark on the process, I feel satisfied that I have served them well.