Teaching Artist Workshop

I’ve developed this page as a resource for a workshop for teaching artists at Provincetown Art Association and Museum offered in March 2022. The resources are specific to my teaching practice and don’t speak to the full range of practices we’ll explore  in the workshop. The page will develop over time. If you use these resources in your own teaching, please credit me.

Preface: My Assumptions

When I teach in art center contexts — like PAAM, Fine Arts Work Center, and Truro Center for the Arts — I expect that the learners in workshops will arrive with: 1.) expectations about and aspirations for the workshop and 2.) a wide range of skill and experience with painting. I feel strongly that my role as an educator is not to ask these learners to painting more like, but rather that it’s my responsibility to help them paint more like themselves. This means I minimize demonstrations and emphasize individualized instruction. My goals and aspirations for every workshop I offer are threefold: 1.) learners received the support they need; 2.) every participant leaves the workshop with deeper insight into their painting practices; and 3.) everyone feels ‘fueled’ and excited to continue painting after the workshop.

I’m a progressive educator, meaning that I believe education should put innate curiosity, learner responsibility, and critical thinking at the center of an inquiry process. While people define Progressive Education in a number of ways, certain qualities distinguishing it from standards-based methods more widely practiced in the United States. These qualities define a method of learning that is aligned with processes of creating knowledge, not just retaining knowledge created by others. In my view, Progressive Education is:

  • Holistic: Learners and their environments are elements of complex and interdependent systems.
  • Relational: Learning to be a social process and powerfully pursued in relation to others.
  • Collaborative: It encourages learning in groups, with an emphasis on all members bringing individual contributions to a collective endeavor.
  • Ethically Engaged: It understands the ways that learning is connected to life, and that learning has a responsibility to be integrated with social concerns.
  • Intrinsically Motivated: It sees the student not as someone who needs to be told to learn or what to learn, but as a person who is drawn to certain questions and problems and has both the capacity and desire to learn.
  • Depth and Rigor: Progressive Education is not concerned with reciting facts established by sources. Instead it encourages learning that explores questions and problems from many angles, with an intention of advancing knowledge and creating new understanding.
  • Active: Progressive Education understands that learning is an embodied practice and encourages learners to uses a variety of learning styles. In all cases, it believes that knowledge is not something that is passively received, but something that is actively sought.
  • Respectful: Progressive Education establishes learning contexts that acknowledge and affirm the full humanity, beliefs, and needs of learners and teachers, while asking learners and teachers to investigate personal values and assumptions in a process of clarifying, negating, and affirming belief.
  • Resists Conformity and Standardization: Progressive Education affirms the particularity and distinctive qualities, needs and learning goals of each student. Through a learning process that is aligned with a student’s lived context, it expects that rigorous learning will look different for each student.

I offer this lengthy definition of Progressive Education not to suggest that everyone needs to adhere to this model of teaching and learning, but to suggest that it’s important to reflect upon the theory or theories of learning that you’re carrying into your workshops.

Creating a Workshop:

A few things to consider when you’re creating a workshop:

  • What’s Your Point of View: What’s the workshop about? Is there a theme? What will inspire excitement in potential learners?
  • Are there particular activities that you’ll be facilitating? Will there be a live model? Is it en plein aire? Are you expecting people will do color studies?
  • How will the days be structured?
  • What outcomes should students expect? Will there be a certain number of artworks created?
  • What materials will they need? Is it a painting workshop that invites a range of media? Is it a watercolor workshop?
  • Who are you?

Here’s an example of a recent workshop description I developed: 

Painting Between Place & Memory

5 December and 12 December, 11 AM – 5 PM ET

Richard Diebenkorn once said that every painting starts with a feeling. In my view feeling comes from the totality of our experience of a place or thing — fieldwork research, memory and a full range of sensory experience. Direct, spontaneous picture making (painting, drawing, photography) allows a painter to capture something ephemeral and unexpected, and slower work in the studio provides space for considered composition. 

This workshop will use Zoom for two six-hour Saturday sessions. The first Saturday is focused on learning from several artists working in dialogue with the workshop’s theme. Using prompts drawn from these artists’ work, we’ll engage their thinking in our picture making. During the week, participants will be encouraged to continue working on their own (as time allows) and everyone will schedule an individual consultation with the instructor. The following Saturday is focused on more consideration of artists relevant to the workshop, continued studio work, and a final group review.

Workshop participants don’t need to have a studio, but should have a workspace (inside or outside) that has internet access or data access for an on-going Zoom call (computer or phone). The course is open to artists of all levels, who are interested in oil painting, acrylic painting, or multimedia approaches. Ideally you should have some familiarity with the materials with which you choose to work as material demonstrations are somewhat ineffective over Zoom.

