What’s this classroom thing all about?

Dear Artist, Recently, Tom Bennick of Mountain Home, Idaho wrote, “I’m a paper artist belonging to a small art group that puts on a couple of shows a year. Some of our members are adamant about not showing work that is done in a classroom. Much of my work is partly done in a workshop or class setting and because of this I’m not allowed to show. I completely understand that work needs to be juried, but what’s this classroom thing all about?”

paper art
by Tom Bennick

Thanks, Tom. It’s one of the thick-headed trumperies going around like influenza these days. To my thinking, location is nothing, inspiration is everything. Art groups need to employ a jury, for sure, including some insiders, and when students’ work veers a little too closely to the teacher’s or someone else’s, the verdict has to be “out.” Jurors must be on top of this, and the submitting artists need to help out by disclosing their influences. FYI, we’ve put some of Tom’s work at the bottom of this letter. Fact is, walls or not, all the world’s a classroom. Fact is, life’s a classroom where curiosity reigns with both over-the-shoulder interest and the joys of struggling alone. Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson is a new book that analyzes historic waves of human brilliance. Gutenberg, Darwin, the Wright Brothers and even modern computer whiz-bangs show that innovation comes from accumulated knowledge, constructive errors and the magnificent happenstance of “information spillover” (information intended for one gets picked up, carried, and improved by another). And good stuff happens anywhere — labs, workshops, hangars, garages and yep, classrooms. Tom, your exclusion from shows is a function of your group and not a reflection of your processes. You can urge change within your group — or you can get out and take your paper and equipment with you. If you still want to be a joiner, I’ll bet there’s another group who will welcome you. You may have to drive down US 20 to Boise. It’s an unfortunate fact that some art clubs and guilds, including both big city and small town ones (Mountain Home, formerly Rattlesnake Station, has an Air Force base and population of 12,000) can be downright draconian and inhibiting, often loaded with outdated attitudes and shibboleths. The enemy of growth is dogma. Groups should be classrooms of free energy and joy, where all flags may fly, and even sketches done in the back seat of a jet trainer may be juried “in.”

paper art
by Tom Bennick

Best regards, Robert PS: “The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.” (Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton) Esoterica: In these days when many art galleries are quieter than Pontiac dealerships, there’s an opportunity for creative folks to rethink, re-jig and improve. Artists need to go to their classrooms, whether in a schools, workshops, private studios or out in the bush. If they have a competitive spirit, they need to play their hands against those of others. They need interaction within their solitudes, in whatever company they may find both challenging and amenable.   Paper art by Tom Bennick

paper sculpture 15 x 7 inches


paper sculpture 22 x 9 inches


paper sculpture 14 x 15 inches

            Down with art classes by Phil Kendall, Peterborough, UK  

“Heracles, Atlas & King Eurytheus”
original painting
by Phil Kendall

To me art classes are the anathema of any art-language that a student might have had. That unique individual innate artistic flair that Picasso so rightly described is converted to the class-style and the resultant artworks only reflect the class norm. This is the sheep-flock group of artists. Those classes tend to be repeated ad nauseam with same sycophantic class members who are incapable of an original thought, let alone a unique artwork. Just imagine if say Picasso had gone along with the sheep-flock?… all those dreadful stilted landscapes, portraits and still-life’s which today are a waste of artistic endeavour as the digital age captures the banal so well. I remain eternally grateful to my 1950’s secondary school art education from a talented artist and superb life-coach bold enough to allow his groups to extend themselves at their pace and introducing the class to every new medium. I was perhaps one of the first to use Acrylics in 1957, a then expensive import, in one of his classes. I’m still in love with them today. Well I guess you have figured out which group I belong to. There are 3 comments for Down with art classes by Phil Kendall
From: Cheryl O — Nov 12, 2010

Although the original article was about exclusion from art shows, your response is addressing the broader question of whether or not art classes are worthwhile. That is what I would like to respond to. I noted that you said that your secondary school instruction was from a “talented and superb life-coach” and suggest that it is still possible to find art classes led by this type of instructor. Those type of classes could benefit artists at almost any stage of their career. When I teach, my goal is to help participants find their own individual expression in art. I have no interest in cloning – and love to introduce new mixed media and unusual techniques as well.

From: Carol — Nov 12, 2010

I changed art classes this year and I am still amazed at the variations that are going on…. its all about the instructor’s relationship with each students’ needs.

From: Nicole B. Rudderham — Nov 12, 2010

I need to comment about showing classroom or workshop art. I agree that it should not be shown as original art solely created by yourself, if you produced that art under the tutelage of an instructor. Your art in an exhibition should be art imagined and created only by you and not by someone else. If you had already started a piece though, and then had someone help you get past a few hurdles, then I think if would be acceptable to hang this piece.

  Jurors don’t know the inside story by Ron Stacy, Victoria, BC, Canada  

“Magpies & Clay”
original painting
by Ron Stacy

The reason for the exclusion of classroom work is simply that the jurors can’t know whether the instructor had an active hand in the work, or not; or how much of the work is done by whom. As an instructor myself, I sometimes see the need to relieve students of their brush to make corrections or to demonstrate a point on their canvas. If that happens, as it often does, then the work is not purely the student’s work, so it should be excluded. There is no reason the student can’t take the lesson to heart and do the piece again or do another, in my view. You should always submit your best work to be juried for a show and it should be exclusively your own, in spite of influences or inspiration. I have to admit that often, my views are rather stringent, but I think that it’s not a bad thing to have standards and to have people adhere to them. It’s also my view that jurors should be well rounded in their understanding of art, as in educated, and not simply good at painting or sculpture or some other discipline. Too often, local artists are asked to jury a show when they really don’t have the qualifications to do so. That’s not to say that someone who is self taught can’t do very good work, but they usually are too focused on a particular aspect of the very large world of artistic endeavour. I have to admit also, that I fall into that category, even though I believe I’m competent at what I do. There are 3 comments for Jurors don’t know the inside story by Ron Stacy
From: Patricia — Nov 12, 2010

One of the first things I learned in Teacher’s College about teachinbg art was NEVER to touch a person’s work…..suggest so that the student can do it themselves!!!

From: Karen Lynn — Nov 12, 2010

I agree with Patricia. I demonstrate on surfaces other than the student’s, and I ask them questions in ways that lead them to see what needs changing (at least that’s what I’m aiming for). When I make suggestions, we talk about it, and why some options might work better than others – it’s always the student’s choice. It’s their work!

From: Patsy Duthie — Nov 13, 2010

Research shows that working on a student`s project results in the student learning very little and it tends to impede future problem solving. As a professional teacher I was taught to never pick up a student`s brush. As a student I have learned little when an instructor has taken over my project. But I have benefited when various possibilities were offered for my consideration (eg: You might want to try adding more contrast.) Stringent views do not help students develop artistically. They need to experiment and have the freedom to make so-called mistakes. Teaching should not be about fulfilling the instructor`s ego.

  No jury needed by Catherine Barr, Orangeville, Ontario, Canada  

“Easy chair”
oil painting, 24 x 36 inches
by Catherine Barr

I must object to your statement that all art groups need to employ a jury. I belong to a non-juried art group here in Orangeville and it works really well for beginners and those who are still trying to find their style. The atmosphere is encouraging rather than judgmental and I believe that we all need that. We also have a group that only shows juried work so those who feel confident in their abilities can also join this group. Some of our members are also members of the other group. When I first joined the Orangeville Art Group in 2005 I had very little expertise and if I had been juried out of our annual show I may not have continued. I did continue and was accepted last year in the juried show for the other group. Our group does not restrict the origin of work other than it be original, and work done in a workshop is considered original. There are 3 comments for No jury needed by Catherine Barr
From: Brigitte Nowak — Nov 11, 2010

What a lovely, evocative, atmospheric painting!

