A place of no regrets

0

Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Wendy Ximena Ordonez Hurtado, formerly of Cali, Colombia, now of Miami, Florida, wrote, “I’m 24 years old and about to graduate with a Masters in Art Education. I’m not married, although it is soon possible. Along the way I took painting classes with a classically trained professor. I’m at a crossroad in my life. Art is now my passion. I want to be an artist. But I have now received several job offers from high schools who would like me as their art teacher. Should I take a job and just continue painting off and on, or should I pursue my passion full time? The possibility of family, stability and the buying of our little home all come into the picture. I don’t know what to do!”

Thanks, Wendy. I appreciate the opportunity to think about your situation. If you teach, you’ll most likely neglect your art and you’ll always resent that you didn’t at least give it a try. On the other hand, if you follow your passion and achieve mediocre success you’ll resent your lack of security. Whether you teach or paint you will find both joy and disappointment. In both cases you will have the responsibilities of family. In both cases you will have art in your life.

It’s been my observation that you can live with practically any contract providing you know that it has an end date. Here’s what to do: You need to put your potential employers into suspended animation and contract with yourself to work your buns off for six months. Alone, with the benefit of books and other instructional media, you should be able to see progress in that time.

Contrary to popular belief, all evolving artists are in a full time battle with mediocrity. If you are able to successfully slash away at this awesome foe, you may decide to renew the contract.

John Lidstone tried it fifty years ago. I knew him well. In six months he learned a lot about himself. He panicked while working alone and discovered the community of art libraries and art-history. As a sideline he loved to get kids to make things out of cardboard and other goofy media. The point is, his six month trial-by-fire was a great success. He was to become a highly effective educator. He was one of my outstanding instructors. He came from a place of no regrets.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Brooks Adams)

Esoterica: Teaching is a difficult profession. Artful teaching has a short shelf life that is not always respected by unions or the granters of tenure. Former libertine artists can be persuaded, as teachers, to cling for dear life to security. I recommend teaching contracts of no more than five years. Much less if the flame is burning low. The widespread practice of impassive teaching quells student curiosity and hatches dullards. Teachers need to be learners. “You teach best what you most need to learn.” (Richard Bach)

Artist and teacher
by Guillermo Ruizlimon, San Lui Potosi, Mexico

060110_guillermo-artwork

“Equilibrio II”
acrylic painting
by Guillermo Ruizlimon

I am an artist from Mexico, and I’m a teacher as well. I discovered teaching when I was at the beginning of my university studies, and never stopped teaching since then.

I have had my share of an artist life: exhibitions, some mural paintings, many sales of my work and some of my work printed in books or magazines. But after many years of teaching, after a master degree in teaching, now I find hard to leave teaching. Sometimes I would like to quit teaching and my work at the university to be a full time artist. But I’m happy to be a teacher, I love teaching, and really like to see some of my students discover the passion for art.

Late bloomer
by Mimi C. Ting, El Prado, NM, USA

060110_mimi-ting

“Arcs Inflection 2”
acrylic painting 54 x 48 inches
by Mimi C. Ting

I made a choice over forty years ago, when I changed my major to art in my senior year at college, got married and had a family, not to become an artist, but to make art. I had my first solo show in SF with a positive review in the SF Chronicle, and promptly changed my focus to my family, still working, but left the so-to-speak artworld, whose internal politics and machinations I knew nothing of. Over the years, I took 7 years to complete my graduate degree in studio art, began to explore performance work while my children were young, taught for 15 years part time at colleges and universities, watched my children grow up to become my dearest friends, showing my work intermittently at eclectic venues, and always kept working. It wasn’t until after my first grandchild was born, in 2000, that made me realize that in order for leave to her a full legacy of a grandmother who has spent her life following her passion, there is one facet of “an artist life” I had yet to follow through — that of advocating for my work and finding for them a place in the general scheme of things.

For the last decade, I have worked hard on advocating for my work, and am proud to have accomplished a tiny measure of success. Yes, there are times I wished I had started on this process twenty years ago, but the drive was not there. What I got was decades of being able to work without being affected by the commercial forces of the art market. As a result, I have great disciple both in work habits, and staying true to my vision. I too live in “place of no regrets” because I know each work I can do is my best effort at the time, and I am doing all I can. I guess I am a very late bloomer. Perhaps I am among those late bloomers that will last longer.



There is 1 comment for Late bloomer by Mimi C. Ting

From: Painter Woman — May 31, 2010

This is SUCH good news. Thank you for the assurance.

Synchronicity, yet again…
by J.R. Baldini, Niagara Falls, ON, Canada

060110_jr-baldini

“Overcast Day at Niagara Falls”
oil painting by J.R. Baldini

I just finished reading Collecting Souls, Gathering Dust about two very different decisions about Art in the lives of American Artists Alice Neel (my favorite artist) and Rhoda Medary (whom I had never heard of).

For the last half of the book, I never put it down. When the book was closed, I immediately picked up a brush and proceeded to work on the unfinished pieces in my studio — remnants of demos, bad weather starts and almost dones…

I will look in the mirror each morning and say, ‘You will never live a Medary life.’



There are 2 comments for Synchronicity, yet again… by J.R. Baldini

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jun 01, 2010

I have never heard of this book and will have to look for it. But the funny part for me is your comment about after reading it, you worked on “unfinished pieces in my studio – remnants of demos, bad weather starts and almost dones…”. This is exactly what I have been doing lately and found very much satisfaction in them.

From: Anonymous — Jun 01, 2010

I agree with Marsha here and thank you for that inspiration. I giggled because I have done that as well. Sometimes painting over portions that were unhappy and what I have discovered is that there is nothing to lose when finishing the unfinished; it would have remained at the bottom of the pile of dismissed canvases where now it can once again breathe in the life of new paint. They sometimes become the best I’ve ever done!

Understand yourself
by Deborah Elmquist, Port Orange, FL, USA

060110_deborah-elmquist

“Carpe Diem”
oil painting
by Deborah Elmquist

This topic is one that I lived and I agree with you Robert on what she should do. HOWEVER, this is a time to really try to understand yourself. It sounds easy or trite but it can make or break you as an artist or a teacher. I just retired from public education in Florida after more than 30 years of teaching (I choose elementary education instead of art education because it was easier to get a job back in the 70’s). First, what is your personality type? There is a test called the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory that I took some years into my teaching career. It helped me understand why I loved art but it also revealed, because of my high “F” (feeling domain), that I needed to be with people and share in a community of like-minded people. Teaching fits that bill. I was able to teach and paint and I have been a practicing painter for over 20 years. I do get lonely after a few hours of being in the studio but at least it isn’t all day every day. Second, I need security. Now I have a pension, a home, and am putting all my energy into my art. I still have to connect with people but I do it with teaching painting. I occasionally ask myself “what if” but all I have to do it look around at other artists who took the art road and see how they are struggling financially and say to myself, I made the right choice.

Third, I know several elementary and high school art teachers in Florida and some of them make time to create on their own. Most of these people have opted to not have children, which also needs to be taken into account. Last of all, teaching in the Miami-Dade area is very difficult and riddled with problems. She may find after a year or two of teaching that it is too draining for the small amount of income. A third option might be to take a job that has nothing to do with art. Her creative energy will be preserved for her own art and she will have the best of both worlds.



