I teach classes in photography for a couple of the local city rec programs and I think I’m pretty qualified to do it. Lots of experience, a BFA, been through a teaching program and taught high school photography for a couple years, and often I get paid to shoot. I also teach drawing and comic making at an arts center. This spring I added watercolor and pastel classes, and this summer there will be mask-making, bookmaking, and manga classes on top of the others. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in any of those areas but that challenge is part of what makes it exciting; learning new skills to pass on to others.
Masks, books, pastel work, watercolors, and drawing are all things I’ve done and been taught by others. All of my life up until the end of high school was about drawing, and I only turned to photography because I couldn’t draw as realistically as I wanted to at the time. Now that I’m older I understand you make the craft work for you, because art at its best is about self expression. Two other guys who couldn’t draw a real person to save their lives were Charles Shultz and Matt Groening; they drew what worked for them and their work touched millions.
The truth about tools, like cameras, pottery wheels, applications etc. is they are pretty easy to learn and if you introduce to someone else how it works, and give them a few samples showing the potential of the tool, creative people will take it and run with it in whatever direction they desire.
I was thinking about this because I’m starting to do more projects that are outside my normal creative output. For example, ceramics was something I had a single class in in 2006, but I enjoyed the zen nature of the wheel and sculpting faces. I owned a wheel for a few years and created faces on my own, until around 2009 I sold the wheel and stopped doing ceramics because I didn’t have a kiln. Once the bug hit me again last year I made sure each piece I created was an improvement on the past pieces- either by adding unique textures, or accessories, or smoothing out the edges- and the work got better.
The next project which is kind of a new field for me will be comics. I’ve made a few comics off and on over my life, mostly involving photography, and I’ve taught making comics for 2 years. Because the writing is a quicker process than the art, the goal is to write comics for other artists to bring to life, but to do that, I have to 100% create my first comic, work out the bugs in the writing, and understand pacing and how dialogue and images really work. It’ll be a challenge but a fun one.
I know I can’t draw a human being to look super realistic, but I do know enough about how to communicate an idea with the elements of art, principles of design and composition, how a lightbox works, how photoshop works, how to use prismacolor markers and charcoal and scissors and tape and masking fluid, and I know what kind of stories I like and what I don’t like, that I’ll probably be able to get by. I would wager most creative people who apply themselves to new media or genres or art forms would be able to do well if they have the drive in their heart.
The more stuff I make, the more experience I have to pass on in teaching, but perversely it’s the teaching that makes me learn more and more about each craft.