From: Darla — Nov 12, 2010

I agree that we need open as well as juried shows. One thing that delights me about the mostly non-juried art shows at science fiction conventions is the wide variety of art that is hung. There is everything from rather crudely done “fan art” through exquisitely rendered paintings by professionals. And the wonderful thing is that sometimes the “fan artists” improve their craft until they become skilled professional artists.

From: Paddy Cake — Nov 13, 2010

I belong to the Nanoose Bay Weavers Guild, a group that meets in each other`s homes, and has been having fun and learning together since 1976. We laugh a lot. We have won many awards for our displays at conferences in Canada and the US. The leaders, the best weavers, have always encouraged every member to participate. The quality of the work is outstanding because we learn more from being participants and from comparing our work with the best members than from being rejected.

  Did it again at home by Kris Preslan, Lake Oswego, OR, USA  

“Cars I’ll never Own #9”
watercolour painting
by Kris Preslan

I once painted my backyard tomatoes in a workshop, not because it was what the instructor wanted us to paint, but what I was finishing up that I had begun at home. The instructor held up my tomatoes, admired them, and I continued to paint. I was later told by a fellow artist that it was a classroom painting. I went home, repainted the whole painting, quite like the first one, just so I could say it was MINE! Seems a bit silly, doesn’t it?     There are 2 comments for Did it again at home by Kris Preslan
From: Sherry Purvis — Nov 12, 2010

I teach two classes a week and in no way do I feel like my students work is anything but theirs. Who decided that student’s work in a classroom setting is less valid than what is produced at home. I give, the controllers are still out there. Bravo for you and your tenacity, shame on the other artist, who was showing signs of jealousy.

From: Bill Hibberd — Nov 12, 2010

Great MG. Do enough of these and perhaps you will own one

  Keeping the work ‘input free’ by Tom Bailey, MA, USA   I always interpreted the rule banning work done in classrooms or workshops to mean that entries should be the sole work and creation of the artist. Pieces that were actively ‘corrected’ while in progress or directed by more experienced professional teachers would be excluded. For the same reason, works derived from photographs taken by others are excluded because the important facets of composition and content have already been decided by another person. I have submitted a few works that were, technically, done in workshops with a clear conscience because they were done totally by myself, with no input at all from the instructor during their creation except a critique after the piece was complete. There is 1 comment for Keeping the work ‘input free’ by Tom Bailey
From: Todd Norgaard — Nov 11, 2010

I have submitted work when I have a clear conscience that’s it’s “all mine.” I would never let a teacher lay a brush on any work I’ve done, and none ever has. (Must be my body language.) I enjoy painting plein air with a group that critiques afterwards — because I learn so much from the whole process. A teacher may or may not be present, and I prefer a group of artists using different media and having different styles. I will always be a student. So I guess I will always be doing “student work.”

  Pros are life-long learners too by Nina Allen Freeman, Tallahassee, FL, USA  

“The Dance”
acrylic painting
by Nina Allen Freeman

This question keeps coming around in our art group. I think it is an old fashioned idea that so-called professional artists who show their work don’t go to classes and it is the amateur artists in the classrooms these rules are aimed at. Artists are life-long learners and working in the classroom or receiving critiques, reading, using the Internet, and painting with other artists are an important part of growth. What kind of an artist would we be if we worked in isolation without influence from anyone — probably become stagnant and never stretch beyond our student days. On the other hand, what kind of teacher in the classroom demands his or her students to conform to a given style of painting? (which is implied by these rules) Teachers should respect each student’s chosen style and subject area and help them achieve their highest potential, as well as challenge them to reach further than they expected they could. I hope if I haven’t done this, my students will let me know!   Finding your own style by Pat Kochan, Dallas, TX, USA  

“Arc de Triomphe”
watercolour painting
by Pat Kochan

I have taught watermedia classes at Artisan’s Studio-Gallery in Dallas Texas for 25 years. I call my class, “Finding Your Own Style.” I ask the students to furnish their own sketches, resource material etc. and to pursue working in a series. When I demonstrate, I try to stimulate their creative juices and offer a lesson or technique to fulfill the exercise. Everything they do is theirs, not mine. The newer students sometimes try to copy my demo and that is what some of the clubs object to. One student, years ago, picked up my drawing on index paper and was about to copy it on the light box, when one of my students reprimanded that she stop and told her never to do that again; that one’s drawings are their own. Everyone in my class can enter the best competitions guilt free because their work comes from their own resources and talent.   Excluding work done while teacher present by Lee McVey, Albuquerque, NM, USA  

“Lake Maloya with Locust Bushes”
pastel painting, 12 x 9 inches
by Lee McVey

Many shows I enter also have an exclusion for work done under the supervision of a teacher. The reason is many teachers work on a student’s painting to illustrate the point they are making. Then the painting isn’t solely the work of the student. On the other hand, many artists receive critiques from other artists and these paintings are allowed in. It’s different when the teacher puts brush or pastel to the painting. Since show organizers or jurors don’t know the extent to which this has been done, they ban all work done under supervision of a teacher.     Teacher and student need to share credit by Lisa Duncan, Marietta, GA, USA  

“Geisha – Self-Portrait”
original painting
by Lisa Duncan

As both a teacher and a submitting artist, I must disagree. Not with the idea that “All the world is a classroom,” but with the idea of accepting classroom work to juried shows. The only way I think it should be accepted is if both teacher and student are listed, as equal collaborators, and both agree to enter the piece. As a teacher, I see many students who, under a classroom setting, do work far above what they do at home by themselves. It is a great joy when I can see that “lightbulb” go off and they start bringing show-quality work in that they’ve done themselves. I don’t think these students should submit to shows unless they agree to take only half the credit of what they’ve done in class. As a submitter, I know that when I take a class, I sometimes come out with a piece that is beautiful, and far different from what I usually do (after all, that’s why I still take classes.) However, I would never think of submitting them, since I believe even in my own work that these are collaborations. Instead, I go back to my studio and produce another painting using these same new ideas that is totally my own, and submit that instead. Not only is it totally my work, it cements the new ideas.   All painting is derivative by Paul deMarrais, TN, USA  