There are 2 comments for Understand yourself by Deborah Elmquist

From: Jen M. — Jun 02, 2010

Personally, I don’t think she should take a job that has nothing to do with art. Maybe there is a way for her to get work in a gallery or shop or museum or something.

I say this, because I have a job that has nothing to do with art, and it’s draining. It is so draining, that I often don’t have the energy to go home and paint. No. I think she should stay as close to art as she can.

I’m currently trying to change careers for that reason. I feel it is important to live, breathe, be, experience, see, and DO art every day, if one is an artist.

Just my two cents from someone who is working outside the field and HATING it. ;)

From: Lindy S. — Jun 10, 2010

Hi Wendy,

I was in your shoes 47 years ago when I graduated from Adelphi University with a BA in art education. I used teaching as a financial safety net knowing how difficult it is to earn a living as an artist. It is possible to do both, especially if you are teaching part time. Speaking as a woman, ALWAYS make sure you have a way to support yourself if necessary. When my ex husband of 26 years suddenly left me for another woman, I was thankful I had my teaching job to see me through financial & emotional bad times. The children I work with never cease to inspire me with their enthusiasm & creativity. They have enriched my life beyond belief. By working part time I am also able to have time for my own art too. Doing my own artwork and teaching has given my life perfect balance.

Artists as educators
by Rhonda Bobinski, Red Lake, ON, Canada

060110_rhonda-bobinski

Untitled
watercolour painting
by Rhonda Bobinski

When I was in university, completing my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, I was torn for the same reason. Should I be the bohemian artist living my own life, or go into the structured world of teaching? My mentor told me that I would regret being an educator because I would be sitting in class brewing an idea and wouldn’t be able to work on it, instantaneously. In some ways she’s right. I do have several, very thick idea journals brimming with sketches and concepts that have yet to come to fruition. It will make a good book some day. So many pros, so many cons…. I’ve been a teacher for 13 years now, in the art department of one school and have no regrets. Am I both a teacher and an artist? Absolutely. It’s called summer time, it’s called weekends, it’s called March break and it’s called scheduling. And if you have genuine family support you’ll be given the opportunity to use that time to still be true to yourself as an artist. And I think that students need to have artists as educators, so that they see that art is a part of your life and passion. I occasionally drag students to my studio or show them works that I’m creating at home and they find it inspiring. I personally think your question is a no brainer, and it’s not a matter of picking one of the other…. you can definitely do both.



There are 3 comments for Artists as educators by Rhonda Bobinski

From: Brenda — Jun 01, 2010

I love this painting! This is what I aspire to in watercolour … semiabstract, loose, and colourful! Where is ‘Red Lake’?… I’d like to come for some lessons!

From: Rhonda Bobinski — Jun 01, 2010

Thanks Brenda. The process for this is quite interesting. First I covered a sheet of plexiglass with watercolour paint and let it pool and move. Then I placed a sheet or rice paper directly on top and let the paper absorb the paint. I lift it and let it dry flat, not hung. Then I allow the painting to “speak” to me, and start taking inspiration from the images that I see. Then I start lightly outlining with pencil. Then I filled in the negative space with pen.

Red Lake is certainly inspirational, smack dab in the middle of North-Western Ontario. We’re literally “the end of the road” and quite isolated….just the way I like it. Our main industries are gold mining, forestry and tourism.

From: Jen M. — Jun 02, 2010

Rhonda, thank you for sharing that technique! That’s really interesting. (I’m also a mixed-media artist, though I don’t currently work in watercolor.)

I’m always interested in other artists’ techniques. I find it inspiring.

No guarantees
by Sharon Knettell, Woonsocket, RI, USA

060110_sharon-knettell

“Green Dakini”
pastel painting
by Sharon Knettell

My first husband and fine painter, Eugene Tonoff told me that you have to take a vow of poverty to paint. It is not nor will ever be a place for sissies. He was an explosively brilliant painter that few have ever heard of.

I have been in the arts all my life doing one form of art, or another. I taught 3 years at RISD. It took all of my time during the school year, even though I only taught for 5 hours. There were papers to correct, endless teachers meetings, syllabuses to prepare, distraught students to console and encourage and parents to confront.

There are millions and millions of yards of canvas that have been painted and millions and millions more being painted now. There are countless artists’ websites and blogs. The world is swamped with artists. There are acres and acres of garbage that have been turned out, the world is littered with it.

If you feel you cannot live without painting, and have something valuable to contribute, then do so. However if a life of comfort is more important, then teach.

There are no guarantees, none.

Life finds ways
by Lyn Dickason, Australia

I was interested in today’s letter as I found myself inadvertently in a similar position to Wendy Hurtado. I was never formally trained in art as my parents considered it to be an ‘occupation likely to be associated with drug users and with no future’ but I always wanted to sculpt and paint. I had to settle for a short career as a secretary and then married and had children and lived in the country. For nearly 20 years I only painted and sculpted with children’s paints and play dough but got involved gradually with school productions and ended up painting backdrops and costume making. Then came the day when a parent who worked for the Sun International group of hotels saw one of my backdrops and approached me to paint some murals (on canvas) for a hotel. Before I knew it I was heavily involved with commercial painting for a couple of hotels, a bank and a few other places and this continued for 16 years until we left South Africa and came to live in Australia. I must admit that I did feel in many ways stifled because I was given a subject and had to paint 26 scenes that related to it in a 5 x 3 metre format, but it gave me plenty of pocket money and a release of that craving to paint. Through this I found the courage and confidence to go to sculpture lessons and not only enjoyed them but found that this was my true niche. So to Wendy, don’t despair whatever you decide to do, as life finds ways to settle you and reward your talents later if not sooner.

Teaching is difficult
by Peter Brown, Oakland, CA, USA

060110_peter-brown

“The Conisewer”
collage by Peter Brown

I have never had a job that was more difficult, nor more rewarding than teaching art in a public school. My first career was in the museum field. I became an exhibition designer and then a curator. I did that work for 25 years. Then I became an art teacher. The transition was a steep learning curve.

I had to learn how to act like an actor. I had to learn how to act as if I was angry. I had to learn psychology. Teaching is the most difficult career choice one can try. It is the art of arts. It seems simple in a way. I know this stuff, and I will teach it to you. It is not that easy.

For one thing, your typical student these days is text messaging. Your typical student also has an MP3 player, or some other music machine player. Let’s say you have a great lesson plan. Few kids will hear your words. Your students are not there with you. Be prepared to repeat yourself 20 times each period.

Let me put it this way. Your high school students will not know how to use a ruler. They will not know fractions. They will not know how to arrange their fingers on a ruler to draw a straight line. You will need to help most every child. They will love you for it. That is your reward.

I am saying to Wendy Hurtado that teaching is not what you expect. Expect to come home each day with a broken heart. That is just what must happen to you if you have a heart. Teaching is very difficult, and in the public schools it is heart breaking. One is a tough bird, or not. It helps to be old. The statistics say that 50% of new teachers last about five years. I beat those odds, but I was 45 years old when I took the job.

