Every time I get a new batch of students, I am aware that they may be scarred. Most of them look guarded upon entry into the classroom. They shuffle to their seats and cringe when I tell them to loosen up and focus. I really mean for them to learn how to look. To use their eyes and let go of their mental need to label and symbolize everything they see. The art will follow if they are even a little bit curious. Yet they start off too poised, too tired, too distracted and stressed to be genuinely curious.
I know they might have been told that they aren't good enough, or they shouldn't even try because they will surely fail, or that they haven't a creative bone in their body... I have heard it all. I have even heard about an art teacher who ripped up their picture over the trash can, (this happened to my son), in front of the whole class.
We all have work to do to silence the critics and be as powerful as we are meant to be. I love my old art teachers. They encouraged me and gave me the tools to express myself. When I was in third grade I was given the honor of painting the Christmas tree on a large holiday mural for the classroom. We were living in Haiti with tropical plants galore, but I painted a zig-zag caricature of a pine tree, filling it in with a solid green. I have never forgotten the moment...as I stepped back and stood next to my teacher to admire the work, when she leaned towards me and said, "you really can't paint trees, can you!?" My mind blurs on the memory right after...how bad was it? I really can't tell you. Maybe it was the brush stroke direction? I think I was hoping for texture... but I don't know.
That moment has lived on and haunted my every attempt at a landscape. It is 47 years later and ... I love trees, but I don't think I can paint them very well.