“Spring cows”
pastel painting
by Paul deMarrais

This question gets to the root of the value and point of this sort of local show. I’ve run into this question with my workshops where I am often called to work on the paintings myself. The end results naturally reflect both mine and the students’ efforts. My input would bring unfair advantage in the competition according to the rule makers. What tiresome drivel and what is the point? We are all art students, as you say. Some of us have become a great deal more serious about it and have entered the ranks of the professional. Amateur painters ought not to be burdened with the ego games the pro’s must endure. They ought to avoid those groups and their silly ‘competitions’ and seek simply to show their work in a neutral environment where someone can see and enjoy it. I recently had the pleasure of visiting a wonderful Impressionist show from the Musee’ d’Orsay that is presently hung in Nashville at the Frist Museum. Should I avoid a color combination that Jules Bastien LePage used in his wonderful painting, The Haymakers? All painting is derivative and that is the fun of it. Tom should take his work to a friendly art group where I am sure his presence and artwork would be welcomed.   A closed mind is a tight box by Gwen Fox, Colorado Springs, CO, USA  

original painting
by Gwen Fox

I couldn’t agree with you more. As a teacher I encourage my students to tweak what they learn from me and then make it their own. Classrooms/workshops can be intimidating or freeing. When a student produces a piece of work that is a higher quality than their normal creations, I know they have stepped beyond the false reality they have of their own ability. I am constantly amazed at the quality of work that comes from the workshop environment. The other great factor about the workshop/classroom environment is the energy produced from the other students. Ideas flow like red wine. It only takes a tiny bit of visual or verbal information for the creative mind to render a fabulous piece of art. How sad for others to dictate the painting will not be shown because it was generated in a workshop. Ideas for paintings come from everywhere… dreaming, reading, teachers, viewing art, talking with other artists, walking in the woods, etc. “Where” the painting was given birth is not the important factor. Art groups tend to make rules that other art groups have made. This keeps them safe. Unfortunately some of the rules are a determent to what they are trying to promote. Getting them to change a rule is generally futile. A closed mind never produces anything but a tight box in which to live. There are 3 comments for A closed mind is a tight box by Gwen Fox
From: Carol Jessen — Nov 12, 2010

Although I don’t normally respond to abstracts, this one moved me. I love the design, the color and the movement. Good job!

From: Bev Searle-Freeman — Nov 12, 2010

Absolutely love your painting!!!

From: Jean — Nov 12, 2010

I’ve taken classes where the instructor offers no guidance beyond how to use the materials. There was not even critiquing of our work. In other classes we’ve been instructed to “copy my painting.” And, of course, most instructors are somewhere in between. While I can understand the viewpoint that a painting may be a collaborative effort and should thus be entered as the work of both teacher and student, I think that when it is clearly the student’s own work place of creation should not be an issue. Muddy yes, but fair. Unfortunately this requires considerable self-understanding and honesty.

  Honoring the honor system by Kris Parins, FL, USA  

“I Saw the Light at 44th & Broadway”
watercolour painting
by Kris Parins

The exhibit rules were made to exclude the artwork that is produced in a certain type of class. There are instructors who hand out a drawing, printed to scale, for the student to transfer to their paper or canvas. The group then proceeds, step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke, to complete the painting according to directions. Some students love this. If a piece is produced in a classroom setting, but with little or no influence from the instructor, I don’t see a problem with the student claiming it as his own and entering it in competitions. Of course the reference material should be the student’s own, when using photos or sketches. With no way for a juror to prove when, where, and how a piece of art was produced, it all boils down to the honor system anyway. There is 1 comment for Honoring the honor system by Kris Parins
From: Dottie Dracos — Nov 16, 2010

Love your painting!!


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for What’s this classroom thing all about?

From: Susan Holland — Nov 08, 2010

What about work that is done FOR a workshop? I have made some interesting and possibly show-worthy paintings preparing my curriculum for a workshop coming up next month. These are experiments to see how best to demonstrate uses of pigments in combinations. I will have participants work their own designs out, but will ask them to come up with their solutions to challenges I will give them. If they produce a winner of a piece in the process of experimentation, is that something they should not be allowed to exhibit, according to the rules of this art organization? Seems to me it depends on the aims of the exhibit. And the aims of the workshop or class. On the other hand, I curated an exhibit which, because of the logistics of the thing, required that pieces be a certain size and have a dark background! The artists who responded were able to pull that one off fine — except one South American fellow who insisted that I was wrong to ask any artist to tinker with his color and size choices. My thought was that it was no different to ask for my criteria for the exhibit than it would be to ask for certain sizes, or certain media. I agree that organizations that are bogged down in hard and fast rules are akin to the (usually creativity-squelching) rigors of elementary classrooms where 40 little kids get 40 little pans and 40 pieces of newsprint with which to “do watercolors.” Rigidity kills. Maybe the group Tom belongs to is too large! Or needs to change its leadership?

From: Faith — Nov 09, 2010

I think the problem is that at workshops the educator very often does work on paintings in progress! I’ve certainly come across this. At one I attended, the teacher spent the whole day working on a painting being attempted by self-styled “graduate” of a 3 year painting course at that same institute who hardly knew which end of the brush was which (which says a lot about the institute, of course – you pay high fees and qualify, whatever your level of achievement). At the end of the workshop she went off proudly with “her” painting. That is the deep end. At the shallow end teachers/coaches/educators manipulate here and there (if you let them!) rather than giving advice and maybe illustrating their point separately. Banning workshop achievements is a way of avoiding this problem and understandable. It does not guarantee that the entrant has done his own work, but it does promote some degree of honesty! The solution would be a certificate signed by the educator verifying that a respective work is entirely the work of the course or workshop participant.

From: Darla — Nov 09, 2010

There are legitimate reasons for banning workshop pieces. A lot of the time, at a workshop, the teacher is teaching how to do a specific technique, generally the one she uses. The students are concentrating on learning this technique, and they may all be painting from the same set up or photos. This can result in a “recipe-book” set of paintings that all look similar. Other workshops concentrate on helping the student do his thing, only better. It’s all up to the people who write the show rules whether they want to risk workshop paintings or not..

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Nov 09, 2010

The focus should be on who did the work not were the work was done, some students ask the teacher to show them or help them with an area of their painting if the hand of the teacher is on their work then I agree this work should be excluded, if by demonstration on a separate substrate the student then attempts to reproduce this on their own work that is quite another thing and should be accepted into juried shows. We are all the sum total of every artist that we have ever had the pleasure to have viewed their works, every artist is taught by those that came before. Workshop, school, or flipping through art magazines or books we are all students, all of our lives.

From: Sharon McKenna — Nov 09, 2010

A friend once told me this story. She had taught a watercolour workshop and since the group had diverse skill levels, she provided them with one of her drawings, reproduced on watercolour paper so all could concentrate on her workshop colour topic and could go home with a nice piece even if they were rank beginners. She was chagrinned to spot one of her drawings later in a show where it won a prize and her contribution was not acknowledged. So I understand when a group does not allow work done with the help of a teacher to be entered in prize-awarding shows.

From: Linda — Nov 09, 2010

So–if you are able to produce something original and truly yours, make it OUTSIDE the workshop! What’s the problem?

From: Diane Leifheit — Nov 09, 2010

Good to see a majority saying no to workshop work done with a teacher should not be shown in a juried exhibit. The notion that one could walk into a workshop and walk out with work that is show worthy in and of itself seems to require an amateurs mind. More importantly work done in a workshop is largely done under the influence of the artist who is enabling participants in new theory and usually without fail – has put their own hand on the work. One should not be attending workshops in order to produce work for a show but to advance skills to further their own methodology. The idea that it does not matter where work is done does not take these factors into consideration. Plain and simple work done outside the classroom is solely that of the artist. Work done in a classroom is done with assistance and never credited to the teaching artist. To me that seems inauthentic hold a juried exhibit where the balance of participating are submitting their own Original work, then allow work done with an unknown assist from another artist in a classroom/workshop to stand as the same quality as those who did not have that assistance.