A humble opinion
by Mary Moquin, Sandwich, MA, USA

060110_mary-moquin

“Layered Memories”
mixed media 12 x 12 inches
by Mary Moquin

I would definitely try what Robert suggests. As a professional artist, and adult educator, I constantly run into people that chose the ‘safe’ career path who thought they could keep their art going on the side. Only to discover that life, family, and work pretty much prevent that from happening. Now, years later, when they have retired, they are picking up where they left off. Also, once you get used to the salary, you will find it nearly impossible to give it up. The security will keep you locked in. If you love, love, love to teach then by all means do that, because that is your calling. If you’d prefer to do your art and teach on the side I have known many artists that successfully balance both. They are primarily professional artists that run after school programs or teach privately to boost their income and keep their brains engaged and growing. In other words it is a lot easier to try out being a full time artist first than the other way around. That is my humble opinion.

Talent will always be there
by Carolyn Rotter

060110_carolyn-rotter

“Chicken Dance”
watercolour painting
by Carolyn Rotter

Graduating college with an art degree in hand was one of my happiest memories. I had a job offer to teach art and I had blind ambitions to have a soaring career as an artist. I can tell you they are at opposite ends of the spectrum — like water and oil. Being an artist requires one to travel the road to self discovery, self realization, and self motivation. Teaching, by its nature, is selfless. I taught for more than twenty years before I realized that I had been neglecting the artist in me. Thankfully a friend convinced me to take a painting class and I rediscovered the joy, the bliss, the satisfaction that came from holding a brush again. I do not regret the years of educating children because they filled another need in me. These days I have the security of collecting a wonderful pension check, I teach adult classes, I paint joyfully in my studio, and I exhibit my work in local galleries. I believe art talent will always be there even if you postpone your pursuits in favor of a weekly pay check.

Comments

comments

 Featured Workshop: Mothership Adventures

061810_robert-genn14
Mothership Adventures

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Martha Brouwer,  

052810_martha-brouwer

Protected

mixed media painting, 30 x 24 inches
by Martha Brouwer

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Sonia Gadra of Frederick, MD, USA, who wrote, “Wendy should feel very fortunate to have a teaching offer where she can teach what she loves and help our younger generation find their way in life. She will be creating as well as securing her future so that someday she will be able to delve into what she really loves.”

And also Haim Mizrahi of East Hampton, NY, USA, who wrote, “To Wendy — Who says you cannot do both? Find an approach, technically speaking, that will allow you to fit in all your plans. After all, you are still young and the sky is the limit. And above all, it is all in a day’s work.”

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for A place of no regrets

 

 

From: Roy — May 27, 2010

follow your passion; sacrificing your calling for something else actually doesn’t really work, in my experience — you won’t enjoy the other thing until you are centered

From: David Kassan — May 27, 2010

I always get asked this question by young artists and I think of it terms of what is stable and what has a small window of time. I believe that being a full time painter is worth a lack of stability, and that there will be no regrets if you work your hardest and harder than anyone else at it. I believe that since there are tons of teaching jobs around and that it is really hard for life to get in the way of a painting life as you grow older and have more responsibilities, So I say take two years if you can and work your but off at following your passion. The teaching stable jobs will be there in two years, Take the path less traveled and your life will take you in some crazy unique directions that will be above the norm. If you love to paint there will be no work, yet you will be “working” so much more than you will than at a stable job. yet that work will be to better yourself, it maybe harder but those struggles will make your work stronger. granted some kids might miss out on an amazing teacher, but you can always teach just for the love of it as you pursue the painting gig, thats what I do and I love teaching a workshop of students who are all there ready and eager to learn, not students that are taking a class cause they haft to. Sorry for the ramble, Best of luck with everything. david

From: Janet Sellers — May 27, 2010

Being an artist is being an entrepreneur. Since most people do not see themselves as being able to achieve the instant flexibility required of a risk – taker for life, they may not take on that risk. Yet, we all are alive 24/7 until we’re… dead. So either you take the full life and risks, or you stay half awake and think you are secure. Either way, we are only as stable as we make ourselves and take care to be stable, at least fianacially. As Dolly Parton used to say, she wanted to be a famous singer and she did it, all along knowing that she might be waiting tables to support her art.

From: Richard Smith — May 27, 2010

Going back to a previous newsletter about focus, if you want to be a successful artist, then you must focus totally on that. And yes I know that’s not always possible, but unless you’re some kind of super hero you just can’t create as much art as you need to when you’ve also got all kinds of other responsibilities. I was just reading the other day that the bible says you can’t serve two masters. Pretty much true. So even if you only do it for six months by the end of that period you’ll know whether or not it’s for you. And quit working on the kitchen table. Find a space that’s a dedicated creative area that doesn’t have to come down whenever soups on.

From: Faith — May 27, 2010

This is also a question of economics. If you are of independent means or have a patron, devoted friends or other means of paying your bills, then you probably don’t need a “steady” job and can fulfill your craving to be an artist, with no worry about the future (?). If, on the other hand, you want to widen your experience of life (that will flow into your art) and use the educational skills you have learnt at college, maybe it would be a good idea to give teaching a chance, at least for a limited period, which I would put at not less than a school year. You might even like it and benefit from the sharing experience.

Painting does not preclude teaching, or vice versa. In fact, if you could fire some of your students with your enthusiasm and passion, that would be an art in itself. Of course, you risk being consumed by having to keep regular (school) hours and contributing to the welfare of your students. But I don’t think that will happen if you keep your own fires burning. And there are perks. You could organize exhibitions of your work and that of the really talented students within the school framework and beyond it. That would open doors to ways of showing and selling your art. Parents are also customers!

Don’t knock school teaching, anyone please. There is a saying that goes “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” How disastrous if everyone thought that way. Remember your favourite teacher at school? Remember being inspired by him or her? You have reason to be grateful to anyone who contributed in a positive way to your childhood and youth. Go out and carry on the good work, Wendy! There are far too many talent-free teachers around! That explains why so many discover or unwrap their talents so much later in life and flock to self-improvement workshops and courses. Enough said.

From: Faith — May 27, 2010

P.S. I get irate when I read romantic twaddle about being an artist. Nobody comes into this world wearing a label. Achievements normally have to be earned.

From: Joy Gush — May 27, 2010

Having a bad teacher in High School when I attended art classes,

I gave up all ideas of art because I was told I had no artistic talent whatsoever. At age 16 I had to earn a living. My mother told me not to depend on anyone else to pay my rent and to learn how to be an independent woman. It wasn’t until the age of 27

when I immigrated to New York City, that I learned shorthand and typing and got a job in a large company which led me into sketching. A good teacher helped me get into painting. And now my paintings have given pleasure to others in offices, in homes,

and is my legacy. I painted what I value most in life. Nature, in all its glory of the seasons. I, too, relax as I have my “children” around me in my own apartment in Manhattan. I taught myself from observation, of listening to others’ love of flowers, of landscapes and skies. Yes, I have been asked to teach, but I am glad that I continued teaching myself. It never paid the rent, but the contentment it brought to hear the praise, means everything to me in my old age. I would suggest that anyone wanting to paint to go ahead, read, buy supplies, and just paint. The scenes are already in your own memory and how you paint is uniquely yours alone, a hobby that draws you to your easel at the end of your workday. Do not think of money — few artists sell what they paint.

