Chalk it Up to Experience: Art Educators & their Personal Insights

by Caleb Bell September 19, 2022

With the fall semester in full swing, I have been thinking a lot about the role of educators, especially those in the arts. Having visited various college art departments over the years, I have found that no two are alike. There is no doubt in my mind this is because each one is made up of its own diverse group of individuals.

Shaped by both prior education and real-world experience, art educators bring their own attitude, knowledge, and talent to their position, and pour it all into the next generation of artists.

Keeping all of that in mind, I reached out to several artists who are professors and asked “What is something you didn’t learn in art school but now share with your students?” Here is what they had to say:

“When I was in undergraduate school, the medium of photography was transitioning from analog to digital. It was a confusing time for the medium; consequently, I didn’t learn much about digital processing. I discovered everything I know about digital photography in the real world while working as a commercial photographer. I often share specific instances from my former career as a photographer and combine them with my experience as an artist to facilitate lesson plans or discussions.”
-Kalee Appleton, Assistant Professor of Art, Texas Christian University

“I teach the importance of techniques, rendering, and formal concepts. Some of my early teachers were abstract non-representational artists and didn’t stress those things enough. I taught myself how to paint illusionistic imagery in graduate school when my conceptual ideas warranted it. The second thing is never stop making. That sounds simple, but the only way you get to where you need to go is by movement in some direction; even the wrong direction teaches you what you don’t want. Use the process of elimination and adjust accordingly. Finally, I wish to demystify art making. Art is hard. I joke that it’s like laying stone. It’s back-breaking work that you don’t enjoy 60% of the time, but it’s that 40% that keeps you coming back. If you are an artist, then making art isn’t an option, it’s a need, a necessity, for finding your joy.”
Richard ‘Ricky’ Armendariz, Professor of Art, University of Texas at San Antonio

I tell my students that I used to think my professors knew more about my work than I did!
-Dana Frankfort, Assistant Professor, University of Houston

“I encourage students to consider residencies or other study-abroad opportunities seriously. I feel that art school didn’t emphasize their importance as much as they should have when I was a student, and just how life-changing these experiences can be. You meet new people from different backgrounds and cultures, learn from each other and make lasting friendships and professional connections. Spending over two months in my Norway residency transformed me in ways I can’t put into words. I feel I returned with new excitement and curiosity for life and learning.”
-Shaun Roberts, Associate Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University

“One really valuable thing that I was never taught per se, but learned intuitively, was the value and importance of making art in a community of peers. This is something I do talk to my students about. I urge them to appreciate the rare opportunity to work in a supportive creative community while they are in school, and to strive to maintain those relationships as they move into the real world.”
Liz Ward, Professor, Trinity University

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