From: Dorenda — Nov 09, 2010

I think if the workshop is one in which the student creates the work from conception to finish, using their own reference and/or inspiration, without the instructor physically holding the brush to correct or manipulate the work…a workshop that teaches process rather and technique rather than similar final results…this would be viable to enter in competition. However, I agree with the majority…many artists still don’t understand the idea of copyright infringement (whether from a published photo or an instructors lesson plan) and this then becomes an issue for exhibitions, judges and competitors. I once judged a show where 2 exhibitors entered the same portrait (insisting that it was someone they knew) when in fact in was a lesson that a fellow instructor had presented several years prior in a class. Both participants had beautiful techniques…if only they had used their own ideas :(

From: Lorrie Grainger Abdo — Nov 09, 2010

Please make note that Tom is a paper artist, not a painter. This means that he probably uses some fairly specific equipment in a workshop setting that, perhaps, is not available to him in his studio or home. Yes, workshops are teaching venues, but they are also opportunities to explore, share, stretch and do some great work. This is especially true in the paper arts where you can have 20 people in the workshop making paper but doing 20 completely different things with the result. We’re not talking about a situation where all 20 participants are doing a pastel portrait of the same person. Tom, I’d suggest you make your group aware of the type of workshops you are attending so that they understand the difference. Then, if your group is not amenable to change then the advice is good: find another group. For example, The Handmade Paper Guild, Kalamazoo, MI is one of only two Guilds in the country specific to handmade paper. We have not limited our two annual shows by excluding work done in a workshop. And, guess what? I’ve never seen two things at all similar or anything included that is subpar. Join our group! However, the commute for the monthly meetings, might be a bit tough! Best wishes. Lorrie Grainger Abdo lorrieabdo.blogspot.com

From: sarasuperid — Nov 09, 2010

I suppose it depends on the workshop. Most workshops I attended, it was specifically about learning the teachers method following their specific instructions and challenges. Those assignments should not become competition pieces. I was taught this principal in my first university painting courses, and I kept true to it. And I really saw why too. The teacher set up the challenges, often making very creative still lives for us to paint with specific palette restrictions. Many of the students paintings look similar year to year from her classes, her touch is definitely on these projects. On one occasion for our final project, I asked special permission to allow one of my pieces to be excluded from the rule for purposes of becoming part of a series. I asked the teacher ahead of time before I started the piece, and she granted it because the idea and style were so clearly mine and she had not made the challenge as uniquely hers. Although, she did state if a juried competition ruled out student work, that I must not enter it. I agreed. Overall, I think the rule is valid, and should stand whether the jury uses the rule or not, don’t compete with student work if the teacher had a large hand in guiding its creation. And if exceptions need be made, the workshops should re-title themselves as studio sharing time. If the entire purpose of a workshop is to give people studio time, it isn’t really a workshop is it?

From: Carole Böggemann Peirson — Nov 09, 2010

Could it possibly be that the art organization does not want to accept work done in a workshop/class setting, because if there were numerous students in a small community taking the same (f.e. still life painting) workshop there will be a good chance that there will be numerous pieces of artwork featuring the same still life?

From: Oliver — Nov 09, 2010

Hmm, the group gets to make the rules. As a member of the group you can probably petition to change the rules, (even perhaps make a separate section for student art or work done in a classroom), or simply make a few pieces a year not in a class room. You can also start a new group. Formal academic school or the old master apprentice system all have an aspect of imparting of knowledge and influence by the school, master or teacher and often people if they want to hear the master’s voice they want to see the master’s work – not necessarily the apprentice or the follower. Odd eventually some very well developed schools or movements in art DO recognize the lesser lights of the school or movement. Sometimes though the students of a master are well sought after. Perhaps, that is because it is a big area, perhaps it is because the leading lights are too rare or expensive for all but a very fortunate few of us or sometimes the student eventually surpasses even a great master. The formal art education system with degrees provides the student with the opportunity, usually, to study under more than one master, which can be both good and bad, but note sometimes the entire art department is dominated by one philosophy, school or master. Most art schools have student shows and indeed opportunities for larger exhibitions by the most senior of the students (the MFA candidates). Often to formal academic institutional art schools will have exhibitions of the teachers and I have seen places where they have two areas – one for the students and one for the teachers. Sometimes, clubs groups (artist co-ops) form around a Master and the club or group really is in general a return to the old well known formula, followed for hundreds if not thousands of years, the Master and Apprentice system. If it is a non academic Master’s oriented group then usually expect to see some of the Master’s work and some of the best of his or her student’s work. Sometimes though clubs or groups, want to have a group of equal or near equal journeymen or above and this rule is meant to enforce that, even if the club’s members have a common general philosophy or approach. All that said, eventually most of us decide that we need to strike out on our own and develop on our own, just as apprentices of old used to eventually strike out on their own, but as you strike out on your own it is often helpful to have others to talk to and help – hence the non master oriented co-op, group, club or ………. It sounds like your group has essentially rejected the Master Apprentice system and is more toward the group of near equal journeymen and above with some emphasis on teaching. I would suggest not abandoning this local support group you enjoy unless you really need to or are really quite ready strike out completely on your own. That said for a year or two you might use the not in the classroom showing requirement to start developing your own voice – enjoy making a few pieces on your own for a couple of years while continuing to attend various classes and workshops. If you do this on the pieces you do on your own, worry about the comments on completed pieces – it is different than comments when you are in process and can change the work – intentionally “break a rule or two” or use the same techniques in a different manner, or …… but make it work and be prepared to “defend” and even articulate why it works and perhaps too be prepared for ridicule from the group – it is all part of the growth process. By the way, you may find your group very helpful and constructive as you strike out on your own they have been there, understand, at least instinctively, the transition you are making and usually, will give support and criticism as appropriate and may be more willing, especially since you are a long time member of the group, than other places to show your work as you make the transition from student to journeyman to master.

From: Sandi — Nov 09, 2010

I’m not sure I agree, when you say ‘classroom art is OK to enter in a professional Art show. Most shows, if they are professional, ask for original work. Working in a class room situation where the teacher is helping and suggesting the ‘how to’ , to me isn’t living up the what a professional painter would be doing. Not long ago I was at a show and noticed that one of the Artists, who I have known for several years, showed a really well done piece, a much higher caliber piece of Art work than usual, for this person. When I complimented the piece, I was told it was done in a class room situation, and it was very obvious to everyone who knew this person’s work, that she did not do it by herself. But, well, I guess that’s my opinion, and I think it should be up to the teacher to give permission to the student before hand, but I also believe that an Artist should work completely alone to be able to produce work that has his or her personal, and original Artist’s statement.

From: Ortrud K. Tyler — Nov 09, 2010

Why do a lot of shows, juried and otherwise, try to exclude classroom work, because a lot of work done in classroom has the teachers thoughts and hands in or on it. If it is done all by the artist themselves fine, but that hardly ever happens, especially in workshops. Here in one of our ongoing classes the teacher routinely “ corrects” or “shows how it is done” and very few artists decline that and want just pointers and do it themselves. Then the pieces show up in shows. Should somebody really challenge that the response would be pretty ugly. The peculiar thing is they hardly ever win anything, for some reason other works are almost always better and the truly independent work of that artist. Somehow it shows, don’t know why don’t know how but mostly it does and that is pretty good. The world is imperfect, have you noticed?

From: Phillippa K. Lack — Nov 09, 2010

And be downright draconian and inhibiting, often loaded with outdated attitudes and shibboleths.

From: Joy Tatt — Nov 09, 2010

I am an artist/teacher and have been involved with art groups for 25 years. Why not have a classroom/homework section as part of the exhibition, as I have had the privilege of enjoying over many years. Label the section as such. Unframed, in any media, studies, notes etc. it is very beneficial.