A agent came into my life who loves my paintings, and the business side of art is taken off my shoulders. I will leave this life with 600 successful paintings — all memories of England where I grew up in the 1930s. www.artbyjoygush.com

From: Faith — May 28, 2010

Joy, I think your story reflects what so many have experienced. But not only at the hands of bad teachers. Parents can be just as destructive. Unless there’s a real fire burning inside, it’s impossible to fulfil any dreams, but dreams can be dashed by destructive even if well-meaning relatives, teachers etc.

Speaking for myself, I started singing at a very young age and my parents encouraged me. But when my mother realised that I was seriously considering a singing career, her attitude changed to negative. She had herself been prevented from following her own calling and instead of learning from that bitter experience, she was trying to pass it on to me. I had a French teacher who was a frustrated singer. That woman told me almost every school day that I had too little talent. She was jealous, of course. I didn’t realise that until much later. Fortunately I didn’t listen, but of course I had to pay may way and was lucky enough to be able to do that in the theatre.

I agree that it is essential to become independent. Independence is also part of the spiritual path to becoming an artist. Dependency is not creative. And poverty is debilitating.

I’m thinking now of Alexander Borodin (1833-1887 – almost parallel life dates to those of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner). Borodin was an academic, a chemist who wrote over 40 books on chemistry. He was also a prolific composer. He wrote more (wonderful) chamber music than any of his contemporaries. But he was first a chemist and then a composer. That might have made him an amateur musician, but we don’t have to classify artists in this way. A sold painting is not necessarily better than an unsold one…..

From: John — May 28, 2010

Yes, Wendy, you don’t know if it’ll work unless you try. So go for it while you can.

From: Darla — May 28, 2010

Teaching, whether it is art or any other subject, can be as much of a vocation as freelance painting. It’s wonderful to be able to show students a new way to express themselves; for some, it may be life-changing.

Very good advice to try both so you can find out which suits you. All the advice in the world is not worth an iota of experience.

From: Brigitte Nowak — May 28, 2010

Robert has provided his usually sage counsel, backed with the voice of experience. I would also suggest to Wendy that she needs to ask herself how important the various aspects of her life and her ambition are to her. What does she want to do with her art, and what does she want it to do for her? How self-directed is she? Does she have the discipline to be her own boss? Will she, and those around her, consider her a failure if she does not achieve commercial success, e.g. sell paintings? Commercial success is only one aspect of determining one’s achievement, but it is one by which people are often measured. How important is security? That monthly teaching wage means a lot to the mortgage manager if she is thinking of buying a house. How supportive is her partner? If Wendy opts to paint fulltime, will there be resentment that the partner is the major breadwinner? What do those around her think about the quality/market potential for her artwork? There are many talented, passionate painters out there; very few achieve critical or commercial success: how do others rate her chances?

All these questions aside, I envy Wendy her predicament: she is in the fortunate position of being able to make choices. Good teachers are hard to come by, especially in fields where subjective truths are the norm; as other clickback responders have noted, if she can share the joy of her passion with others, that is a gift in itself. Whatever she decides, good luck! And while, whatever her decision, there are likely to be “what if” thoughts down the road, she should be comfortable with her decision.

From: eleanor lipkins steffen — May 28, 2010

i have no regrets teacing art on high school level for twenty years and now retired nearly as long. i painted, showed, and grew as i learned with my students and now i am opening tomorrow at a local gallery and am looking forward to visits from former students as well as my chidldren and grandchildren. during my retirement i have had many shows, awards, and the joy of creating full time. life is full and good. part of my journey was marrying my own art teacher. i avoided the younger educational opportunities in teaching, and found the high school age great. i have no regrets. oh, iwas a single mom of two when i became a teacher at age 33.

From: Wendy X. Ordóñez — May 28, 2010

Thank you soooo much for sharing all your valuable knowledge and opinions with me!!!!

From: Wendy X. Ordóñez H. — May 28, 2010

And just to add a little bit more to the story, I completed a 4-month internship at a High School in which I loved the teaching experience but not the environment. I would like to teach to people that want to be there (perhaps private workshops – and how would I get a portfolio together if I do not paint?) I have recently become a daily painter, and I keep a blog about that.

I think that after much thought and reading what all of you have said, I am giving myself a period to live and breathe art.

I am working on my thesis at the moment so it is just perfect timing!

If there is a time in my life in which I can “risk” everything it is NOW. I have the support of my parents, my boyfriend, I do not have any children and I have a part time job that will allow me to buy my art supplies.

Perhaps in a year you will be hearing from me again…

Thank you all for giving me your feedback!

And just in case you are wondering what my art looks like:

www.wendyximenastudio.com

From: Jackie Knott — May 28, 2010

Wendy, you’re young enough to indulge in several false starts and still change gears and soar.

Asking “What should I do?” tells me you still aren’t sure how to feed your passion. It’s not a question of choosing between art or teaching, is it? What would be wrong with weekends and devoting summers completely to your art? An annual three-month sabbatical in total immersion?

I would be inclined to try the teaching gig first to either eliminate it from your career plans or embrace it.

With children, everything changes. Some of my favorite memories are of my girls napping on the floor in my studio. That scene can’t happen in a classroom.

One very wise comment surfaced out of the women’s movement of the 70s; “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

And where is “he” in all this? Does he have a home business he can nurture children? I don’t read of any concession in his career plans to support you.

From: Dwight Williams — May 28, 2010

Without reading all of the foregoing comments yet, I say, after a life like mine,”do both.” You probably can. I know several others who have and do. It’s rewarding on two levels. What a grand life!

From: Marvin Humphrey — May 28, 2010

In teaching others, you find that you stoke the fires of your own imagination in the process.

From: Rick Rotante — May 28, 2010

Life is a journey with no road map and many bumps and turns. Follow your muse and paint first. Your young and have time to work it out. No rush. Even with degrees there is no guarantee of being a successful artist. It’s a crap shoot with the best education. Take the time to paint your heart, and make life changes as you go. There is no hard and fast rule. Trust your heart and not what we say here. Only you will know your true path

From: Alice Smith — May 28, 2010

I used to teach I am retired now and thought I would paint so much more when I no longer taught. It didn’t happen that way. I was far more inspired and productive when I was teaching. I also did travel painting trips then which I loved. You can do both, teach and paint, best of both worlds. Being in a studio alone all the time can get lonely.

From: Mary Hart — May 28, 2010

What a wonderful plethora of experience wisdom from everyone!

Wendy, I sincerely wish you the best of exploring YourSelf as you embark on your worldly journey. That is the most important thing we can all do, use life to experience who we truly are, what is important to us, and how we can live that in harmony and intention.

Glad you have made a decision, and so happy for you that you opened the question up to a Grand body of peers so you could get more objectivity and perspective and feel more grounded about your decisions. Community with others in Trust, is ALWAYS beneficial to walking our Path.

Onward and Upwards Wendy!

