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  • Writer's pictureHelen English Artist

Inspirational Art Teachers

Someone asked this week who had taught me to draw and paint. I think, like most people who enjoy such activities, you really have to find motivation to practice and learn by trying things out yourself, no matter the teacher. And, much like handwriting, you find your style by physically doing it …a lot!

Despite those beliefs, I was certainly inspired by a couple of art teachers at high school.

One was an art teacher who taught me once when I was about fourteen. She was standing in for another (non-art) teacher but she took a tangent and taught the class the average proportions of a human’s face and body instead of English! I had always drawn very stylised people, which is fine, but found that lesson a revelation. It made a link for me to begin to look more carefully at what we have in common and yet how different individual people are. I still remember that lesson, and the specific room in our large high school where I learned those things, all of these years later.

The other art teacher was the one who seemed to be allocated to my class throughout high school. He had a plan but was quite relaxed and gave us art activities which were simple but effective as well as projects which were real thinkers! I remember having to choose a known music album and then design a good quality original album cover with professional-looking text – quite a tough job when you have never really stretched those design skills before, in an age without internet. The results across the class were diverse and interesting.

He could also seemingly read us like books! We were given a project to create at the start of the last year of school. I decided to call mine “Town,” and proceeded to sign myself out of the school grounds during all of my art classes so I could spend that time in “town!” Needless to say, I got three weeks through the four week project drinking coffee and having fun, and then I panicked and drew madly for the final week. I submitted the project and he handed it back after marking was complete, noting that the work he had seen was excellent and would have made a fantastic project if I had actually spent longer than five days doing it! How did he know?! There were several examples of this throughout school with various students – we thought he was a mind reader although, to be honest, we were probably just ridiculously obvious! What I learned from him, though, was that I was responsible for myself, that procrastination does not complete a task for you and that planning is a part of being a good, and reliable, artist.

I think of both of these teachers often as I work, drawing people and completing tasks early if I can. I’d love to be able to tell both of them what an impact they each made on me. But, maybe, at least one of them knows…

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