From: Thierry Talon — Nov 09, 2010

I know an artist who attended an art school that organized student exhibitions. Everybody knew (or ought to know) that someone else may have touched the work. Some paintings represented the same image, done a different way. I don’t think anybody cared. Visitors loved much and bought. The prices were right, too. Now I am on my own, grateful for that start. I don’t let anybody decide what I do. You can consider doing the same, Tom.

From: Sherrie Miranda — Nov 09, 2010

Our art teacher was trained at a top university and none of her students’ work looks like hers. She shows their work once or twice a year and most of it gets bought and is very much appreciated by all. That is a very strange policy if you ask me. P.S. The teacher shows her work separately from that of her students, though she does have a couple artists who show with her that do come to the classes. Since it is printmaking, it is not always possible to have all that equipment in your home, no matter how much talent or experience you have.

From: Judi Birnberg — Nov 09, 2010

I think behind the idea of not accepting work done in a classroom setting is the possibility that teachers might have taken the brushes out of the artists’ hands and actually painted some of the work themselves. Everyone I know ignores this “rule” when entering exhibits. I have decided not to enter these shows any more because I am so sick of seeing the jurors choose for awards those pieces made by friends of theirs, whose work is readily identifiable. It’s a crooked game played by some very big names.

From: Kathy Drungilas — Nov 09, 2010

I agree with most of the comments here – in almost every workshop I have attended there seems to be a point where the instructor picks up a brush and assists a student on their canvas/paper. I hate it, and most of my instructors don’t do it to me…but another student once grabbed a brush loaded with white oil paint and smeared it on my canvas to “help” me with my clouds! I was speechless! and spent a while scraping off their work. [Maybe that is more about etiquette…] My point is–the only way to attempt a fair, equal playing field is to prohibit works done under the direct tutelage and or direct brush of an instructor is to limit a juried entry as not being done in a workshop or classroom. But then, it all falls on the artist to be honest regardless. What I find more troublesome is that many artists create works from magazine photos and source materials derived from another’s work.

From: Lois Jung — Nov 09, 2010

Some time ago I was told that classroom/workshop work was not acceptable because many classroom/workshop teachers had a great tendency to personally “fix” the student’s work. I don’t know if teachers do this much anymore, but if a teacher did that (and I have had a couple), definitely it should not be entered especially in juried shows. But it can be personally informative and enjoyed.

From: Randy Eidson — Nov 09, 2010

Robert, I think you missed the point of the exclusions Mr. Bennick writes about. In a workshop or a class, attendees are usually getting direct input from the instructor, pointing out composition errors, value errors, making suggestions – sometimes to the point of (with permission) making marks or stokes himself/herself. If the instructor doesn’t mind, offering such a work for sale is probably OK. Entering such a work in a juried show (especially a competition with prize money) is unfair to other participants whose work is solely their own.

From: Elaine Hughes — Nov 09, 2010

Art teachers are at fault here. The ones who can’t keep their brushes off other peoples’ work, and who go in and “fix” things for students. Then, the work is not entirely the student’s work, but partly theirs and partly the teachers. If instructors would stick to demos and never ever touch student work (even if they ask!) then clubs and shows might not have this rule!

From: Ruth Farnham — Nov 09, 2010

I’ve been a painter for 70 years and there’s always something new to learn. Two years ago I took a couple of workshops in printmaking, not having done anything in that field since college days. The professionals who led the workshops taught the how-to’s of various types of printmaking by demonstrating the methods, not by creating finished work – that was up to us. Last summer I took two workshops in encaustic painting and had the same experience: a very talented artist teaching the steps necessary to produce a finished piece, not doing that part herself. In order to work in a new (to the student) medium, it is essential to demonstrate the tools and then leave the production to the student. I would not hesitate to exhibit the good pieces I finished – the ideas and use of materials were mine. I’ve also used some of the less than wonderful prints, for instance, as the starting point for some interesting collages that I have exhibited – and sold. What I owe to these teachers is the fact that I learned how to use materials new to me, not how to reproduce subject matter. Personally, I see no point in restricting work done in a class unless that work is simply a case of copying, which generally is very easy to spot.

From: Doris Nickerson — Nov 09, 2010

Have you paid attention to the “Call for Entries” in some art magazines. Usually it states that work should be done in last two years and not done in classroom or workshop setting. How can you fight these demands — unless you tell a fib. What happens if you do and the work is recognized? The privilege of entering your own ideas and results is much more rewarding than taking a chance. Our local art organization usually had the same stipulation when they called for entries in the annual show. There again we had professional artists, who were taught by the best, pay the entrance fee , enter their work – no questions asked – and walk off with the “Best of Show” or “First Place” award. They were not members of our organization at that! So there’s not an answer — just give it a try and if rejected, take it in stride and move on!

From: Linda Rogers — Nov 10, 2010

By jurors or art associations not allowing work from classrooms or workshops, I think they feel the piece may have been significantly influenced or even partly painted by the instructor. I’ve had instructors look at my partially done painting and start painting it to their idea. But, if the jurors/association people are so concerned, why does almost every article about a particular artist ask “Which painters influence your work most?”. Almost every painter is inspired by somebody. It doesn’t have to be in a workshop. Websites of even fairly unknown painters may give on ideas or solutions to problems. Decades ago I think this anti-classroom/workshop attitude may have been important, but I think it’s outgrown its usefulness.

From: Sheila Psaledas — Nov 10, 2010

This letter reminded me of an incident when a student of mine showed a piece she’d finished in class at an outdoor show. She submitted the piece in the pastel award competition. Two artists also involved in the show made it a point to get to her booth and harass her about submitting the piece. They said it wasn’t all her work. Unfortunately, they did this as judges were entering her booth to look at the submission. The judges quickly left the booth — I don’’t know if it was because of the comments of these two or not. Well it was all of her work — I did give her some information of possible changes or adjustments-but her hand and mind created the piece. I couldn’t help but think that these two women were jealous. The piece was very well executed. They made comments like “Oh, Sheila’s hand must have done this area, and so on”. What a shame.

From: Elizabeth Rhoades — Nov 10, 2010

I was quite interested in this article, as this issue keeps coming up here in Connecticut. I may be mistaken, but I believe that the objection raised to workshop/classroom generated entries into juried exhibits lies not with the influence the instructor has on the student, but on the actual work itself. I am quite the product of the influence of the many workshop instructors I have studied with, but my work is produced from my internalization of the different techniques and styles of my teachers, and has grown together to become my own voice. I believe one should not outright copy an instructor or artist’s work, distinctive subject, or unique imagery and call it their own. Work entered into shows must not have been touched or corrected by an instructor’s hand, or given guidance throughout its creation. Certainly we ask our colleagues for their candid critique and response to our work, as that validates us and helps us see the work from a different perspective. I see nothing inappropriate in seeking that feedback in an informal way, so long as the work is generated by the artist. Work that has been produced under the tutelage of an instructor is guided by that instructor’s assignment, demonstration, and supervision. It is not the creation of the artist’s own inspiration or design. But I believe this only applies to juried exhibits, and competitions. Unjuried group shows, galleries, and solo exhibits should be a fine venue for any quality piece of artwork.

From: Pavel Russe — Nov 10, 2010

Why not simply ask for self-disclosure with references supplied, and then jury them in or out? Excommunicate them if they fail to disclose or misrepresent their originality.

From: T. N. Nance — Nov 10, 2010

By far the finest copies that get into shows are done not in classrooms but from art books and copyright photos at home.