From: Diane E. — May 28, 2010

If you like teaching, continue with your education so you can teach on the college level. It is great to teach people who want to be there and are so thrilled with their advancement. You will still have time to do your own work and then show it and you will learn more teaching and continuing to study than if you just worked on your own. There is something to be said for a steady paycheck and there’s a lot of freedom and time on the college level,unlike the K-12 levels. I’d also highly recommend taking a business class somewhere along the way, my business minor helped me exponentially to buy art supplies and understand contracts, etc. College teachers get more respect and, if you are a good enough painter you can have both worlds!

From: JUDY G — May 28, 2010

Wendy,

Unless you are marrying someone who will support your art habit, while you are struggling to make it, I would go for the sure thing and teach for a few years. You can do your art at the same time, and you would have summers off from teaching. You need to have something solid in your life, after all someone paid for college so you could teach!!

From: Heather Boyd — May 28, 2010

My advise would be go for the teaching position, you have security and income plus lots of vacation time. The students win because they have a teacher with a passion for art and you win because there are 24 hours in a day so you can still do your own art.

A lot of teachers that I know end up switching to part time teaching. I can think of no better combination than being an art teacher and an artist.

From: Pip Flannigan — May 28, 2010

Ain’t this the crux of the biscuit! Possible advice to young people can range from do it for a while, through do some of each, by way of follow your bliss, to being driven. My only advice would be along the lines of evaluating what you want to be doing, which is a different question from what do you want to be. Wanting to be an artist is a different perspective than wanting to paint (or sculpt or assemble). An artists life can wind up being a myriad of different things, and some apriori idea of what that might mean to a young person should be closely reviewed. It can include relative wealth, creative satisfaction, prestige or respect, or it can go the way of failure, poverty, or even madness. What will not be a chimera is the urge, the drive, the need to make things. The difference needs to be sorted out and understood.

From: J. Bruce Wilcox — May 29, 2010
From: Bezalel-Levy — May 29, 2010

As it happens I do not write you often but when my buttons get pushed I write. I happen to be one of those artist teacher people…even have an MAT myself from the University of Washington. I began by not wanting to teach but at the ripe old age of 20 found myself with a chance to finish up a spring semester after I married doing just that, fifth grade to be exact and after I returned to college, the next fall signed up for some ed courses and between my second and third child was accepted in the MAT program and happily began teaching again after I finished. So for fourty five years I have had the wonderful experience of always learning and sharing that with others…what a blessing to be gifted to do both! My horizons are ever expanding and my husband and I have a website for like-minded sharers! www.standwoodhouse.com So I wish the writer all the best and much encouragement in whatever she chooses.

From: L Gemski — May 29, 2010

To teach or not to teach?

That coincides in my mind with a more fundamental question-to eat or not to eat? I have been in exactly the same position. I chose eating and thus teaching. I married, raised a family of 5, taught for 21 years and retired to become what I always wanted to be-a full time painter. School reaching was exciting before the repetition of lessons, problems of students, and lack of support from the administration took all the joy away. I taught different levels and at different schools. After 21 years of teaching I finally retired to a lifetime of painting. Now my days are filled with the excitement and joy of creation. Painting is my life and I love it. My only regret is that I had to wait so many years to have the quality time to spend in my studio. My advice to the young painter is to take the teaching position for now and hold onto the dream of developing as a painter. Paint at night, on weekends and during vacations. Some later day your ship will come in and it can become your life.

From: Dianne Harrison — May 29, 2010

For Wendy I would say that it is true that being “an artist” is an “all in” game if it is your profession and you expect it to provide a living for you. However, there are no guarantees, even if you’re exceptional and work really hard. I have had the opportunity to be an art teacher and now to be a full time artist. It is true that if you are a good teacher you will not be able to have enough energy left to really invest in your own painting, but there is a unique aspect to teaching schedules called summer break when you can devote yourself completely to your work. You will find this frustrating because you will just be getting somewhere when you have to stop and return to teaching. I gave myself the gift of going for a Masters degree in the summer at The Rhode Island School of Design thinking it would help me become a better teacher and it ended up making me a much more serious artist and I left teaching. The really great thing that can happen when you teach is that you can become a positive influence in other lives. Just this year after many years have gone by I have gotten two calls from former students thanking me for influencing their lives in a positive way. One is now an art teacher and the other has a very successful photography business which he attributes to a project I had him do in high school. So both choices can turn out great and you have a lot of years to do it all! Good Luck and Happy Painting.

From: Judy Morris — May 29, 2010

Dear Mr. Genn,

First, I must let you know how much I enjoy your Letters. Many of them speak to my art-heart. Others remind me why I am an artist. Almost always they inspire. Occasionally I read a Letter and disagree. This is the first time I’ve felt a need to respond.

Please tell Wendy Ximena Ordonez Hurtado teaching art in high school may be one of the best investments in her life as an artist she may ever make.

There are the usual benefits of a secure salary, medical insurance, and periodic vacations… and perhaps a pension at the end of her career. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that she will touch the lives of thousands of young adults in a positive way.

I graduated from the University in art education in 1967. That was the year I began my art teaching career at South Medford High School. Not only was I was surrounded by enthusiastic teenagers eight hours a day… I was surrounded by a constant creative atmosphere, challenged to learn more, given opportunities to experiment with new art materials… basically, I was given the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist while I was guiding young people toward their artistic successes.

My own art career grew and matured during those 30 years. In.1966 I retired to become a full time professional watercolorist. In the last fifteen years I have been a popular juror and workshop teacher the USA, and in many foreign countries. My paintings have received more than fifty national and regional awards… most recently at the 2010 American Watercolor Society in NYC.

At a recent workshop one of my students asked a question that made me stop and think… “If you could name one thing you did to make your make your art better, what would it be?” My answer was simple… “I was a high school art teacher for thirty years.”

From: Joan Polishook — May 29, 2010

For more than 30 years I was a teacher of early childhood classes both in private and public schools in New York City. Together with my passion for the arts and my degree in fine arts (CCNY)… I persued a teaching career, married and raised a family without losing an interest in drawing and painting , the things that I like to do best.

Though it didn’t happen every day, the studio space in my house was ready and waiting as I needed it. My children were included; I am proud to say that my daughter is today an award winning artist, illustrator and graphc designer.( she makes her living at this as does her husband )….

I took my talents into my classrooms and used art as my basic philosophy to teach the core curriculcum…I was very successful and touched the minds of countless youngsters from the earliest grades through middle school…some of my former students have gone on to study art. I have long been an advocate for the promotion of art in schools and communities for I strongly believe that art is a valuable teaching tool that many professionals tend to overlook. Using art as a stimulus to reach the most difficult of students most often works to open new doors. It is true that the schools that I taught in were accepting at the time, of a teacher’s special abilities and innovative ideas. Unfortunately this is not always the case… but that is all the more reason to work toward proving your point.

So I offer the young person who can’t quite make the decision as to whether to choose teaching or delve into art full time…the suggestion that in today’s world, she might want to consider the reality of a secure profession and enhance that with her talents and ideas. Those creative juices, if nurtured will continue to develop throughout her lifetime being shared with and benefitting others.

From: Adria Klausner — May 29, 2010

I did not agree with your advice. I agree with Faith (5/27). I live in Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. I see some very talented young artists unable to make a living. Why not accept the teaching job in a school? I believe she should take it, and seriously dedicate her free time to her ART. As you often admonish, it will require discipline, but it is possible. No bitterness, no regrets.

