When I was around 16, I made a pastel drawing of lilies of the valley in a ceramic bowl. I loved those flowers and was very happy with what I’d done. That drawing was saved, I don’t know by whom, and now hangs on the wall of one of my relatives. When I saw the pastel recently, it brought to mind my high school art teacher’s negative sarcastic reaction to it, which was hurtful to me. By instructing me in a punishing way, I learned more about not measuring up than about how to improve my work.
I know that others share the experience of having received harsh treatment at the hands of teachers. This is very unfortunate because it can, under some circumstances, stop a learner from continuing their studies—whether in the field of art or elsewhere.
I have also been taught by excellent teachers. And I realize that all educators have a very difficult job that carries great responsibility. I have not been a teacher per se, but have previously worked in a related field. I facilitated groups that focused on helping people express themselves emotionally through the arts. My goal was always to help the participants feel safe enough to write or make visual art work without censoring themselves. I believe that this is vitally important in any art practice. I also believe that this approach has value in teaching the more technical aspects of learning an art or craft. These are better learned when they grow out of a place of being accepted rather than rejected or humiliated.
I’m glad I saw my old drawing again and remembered the girl that I was, trying to find my way in the world, trying to express something of what I loved.