From: Liz Reday — Nov 10, 2010

I can understand why art groups discourage work done in classrooms. Many a time at a workshop, my instructor has picked up my brush and, with a few masterful strokes and fewer words, showed me the possibilities of unfettered creative ability. It is a great way to learn, but it does mean that the painting was not done completely by me, which is OK because I was a student. Now most students don’t like the teacher who does this, but even if the teacher is just critiquing, or if the classroom work was the object of a discussion, you can see that perhaps the piece in question wasn’t totally original when finally finished. Original workshop leaders provide original ideas for projects, methods, materials and even their own models and still life set-ups; they make you think outside of the box and so must be credited in the originality of the subsequent work in the classroom at least. Having said that, I’m shocked at the fiefdoms that some art clubs have established, some with “president for life” and handpicked boards that reflect the wishes of a few key players. Yes, art groups tend to admit their own and promote their own, and some people are so charismatic that they inspire legions of faithful followers who establish byzantine rules to be accepted into their shows, their contests and their hierarchy. It is a social club, and we do tend to favor our friends for the juicy spots on the wall. Art clubs choose who wins the best of show, a subjective opinion at the best of times. Some clubs admit special artists for the upper echelons of the hierarchy based on their ability to lend their prestigious name, their generous support, their big bucks famous friends, and occasionally because they are really good artists. You see this disparity in their big annual shows, where thousands ( some really superior work) are declined and the select few who are chosen vary drastically in competence. The same people win prizes at the same shows, which start to look boring, similar and amateurish. Artists start clubs in order to elevate their stature in the community as well as helping other artists join together and find exhibition space. Artists to help with the administration and heavy lifting involved in putting on a show are often rewarded by being included in the show or by having their work hung in better areas. The more closely the artists works with their group, the more opportunities present themselves for advancement, and that’s not a bad thing. Not all juried shows are alike, and it behooves us all to get to know the players in whatever art group they want to show with and lend a hand behind the scenes. Reliable co-op gallery staffers are valuable people and they stand a good chance of being juried in the show, that’s just the way it works, especially when it’s all volunteers. Artists that flake out with their paperwork, don’t pick up their work on time and don’t lend a hand may find that they’re not juried in as frequently in some community galleries. Art groups that just pick the same group of friends to exhibit will atrophy. New artists with new artwork will attract more collectors, however many established art clubs are wary of outsiders stealing their exhibition space. New artists should due their due diligence on any art club that they are planning to join, keeping in mind that the greater the participation, the greater the chance that they will be included. But be careful, some art clubs hold that out as a promise, working the unwary newcomer to death but then not choosing them when it comes time to pick for the honors. Some club honchos promise every year, “Next year you’ll make the cut” into the big shot show or that higher signature status in order to keep the aspiring artist minions working for their art club.

From: Leslie Hoops-Wallace — Nov 10, 2010

I have seen that frustration, but understand the rule. In some classrooms, and workshops the teacher works on the painting, thus making the painting very influenced by the teacher(making it part teacher, part student). Also, if you take in class projects, you get a whole bunch of paintings of the same point of view, object, design, making the show repetitive. Those are the two reasons when I see “no work done in a class setting” in show rules.

From: Edie Pfeifer — Nov 10, 2010

When an person is taking classes it is assumed that the teacher is teaching, guiding, making suggestions, or helping in some way with the projects produced. They sometimes even touch, manipulate, correct, or change the piece in some way. Thus, work done in a classroom is not necessarily original, it is considered student work, a learning experience, and is excluded from most shows. If Tom wants to enter shows he needs to do work outside the classroom, on his own, without this help or guidance from his teacher. It needs to be an original piece of work, his own idea, not a project assigned by a teacher. This does not mean he can’t continue his classes, just that the work done there cannot be entered in shows.

From: Tatjana M-P — Nov 10, 2010

Federation of Canadian Artists hosts an annual Student’s Show, where all FCA students are free to put in one piece – no jury.

From: Kamoos — Nov 10, 2010

In many of their larger pieces, Rembrandt and Rubens were assisted by others. These masterpieces are now worth tens of millions. It’s all relative. Who really cares how a work came to be, other than busybodies, the kind you often find on a condo board North America?

From: Anonymous — Nov 10, 2010

C’mon people. Workshops = pre-planned situations and help with everything from composition to color to technique. All of these are a far cry from original ideas and application. If you can do a painting good enough for a competition with help in a workshop, why not apply those things you learned to your own ideas instead of relying on a painting you’ve had help with?

From: Kamoos Obomor — Nov 10, 2010

Come to think of it, this forum attracts a lot of busybodies, too. People who want to judge what is unsuitable and appropriate, which seems to include ‘honest emotions’. To those people, I say ‘think about who really cares’.

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Nov 10, 2010

I see both or, maybe eleven or seventeen, sides to this question. In the end, who can police the evolution of every piece submitted, and who would want the art world policed so thoroughly? An artist who makes a habit of submitting unoriginal class work to shows will soon be outed either by others or by him/herself anyway. Paying attention to quality and originality overall is obviously very important, but shows will suffer if people instead become consumed by the effort to eliminate every single piece whose originality *might* be suspect according to varying standards. I personally would not enter a work done in a class or workshop, for several reasons, but I also wouldn’t spend time and energy worrying about the few who would.

From: Tulip Panikovski — Nov 10, 2010

The work is the work is the work. Doesn’t matter if it was painting in the rain or on a train. (Oops, I’d better head the Suess thing off!) If the artist can sign it as his/her own, what’s the big whoop? The work is either bad or good, or something in between. Original or derivative. You get the picture. It’s the work, not the setting of its creation that counts. Mostly I paint en plein air, but I’d never think of using that as if it made a difference to the way the work ultimately appeals. It might be something a buyer is ultimately interested in, and I’ll tell anyone who asks. Yet I have works of immediacy that have been done in my basement studio, and generally I do similar work there as that I do in the field. Except for the insects in some the plein air efforts, I defy anyone to tell the difference. The wind either blows through them, or it doesn’t.

From: Jacob Tesla — Nov 11, 2010

The great thing about this forum is that you soon find out there are a lot of different points of view out there, thanks to the way Robert states the situation in the first place. Not just people saying, “Wonderful Robert, I couldn’t agree more, keep up the good work.” There are a few, but that’s okay too.

From: George Curran — Nov 11, 2010

Tom, don’t give up. As an art guild exhibition chairman for several years I insisted on original work for competitions and frequently got fooled. Original work meant that no part of anyone’s imagery could be used. This could not be enforced. Other guilds demanded work not made in class or at workshops. Some of them demanded the art not be over two years old or was not exhibited in competition before. They used unenforceable rules. I don’t respect rules that can’t be enforced. Get involved with these groups by helping them use common sense.

From: Brian, Upstate NY — Nov 11, 2010

I find a great deal of irony in arts communities and groups creating and enforcing rules. Really!? Rules? Stay in the lines please, we cannot accept work that was done outside of these lines. Ridiculous. ps. I liked the math captcha more

From: B.J.Billups(billupsfineart.com) — Nov 12, 2010

“ORIGINAL ART” is just that: Original in concept and expression! It is not following someone else’s ideas, style or expression! It is fine to take classes and “study” perhaps the instructor’s style (be it abstract, impressionism, expressionism, etc)…however, some instructors ONLY KNOW HOW to instruct, using their style of expression…instead of sharing CONCEPTS, multiple “techniques”, approaches, or subjects…teaching students to “think outside the box” as an old expression states. SO, if a “student’s” work is highly reflective of the instructor’s (or any artist, living or dead) … then that work should not be submitted for any juried art exhibition…for when there are “awards” of acknowledgment of ORIGINALITY…then, it should be ORIGINAL, in all concepts of the word!