Personally, I have regrets. I had to take an office job while my family was growing up. When I retired to Florida, I decided to take classes at the University and dedicate my life to art. Now, I can afford the luxury of painting as I please. My paintings are very personal, they don’t sell, but I am having fun. Furthermore, I am part of a program called “Arts-in-Medicine”, which gives me great satisfaction. We bring the arts to the bedside at the local hospital.

There is an umbrella organization for all arts-in-medicine programs in the U.S. and Canada. The name is: The Society for the Arts in Healthcare. Could you help us support the ARTS by divulging their site? Here it is: www.thesah.org

Then click on “Support Us” I have donated a painting to help in their fund raising efforts. Although I am aware that we are all “starving artists”, I encourage your artistic readership to donate whatever they can to support the Society for the Arts in Healthcare.

From: Adrienne Moore — May 30, 2010

Hi Robert, Having read your most recent article about teaching Art as opposed to working as a professional artist I have much to add. I was admitted to art school in 1960 and my family could not afford the fees ,so I opted to do a general diploma in art education which the Northern Ireland government paid for and I graduated with a teaching degree in Art. I taught in all kinds of difficult situations for thirty five years but absolutely did not lose my joy and passion to become a painter as opposed to an educator. I would spend weekends, early mornings before class working in my studio. I enrolled in every summer school course on art and just kept up with my passion. I I loved the way I could respond to the work my students were achieving and how they could be mentored and guided by my example. Always, I wished to be a full time painter and I had to wait thirty five years to achieve my goal. I rehabilitated myself by taking time out, taught in the UK ,and went back to UBC to complete my B.E in art Ed and I really can be sure that we do not lose out trusting how much can be gained by being a teacher. I was so amazed by being awarded the first ever Richmond City award for artistic merit recognition for my teaching skills. So we really underestimate the power we have to influence our students.

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — May 30, 2010

In response to Wendy’s query about teaching…

I am approaching my 30th year in teaching…part-time. I am not an EVERY DAY teacher. When I am painting I don’t teach, and when I am teaching, I don’t paint. I knew when I was younger that to be a teacher every day requires more commitment and sacrifice than I was willing to give. I knew myself well enough that if I were a teacher every day, I would not produce the art work I wished to create nor would I have the time to even think about it. Add to that the added responsibilities to your school…there will be a lot of unpaid overtime in order to get things done. You will have to deal with student and parent issues as well. On the plus side, you will have a steady income, insurance, summer’s off (sometimes) to paint, the undying gratitude of students that love you dearly, and the knowledge that you have passed down your insight to another generation.

What if you choose the path of the artist? You may or may not have a steady income…at least for a while. You will need to become a promoter, secretary, record keeper, and salesperson, in addition to being an artist that produces work. Hours are long, sometimes lonely, and usually unpaid. You will have to deal with unreasonable customers occasionally. Benefits to choosing this path include, but are not limited to…the freedom to set your hours (and stick to them,) the ability to create the work you wish to create, possibly gallery exhibitions, and (hopefully) an abundance of sales because people love what you do.

So, you see, it really depends on where your heart is, as both are noble professions. What you are willing to sacrifice? What you expect from either experience? No one can make this choice but you, because you know yourself better than anyone. Ask yourself the hard questions and you will find your answer…without regrets.

From: Catherine Gutsche — May 30, 2010

Wendy

You are finishing University with your Masters of Art Ed. Not Art History or Fine Art so you must have some sort of passion for education as well as your art. So why don’t you approach your favourite employer with the idea to teach 2 days a week (regular cash in the bank) and spend 3 days a week in your studio (growth & establishing your “other” career). At the end of the first year you should know if you need to continue this way or you can take that giant leap into the full time art.

OR here’s my favourite idea…

You must like educating students in art so why don’t you draft a proposal for a unique art program in the school of your choice. Many schools nowadays have spare rooms. Offer to convert one of those rooms into a full time teaching studio for gifted students. You paint fulltime on your work and take on mentoring those gifted students in studio cubicles of their own. Specify in the contract the number of hours you’ll be spending mentoring & number of students plus how you plan to grade the students at the end of each semester. If I had had this program in my high school I would have moved in with my sleeping bag & coffee pot. What you don’t want in your teaching career are the kids who sign up for art ’cause “you don’t have to do anything”. Please don’t waste your time with those kids UNLESS you have that special skill to bring them into the art world and bring out their excitement for art. But be prepared for alot of sweat & tears.

From: Nan Oliver — May 30, 2010

I was an art teacher for 30 years and during that time I realised that teaching art was my passion. I was continually learning (and have never stopped) new ways to help problem solve with my art students. When I was young and first starting out to teach, there was the idea that those who couldn’t master their subject, taught, but I completely disagree with that philosophy. A master teacher is invaluable and teaching was the very best thing I could have done. I was also able to continue with my own art work while I was teaching and now that I’m retired I’m completely involved with my own art. I feel so fortunate that I decided to teach because through doing this I have become a life long learner. I feel I’ve had the very best of both worlds.

From: Robin d’Arcy Shillcock — May 30, 2010

Very true what you say. To Wendy I’d say that if you have to make your way in art and live off it at the same time, you may encounter great difficulties, either in surviving or in choosing your own path. I always advise budding artists to take a job on the side. If you could limit teaching to just a few days per week —excuse my ignorance concerning teacher salaries in Florida, a few days per week may not be enough to live off— there is enough time to flesh out your dreams in art. Usually, it takes a beginning artist about ten years to discover who she or he really is, and to build up a sufficient client base to survive the daily onslaught of modern society. Some, like myself, strike out as full-time artists and manage to keep their lips above the waterline. You are (perhaps!) too young to see yourself clearly, but if you feel you have an aggressive mind, if you want to do art no matter what, go out and do what a woman’s gotta do.

Know that the artist’s life is likely to offer little stability in the way of income, but many freedoms. The lack of stability may be a bigger scare in success-oriented American society than in Europe, I’m not sure. “Mediocre success” is no big deal; being a mediocre artist weighs heavier on the soul. The two do not run in tandem: I have friends who are great artists but are forced to live on meagre pickings, and dud artists who earn major bucks.

Great satisfaction may lie in a life of helping others as an art teacher, but much drudgery in the way of rules and regulations is part of modern education. To me that felt like being trapped in a box. Would you be up to that?

From: jessamine Barron — May 31, 2010

I have just turned seventy five. I have painted all my life with up to ten years dry time. I believe my young years were for learning everything…..I am thankful I had my family of 4 children when I was young .We grew together. .in all ways . Now I pass my information on to the next generation. It is very wonderful . I love them all. i enjoy my free time to paint anytime . I am successful. Good luck………..j.

From: Cathy Harville — May 31, 2010

I left a lucrative career ten years ago, due to a medical condition. After flailing around for a few years, I rediscovered making art. It gave my life meaning. While I cannot perform a regular job, or paint “full time”, I put my heart and soul into my painting. The results are low on financial “success”, but huge on making meaning, and being happy with my life as an artist.

Although I never asked to become disabled, I wouldn’t change a thing. No regrets. We are where we are supposed to be at this exact point in time. I guess you can tell I have been practicing yoga!

My husband taught me the power of “no regrets”. If life slaps you in the face, just move on. No regrets. Wounds always heal quicker if you kiss them to make them better.

From: Molly Troxell — May 31, 2010

I returned home not really wanting to be a teacher, to do a brief stint with an Clothing advertising agency and after a year was offered my first teaching job. I taught one year and met my husband at which time the bulk of my working life was spent with him in the Antique car trade (a very interesting and creative business).

Life takes its turns and I became a widow in my 40’s with 2 children in tow, and guess what?, I had a teaching degree in place. It was hard to break back in to teaching (most schools like to hire young) but with God’s help I re entered.

From: Edna V.Hildebrandt — May 31, 2010

When I was in high school I wanted to take fine arts in university to concentrate on painting. My father and friends discouraged me.They told me that painting will not support me unless one is a famous I’ll be in the poor house.My father wanted me to follow in his footsteps to become a lawyer.I took nursing instead but my dream to be a painter never left me. Nursing is a very rewarding profession and it opened other opportunities for me traveling .My painting took a backseat to my profession and later marriage and rearing children.I took art classes in community school and became a “Sunday painter”.Now that I am retired from nursing I am able to concentrate on my passion for painting.I have no regrets either ;we have a comfortable life and our needs are met.I am happy the way things turned out.There crossroads we encounter and we have to make a choice on which way to go to best advantage .It is true painting if you have the talent it does not go away .I think that Wendy could have both teaching and painting since she has been prepared for it.She can excel in both roles.

From: Sandy — May 31, 2010

Wendy, Yes you have a lot to decide. 6mths to throw yourself into your art. Great!

Creative, passionate art teachers are so special. What ever you do be passionate about it. it will encourage others to become passionate. it is a gift to share.

From: Luann Udell — May 31, 2010

Teaching has its own energy, and hats off to those who teach with their whole hearts. The saddest thing I see in those who teach is they don’t realize how much time and energy teaching takes. Teaching is a job like any other day job — it’s about art, but it’s not about YOUR art.

Even those who teach part-time run into snags. They think they will make art “in their spare time”. But once the curriculum is developed, the lesson plans are made, the materials gathered; once the beds are made and the dishes are done; once the dog is walked, the kids are fed and bathed, and the family sneaks in a movie together, there can be precious little time left over to make art.

One strategy is to learn under what conditions do you get art made? One friend discovered that he didn’t paint on his own. But he liked taking workshops. And when he did, he found could produce a lot of paintings in one class. His solution was to commit to a weekend painting workshop a month, and that gave him the opportunity to create on a regular basis.

One of my strategies to expand my writing opportunities is to take a comment I’ve written in a forum or on a blog, an article that’s caught my interest. Then I expand that into my own essay.

From: Bonny Current — May 31, 2010

This letter was right up my alley – I am an art teacher and have been for over 20 years. I am also an artist and exhibit my work several times a year, as well as being an active member of a coop art gallery. What you said about letting your art go by the wayside can be true. When my teaching career was younger (as was I), I had little time for that, my family and the rest of my life. But I will tell you this – I would not trade my decision to be an art teacher for anything.

First of all, I have my summers and weekends and evenings to create my art. I actually get more done when my time is most limited – this is more about my personality than anything I guess. Anyway, painting and creating is how I am able to be a better teacher. I teach at the elementary level and the enthusiasm the children have is contagious. they are creative and fearless and I learn from them all of the time. It is teaching the basics to them everyday that keeps me grounded and excited to explore on my own.

It is true that I do not have the time to pursue a living as a professional artist, but my steady job, paycheck and medical benefits allow me the freedom to be the artist I am. I am sometimes unable to drop work at a show because I am at work – but my other artist friends will do that for me if I pick up at the end of a show. Where there is a will there is a way!

My intention is to keep making connections, selling and showing my work until I retire. At that time I can give private lessons and pursue my art full time.

I do not have the need to be famous. I have a following of clients that enjoy my work and some wonderful friends who are artists.

For me, the fact that I don’t have the stress of having to sell my work to pay my bills has given me the freedom to create the art that pleases me first.

If you think you would like to teach, I would highly recommend it. You can always pursue the art career at a later time or at the same time – but it may be harder to get that teaching job later on.

From: Warren Criswell — May 31, 2010

Max Plank, the father of quantum theory, was also a talented pianist. Like Wendy, at about her age, he was torn. He asked his teacher if he should pursue a career in music. He was told, “If you have to ask, you’d better do something else.”

From: Nan Oliver — May 31, 2010

I was an art teacher for 30 years and during that time I realised that teaching art was my passion. I was continually learning (and have never stopped) new ways to help problem solve with my art students. When I was young and first starting out to teach, there was the idea that those who couldn’t master their subject, taught, but I completely disagree with that philosophy. A master teacher is invaluable and teaching was the very best thing I could have done. I was also able to continue with my own art work while I was teaching and now that I’m retired I’m completely involved with my own art. I feel so fortunate that I decided to teach because through doing this I have become a life long learner. I feel I’ve had the very best of both worlds.

From: Lauri Luck — May 31, 2010

Hi Wendy –

First off I want to congratulate you on recognizing a place of passion in your life and be willing to question all those things – good job, marriage, home & stability – that we are told we all want. That doesn’t mean these aspects of your life cannot coexist but it is obvious that in the end it will be your “choice” of how things work and not just a given.

I will suggest that is is very hard to stand at the beginning and look out to all future possibilities and not feel overwhelmed and confused. Throughout history there have been scores of artists who were able to combine jobs and art as well as an equal amount of artists who could not. But the starting out point is a particularly vulnerable place so I think Robert is right – if there is a way to buy some time to immerse yourself in your art before committing to the job your path will become more clear. While alone time w/ your art is all important I also believe it is good to connect w/ other artists too once in a while ie: a weekly figure drawing group, a critique group, a plein air painting day – what ever works. Having other artist’s input and support will be invaluable.

In my own life – I had years, early on, that I could devote huge blocks of time to my work. Even though I did fairly well creating and selling – looking back it seems I squandered away much of that time. I even had the home and the stability but inside I often felt lost and unsatisfied w/ my art. In my 40’s I picked up and moved to the opposite coast and ended up living on a sailboat w/ twins on the way! Life, as I had envisioned it, turned on it’s ear. But as an artist – I had never been happier. While babies/children put major constraints on studio time – the time I did have (3 hrs a day) became incredibly precious and pushed me to use it fully and wisely. It also really pushed me to identify what I really wanted to do w/ my art and my life and make a commitment to that decision. And while things are still changing – I now live in a house, the twins are 14, we have gone through job loss and reinvention – I am now in my studio 5 days a week and that core decision – to make art the focus of my life – has remained steadfast.

From: Alfred Muma — May 31, 2010

Wendy…only you can answer your question…but first answer this question; in your heart what are you? Answer..if your inital response was not artist then take the teaching position and paint on the side. If your initial response is artist…no hesitation or question and you can’t live unless you paint, good luck! But know this provided you can have a positive aditude about life in general things will work out right for your situation.