From: Sheila Minifie — Nov 12, 2010

As a lecturer (traditional artwork), I would NEVER touch a student’s work – I would illustrate on a separate piece of paper. To give that little respect to another artist at whatever level would be anathema to me. It would also take away the whole point of personal responsibility, inner searching and individual development necessary to a creator. However, I gave my students the hard won knowledge that I had found for myself, mostly from outside art school, unless it was to do with art history or theory. I’ve seen a lecturer copying students – outright copying of unique methods and styles and from them, enjoying financial and critical rewards. They’d been amazed by the exciting breaking of boundaries of accepted techniques in student’s spontaneous and innocent creativeness. Mulling over this, I was thinking over the huge amount of artwork that I did in my final year for both BA and MA courses and in neither cases did I have any help from lecturers (and extremely little the rest of the years). It wasn’t that kind of environment – you were left to your own devices and your own creativity was in theory encouraged while technical issues were considered irrelevant. They certainly never had a hand in the work either technically or artistically, let alone knowing what I was actually doing most of the time. What they were concerned about was if you were in line with contemporary art theory and what your concepts were within that. If you fitted their own experience and interests, (very limited) they might possibly critique – a little. If you were outside that (and many were), you took full responsibility. It was a sign of the art school times (1990’s era). Not sure if this was countrywide (Uk) or just my particular city university. If asked what they were looking for, they would say- ‘we can’t say, we only know when we see it.’ They liked my work in the end (video, both digital and analogue) but had little idea of how it was done and how to judge it. And for anyone twitchy about this – I’m not whingeing about it. ;) I have ‘suffered’ for it, but may also have made me stronger now.

From: B.J.Billups(www.billupsfineart.com) — Nov 12, 2010

Gosh Sheila…strange that our two comments follow one another…I totally agree with you, in what you share…and to think we are on two opposite sides of this vast globe! Glad to know there are instructors who honor their student’s journey, to their knowledge in the expression of art. And what you shared, with how little many instructors ACTUALLY HELP: that is, teaching with blinders on (only supporting those “expressions” which reflects the instructors “LIMITED view point”!!!)…perhaps, when students reached outside the “common” ground of the instructor’s venue…a lot of teachers have no idea how to handle that, nor advise what to do “next”…I frankly have no idea what “their issues are”…cause I do not teach in that manner…and it sounds like you do not either! I have on my wall, one of the strangest little paintings, one of my students did… Think it is TOTALLY ONE OF A KIND…at the end of the week, I asked Rita what she was going to do with it…she was going to toss it…so I asked if I could have it! Tho “strange” it was from a deep place within her… And THAT is where ALL ART SHOULD ORIGINATE FROM!!! Deep within our souls!! ANY how, I just wanted to thank you for sharing those thoughts! And glad to know there are others on this sacred journey, of self discovery! Betty http://www.bettybillups.com

From: marilyn smith — Nov 12, 2010

I think that work done in a classroom situation should not be in a competition unless it is an amateur one. I have seen students who wait for the teacher to tell exactly what to do next. I can not consider their work original!

From: L. Diamond — Nov 12, 2010

I think that classes are full of students (learners, if I may), who couldn’t copy the instructor well even if they were paid to take the class, so I don’t know what the fuss is all about. You know, music is no different. We willingly and with awe will pay hundreds of dollars to watch classical musicians copy note for note, rhythm for rhythm, the EXACT music of the 18th and 19th century and we have no problem with that. We don’t lambast them and suggest that only the improvisational Jazz artists should win contests. I’ve been a hobby painter for years, who takes workshops regularly to learn how to do something I like that this instructor/artist does. Once I learn it………I, like the Jazz musician, goes on to improvise in my own studio, my own way. Everyone knows that copying first, is the best way to learn. Just look at all those students with their sketch books at the Art museum every Sunday. I’d like to hear what all these nay-sayers have to say about that.

From: L. Diamond — Nov 12, 2010

I got so worked up about this that I didn’t spell/grammar check …sorry for you folks out there who are stickler’s about perfect grammar/spelling as well as perfectly original art (no such thing by the way…it’s all been done before). I meant to say “I, like the Jazz musician, go on to improvise in my own way once back in my own studio…..”

From: L. Diamond — Nov 12, 2010

Oh, ps………..I just remembered something. A friend of mine entered one of the Art Society competitions and won something. When I looked at the brochure the Juror was a woman whose workshop I took once. Without looking, I picked the First place piece and was correct at my guess. It looked just like hers. Maybe this is why I don’t enter contests. One of my very successful artist friends doesn’t do contests or galleries anymore either. She had a great analogy. She said back in the 90’s before digital files and internet websites, she would go door to door with gallery appointments, to show her portfolio. She likened it to walking in, taking off all her clothes, twirling around, and going “So, what do you think?” By the time the Information Highway came around she was so turned off that she decided to go off on her own with her own marketing and internet promotion and she makes more money than she ever did with representation. Love that story because it reflects a lot about the art spirit, not the art game.

From: Tom Bennick — Nov 12, 2010

Wow!!! Thank you all for the great input. The other night I was at a writing group meeting. I do both art and writing. When I mentioned that maybe we should consider not accepting writers that are taking writing classes into our annual publication. The first reaction was one of disbelief. As was mentioned by several of the members that all professional writers have editors. Editors really mess with the script. Is this the same as a art teacher messing with a students work? I know this is probably not the same issue but maybe it is. Tom Bennick

From: Helen Kirk — Nov 12, 2010

I finished my advanced diploma in fine art last year. Never once in the three years I was studying did one of the tutors touch my work or make more than general comments (eg “you could brighten the highlights a bit to improve the effect”) Class exercises where all worked on the same theme were class exercises, and not counted towards the total of works you needed to produce. The emphasis was on developing your own style and using your own references. No one produced work like anyone else and I would challenge anyone to tell that the work was done in a classroom. Surely a much better approach would be to say the work must done only by the artist, and not a copy of anyone else’s work?

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Nov 12, 2010

That’s an interesting question, Tom. As a former freelance book editor for twenty years, I can tell you that some authors barely knew how to write but brought a sparkling concept and good information to their manuscript. Those whose grasp of the language was poor required a lot of work on my part; I’d have to mess with the manuscript extensively. Others had an excellent handle on spelling, grammar, and syntax and needed relatively little help from an editor. I always saw my editing work as a craft, helping authors to get their ideas across in readable and understandable ways. Some books are artful; many are not. And the premise can fall into one category, with the execution falling into another. The details of the creation of a published book can be as hard to pin down as the creation of a visual work of art. Books almost always have “Acknowledgments” sections, however; visual works of art don’t. Still, I can’t bring myself to worry about another artist’s originality. Everyone is influenced, everyone evolves, and I don’t see where meaningful or true boundary lines can be drawn.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 12, 2010

The thing about classroom work is it isn’t wholly your idea and probably someone offered assistance with it’s fabrication. Not to mention other people in the class are showing similar work. Use the class to learn, then do your own thing at home. Eventually you will anyway. Juries for the most part are bogus and filled with people who are wannabees. They know as much as you or less and pick what they like not necessarily what’s good. I’ve seen it done and have also been victom to their whims. Don’t sweat it. If you perservere and want to be an artist you will rise above it and eventually be known for YOUR work alone.