From: Denise Bezanson — May 31, 2010

I’ve also known artists that have started as Teachers and then stopped teaching to become full time artists. Well known artist Leslie Poole is one, Sculptor Henry Moore is another.

From: Carol Barber — May 31, 2010

I am not making a living at either one while being supported by my dear husband. But I am having a grand time teaching art to preschoolers and pursuing my own painting career. I feel the two ventures invigorate each other and work nicely together. I didn’t know teaching was such a creative process or I would have pursued it earlier. But I found teaching a college course draining and it difficult to paint especially on the day of class.

From: Judy Morris — May 31, 2010

Wendy Ximena Ordonez Hurtado, teaching art in high school may be one of the best investments in her life as an artist she may ever make.

There are the usual benefits of a secure salary, medical insurance, and periodic vacations… and perhaps a pension at the end of her career. But that’s not the best part. The best part is that she will touch the lives of thousands of young adults in a positive way.

I graduated from the University in art education in 1967. That was the year I began my art teaching career at South Medford High School. Not only was I was surrounded by enthusiastic teenagers eight hours a day… I was surrounded by a constant creative atmosphere, challenged to learn more, given opportunities to experiment with new art materials… basically, I was given the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist while I was guiding young people toward their artistic successes.

My own art career grew and matured during those 30 years. In.1966 I retired to become a full time professional watercolorist. In the last fifteen years I have been a popular juror and workshop teacher the USA, and in many foreign countries. My paintings have received more than fifty national and regional awards… most recently at the 2010 American Watercolor Society in NYC.

At a recent workshop one of my students asked a question that made me stop and think… “If you could name one thing you did to make your make your art better, what would it be?” My answer was simple… “I was a high school art teacher for thirty years.”

From: Lenny Gemski — May 31, 2010

To teach or not to teach?

That coincides in my mind with a more fundamental question-to eat or not to eat?

I have been in exactly the same position. I chose eating and thus teaching. I married, raised a family of 5, taught for 21 years and retired to become what I always wanted to be-a full time painter.

School reaching was exciting before the repetition of lessons, problems of students, and lack of support from the administration took all the joy away. I taught different levels and at different schools. After 21 years of teaching I finally retired to a lifetime of painting. Now my days are filled with the excitement and joy of creation. Painting is my life and I love it. My only regret is that I had to wait so many years to have the quality time to spend in my studio.

My advice to the young painter is to take the teaching position for now and hold onto the dream of developing as a painter. Paint at night, on weekends and during vacations. Some later day your ship will come in and painting can become your life.

From: Dianne Harrison — May 31, 2010

For Wendy I would say that it is true that being “an artist” is an “all in” game if it is your profession and you expect it to provide a living for you. However, there are no guarantees, even if you’re exceptional and work really hard. I have had the opportunity to be an art teacher and now to be a full time artist. It is true that if you are a good teacher you will not be able to have enough energy left to really invest in your own painting, but there is a unique aspect to teaching schedules called summer break when you can devote yourself completely to your work. You will find this frustrating because you will just be getting somewhere when you have to stop and return to teaching. I gave myself the gift of going for a Masters degree in the summer at The Rhode Island School of Design thinking it would help me become a better teacher and it ended up making me a much more serious artist and I left teaching. The really great thing that can happen when you teach is that you can become a positive influence in other lives. Just this year after many years have gone by I have gotten two calls from former students thanking me for influencing their lives in a positive way. One is now an art teacher and the other has a very successful photography business which he attributes to a project I had him do in high school. So both choices can turn out great and you have a lot of years to do it all!

From: Frank Gordon — Jun 01, 2010

If you want to paint, you will.

www.frankgordon.co.uk

From: Edith Rey — Jun 01, 2010

Do both. Teaching art + making art are related, not foreign activities. They will feed off each other. Teachers get long, long holidays when you concentrate only on your own work. The freedom from poverty will buy creative juices + you will be able to paint what you want rather than redoing work that you know sells so you can pay bills. When I was younger we had a saying at art school, those who can paint, paint, those who can’t, teach. It’s simply not true.

From: Barrett Edwards — Jun 01, 2010

Ahhhhh….When are you going to do another workshop on that boat? I want to join you!

From: Leslie Davis, Kingsport, TN — Jun 01, 2010

When young, I also had dreams of being an independent artist doing my own thing and being wildly popular in the art world. However, my down to earth parents encouraged me to get my teaching degree “just in case”. As life happened, I married, accepted a teaching position, and taught high school for twenty years. During very difficult times of raising kids and experiencing the illness and death of my first husband, I found that faith in God, coupled with relationships with my students and fellow art teachers kept me not only sane, but optimistic. Working solo in a studio would have been disastrous.

Teaching also forces one to determine not just the “how” of doing things, but the “why” of what’s going on in your mind. When verbalizing your thought processes it forces you to think logically and explain an intuitive process to another person. That in turn becomes internalized and reinforces to yourself what you have taught. Then again, that enlarges your thought processes into other areas as to “how” and “why”. It expands in ever increasing ripples. I believe teaching is a necessary process by which you not only instruct others, but yourself. I am currently retired and devote time to my dreams, but I have found the years in the classroom have enriched and enabled those dreams.

From: Michael Epp — Jun 01, 2010

‘A place of no regrets’…. what a beautiful phrase. Perhaps you are a poet too, as well as a painter. Just turning it over and over in my mind, like a mantra, seems to have a restful effect. Thank you for a thought-provoking letter and a great tagline!

From: Mary Hart — Jun 01, 2010

to Bezalel-Levy, I tried getting to your site: www.standwoodhouse.com and couldn’t get it through 2 browsers. Any ideas? Would love to see your contributions to community there!

Mary

From: Anonymous — Jun 01, 2010

Alas, 9 + 4 must not equal 13 and 2 + 5 must not equal 7 as none of my posts get anywhere except constant messages to re-enter the answer and submit the comment.

If this one gets through, I’ll wonder if I’m doomed to always be Anonymous.

From: Jen M. — Jun 02, 2010

Robert, I love this quote: “Contrary to popular belief, all evolving artists are in a full time battle with mediocrity.” ~Robert Genn

This is how I feel every single day, and this is why I am working so hard to get myself up and running with my art. I take one more risk at every opportunity, all in the interest of winning that battle!

Cheers!

From: To Anon… — Jun 02, 2010

If I take a long time to write a post and then type in the number it tends not to go through…I don’t know why. But, if I type in the number first, then write my response it seems to work…again, I don’t know why. Hope that helps.

From: Anonimous — Jun 02, 2010

Dear Wendy, Given your situation, you are asking a wrong crowd for advice. Few people touched on this – but the key to your decision is that you are planning to get married and have children – so I assume that you would not have a happy life if you don’t manage to be a good mother and wife (in addition to your being good artist). So don’t ask artists and teachers for an advice what you should do. Ask children and husbands of artists and teachers. They will tell you how they experience their mothers and wives. Don’t ask the guy who is selling the car – ask the other drivers.

 

 

Share.

Robert and Sara Genn Twice-Weekly Letters

Subscribe and receive the Twice-Weekly letter on art. You’ll be joining a worldwide community of artists.
Subscription is free.