From: Sarah — Nov 12, 2010

Workshops vary so much in the amount of input the teacher has, that a hard and fast rule seems too arbitrary. I’ve taken workshops where the instructor handed out ahead of time a detailed drawing of the scene to be painted. The various efforts by the workshop attendees had some variation, but each student used the artist/instructor’s composition. The paintings that resulted from this were certainly not original in concept, and had little creativity from the workshop attendees. On the other hand, I’ve had instructors just walk in and suggest that everyone do something with opposite colors, then proceeded to work on his/her own piece. There was virtually no guidance re composition or execution of each painting. There might be a few suggestions from the instructor, or a critique, but each work produced in that workshop was original. Art groups have a dilemma because ultimately it’s up to the individual artist to judge how original their piece is, and whether it’s suitable for competition. I don’t think there is an easy solution.

From: Rick Rotante — Nov 13, 2010

If a teacher helps a student by showing them how to do something on thier piece, it’s to give them insight and show technique. I’ve done this both ways, on my study and on the students. But it should be rememebered the work in the class is not intended to be exhibited, it’s a lesson. Maybe all work should be wipped off after class, which is generally what I do with my study. It was also what my teachers did. Students, in the beginning, believe they will never be able to replicate what was created in class and don’t want to wipe it off or start over. This is a misnomer. I encourage homework and I also incourage hands on by teachers. This idea of critiqueing once a week or a casual statement about highlights is bogus. It’s just a way some teachers withholding information for job security. To keep the student on the hook. Or its doubt on the teachers part. I’ve seen it many time and the student is left in the dark to stumble on their own. Many who call themselves teachers shouldn’t teach if they can’t demonstrate what they teach successfully.

From: Esther Cheng — Nov 13, 2010

I read every one’s comment (so many and my neck is hurting). Good subject, Robert. And great discussion! Love it! I sure learn a lot and agree with most of the comments. But I will go with Elizabeth Rhoades’ comment, short and to the point.

From: Barbara Beasley-Southgate — Nov 13, 2010

I am an artist of over 40 years from Melbourne, Australia. Although I understand how Jaye feels about the “copycat”, my personal view is that the “Other work” of Jayes far outweighs the Mendicino series. It’s good to try something different though, but I am sure the Other work would be far harder to copy as it has more imagination which obviously comes from her heart. Remember, however, copying can be regarded as the sincerest form of flattery.

From: Robin — Nov 13, 2010

Wait! It isn’t the location ( workshop) of the art, but the venue of the exhibit. If the exhibit is not juried all is well – pros and amateurs together. But shows have the ability to jury, and by that it is understood to mean original in thought, concept, and reference material – not only the application of techniques. And the reason they do so is that amateurs have entered work that was not of their own concept. Concept can include influences from anywhere, of course. Beginning artists just don’t understand this because they nave not yet entered enough exhibits to know the difference between original concept and just enough experience to paint nicely. Most think ” I painted it all by myself, so it must be original.” So it’s up to the venue to establish parameters, and when an artist begins to create ideas to develop that professionalism begins. So enter that workshop or classroom piece in a non juried exhibit, and then knock our socks off with your completely original piece in a larger regional or national show – we’re waiting for you!

From: Sandra L. Jones — Nov 13, 2010

First of all, if teachers would just agree to not touch a students painting under any circumstance then we probably could eliminate this whole “workshop” discussion. The teacher could use acetate over the painting, or paint on a separate piece of paper (canvas, whatever) to demonstrate their corrections. I seem to absorb the info better that way, than having them paint on my painting. Secondly, critiques and suggestions come from all over, not just in the classroom. Maybe I just finished a piece and my mom or sister casually points out that the tree is coming our of someones head, they aren’t professionals, its just their opinion, but it may be a valid point and I may have missed it because I was too close to the painting. How is it different if the comments are made by someone who isn’t a teacher? What i’m saying is, we get feedback from lots of people, and it may influence the piece and make it more successful. If that is the case, do we not enter any of the paintings that may have been influenced by someone other than outselves? It gets to be a very gray area. I’ve seen people do paintings in workshops that have nothing in common with the teachers style, work that was totally completed before the teacher even got around to even talking to the student. The only comments that were made were done at the end of class during the critique. How come that person can’t enter the painting in a show? It really is a matter of honesty, and after 25 years doing art shows, I know that there are a lot of artists out there with questionable morals. While I’m here though, I’d like to ask a question. Say you did a painting 5 years ago, but within the past month you took it out and reworked an area in the painting that made a considerable difference in the finished piece. Would hat qualify as work done within the past two years? How would you interpet that? Thanks for your imput.

From: Nancy Bell Scott — Nov 14, 2010

Sandra, in my opinion it qualifies, because you completed the work within the past two years.

From: sherry — Nov 15, 2010

This is a fascinating subject — as a teacher, I have very strong feelings about it. First and foremost, let’s differentiate a teacher’s influence on the student’s painting: Handing out a detailed drawing and telling the student exactly which colors to use is nothing more than paint by number. As a student, you could save a lot of money and just buy a paint-by-number kit. On the other hand, there are some students who are completely stuck and don’t know how to proceed. Showing a student (on his/her work) a road to possibly take at that point is the most helpful thing I can do. I would never touch a student’s painting without first asking them if they want me to. Most times, just a small example of what I’m saying suffices. The painting is still their own vision and product. I am all about being original, enjoying the process and taking risks. I always tell students to listen to that little inner voice that whispers, “what if I did….” and DO IT! You’ll never know unless you try it and you don’t need permission. It’s not brain surgery — no one dies. As Robert Henri said, “all tuition is intuition”. Ultimately, if you want to evolve as an artist, you have to find your own way. By over-teaching I think the teacher removes the joy of discovery from the student. Regarding the juried shows, it’s all such pettiness. As one writer said, in the end it’s the honor system; artists should not be so wrapped up in other’s approval. It’s great to be acknowledged and appreciated, but at the end of the day, YOUR OWN approval is all that matters.

From: Mary Lou Castellano-Rivas — Nov 15, 2010

Several years ago I attended the final day of a workshop. The instructor had us set up on a spit of land which split a body of water. One of the class klutzes erected her french easel too close behind me, but facing in the opposite direction. We’d been told to paint whatever we wanted, however we wanted to. Twice (two time!) during the painting session the painter behind me stepped back to look at her work and bumped me. As luck would have it, each time my brush left a mark on my canvas. In each case, I decided to leave the marks, one an unintended application of paint, the other the disruption of an edge. In both cases, I knew I could use them to advantage. (The klutz, by the way, finally turned her easel so she wouldn’t back into me.) I can tell you that the painting was better with those two accidents than without. I might not have done, what was done for me.When I was finished with the painting I was asked to sign it and offer it in a local sponsoring gallery, which I did. Was that wrong? I don’t really see it, but I have to say that there was this other contribution, and that the workshop instructor did pick out the river as a location. I don’t feel like a phoney. (The painting, by the way, never sold. But I think that’s because it was a picture of a river snag of branches, not because of quality.)

From: Mary Lou Fenton — Nov 16, 2010

Jaye, I really love your work No matter what that copycat does, it can’t possibly outshine yours! I agree, too, with Robert Genn, that your versatility will definitely ensure your success!

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Serene Sails

acrylic painting by Michele Mastrangelo, NJ, USA

  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 Andrea Holbrook of North Andover, MA, USA, who wrote, “The reason such work is excluded is to prevent 10 similar paintings in the show and eliminating paintings that are greatly influenced or painted in part by the instructor.” And also Jason Blundell, who wrote, “What a bunch of uptight twits.”    

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