Pete Hocking is a visual artist & writer. In addition to being represented by Four Eleven Gallery in Provincetown, he’s recently shown at the Chazan Gallery in Providence, RI, The Dorado Project in Jersey City, NJ, the Plough Gallery in Tifton, GA, and at VeeVee in Boston, MA. In 2019 he was artist-in-residence with Twenty Summers. He’s faculty in Goddard College’s MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts program and teaches at Rhode Island School of Design. He’s a founding board member of Provincetown Commons. 

Welcoming People to the Workshop:

Prior to every workshop I offer, I send a welcoming email that has several pieces of information:

  • When and Where we’ll meet.
  • Reflection on my excitement about the workshop.
  • Agenda for the first day (and sometimes the whole week).
  • My teaching philosophy in a nutshell
  • Resources: I’ve developed a series of artist resource webpages, including an introduction to painting. These help me shape the thee of workshops and also provide useful images and resources on contemporary artists for learners.
  • Contact information.

Here’s an example of a welcome mail to participants in a recent workshop:

Hi friends, 

I’m looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at 11 AM ET for Identity & Experience: Painting Our Lives. This note is intended to get us started. The login for our Zoom session is at the bottom of this email.

I’m excited about this workshop because it allows us to explore the content of our artwork by considering what we value. The anthropologist Ellen Dissanyake defines art as a process of ‘making special that which is important.’ I take this to mean that we focus attention on what we value through the art we make. While I wrote the workshop description as focused on landscape, portraiture or still life, I don’t want to be limiting. In my presentation tomorrow, I’ll be looking at painting through a few lenses, including the spiritual, the embodied, documentary, and relationship. I encourage you to work in whatever way allows you to explore and convey what you value.

Here’s is an agenda to get us started. We may make some shifts according to the group’s needs.

Tomorrow’s Agenda:  

  • 11 AM — Welcome and Introductions
  • 11:45 AM — Slideshow: Painting Our Lives 
  • 1:15 – 3:15 PM — Studio Time
  • 3:30 – 5 PM — Review and Discussion

For those who haven’t worked with me before, I want to say a few words about how I teach. In addition to offering presentations and facilitating discussions, I’ll be working in parallel with you, and I’m happy to do demonstrations if the group would like them. I don’t see my role as teaching you to paint like me, but rather as helping you develop your voice as a painter. With this in mind, I tend to work individually with each workshop participant. So on the first day, in your introduction, I’ll be asking you about goals and aspirations — and trying to offer feedback and resources throughout the week that serve your goals. On Monday, I’ll be reaching out to all of you to set up a one-to-one meeting during the week. 

I’m sending a few resource pages that I’ve developed for workshops. These aren’t ‘homework,’ but rather I mean to offer touch points for our conversations. Use them as you like and at your convenience. For those who’ve worked with me before, some of these resource pages are familiar. I plan to show the work of some other artists tomorrow — and I’m very excited about some of them!  

Basic Painting Resource: 

Artist Resources

My email is phocking@gmail.com and if you need to connect faster I suggest you  text me at 401-272-7248.

I’ll be starting the Zoom session about ten minutes before 11 and will start the workshop by 11:05. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

Cheers, Pete

TALKING ABOUT ART 

This is a handout I’ve prepared for workshops on leading feedback sessions with artists. I offer it for considering question in your creative practice, and also as a framework for talking about your creative work through our packet dialogue—and for framing questions about your work.

Talking with art students, I find that there are often eager to seek personal affirmation through the objects they produce. In other cases they don’t feel like their work is being taken seriously unless it is harshly criticized. While I understand that showing one’s work and receiving feedback is fraught, I don’t believe that talking to the artworks serves the development of the artist.  Engaging the artist in a conversation about their work—both in terms of process and products—can help them become more effective advocates for their own success and the development of their work. In short, if we attend to the development of the artist, the quality of the artwork will follow.  In my own approach to talking about art, I explore the following lines of inquiry:

INTENTION: What is the starting place of the artwork? Why was it made? What aspirations does it reveal? Why do we make art?  What’s our goal? Can we name this goal or are we inhibited from speaking our truth? The identity of “the artist” is seductive – redolent with cultural meaning and power.  However, our work must be focused on intentions beyond our egos. How do we name our intentions in words and actions?

CONTEXT: In what context (intellectual, social, spiritual, historical, philosophical, artistic, embodied, et cetera) does the artwork reside? Does it demonstrate an awareness of the context it’s engaging? Is the artist naive regarding any context it reveals? We don’t make work in a vacuum.  We live in multiple systems of thinking – some of which are conscious and some that remain invisible to us.  Understanding the dynamic that exists between your work and ways it will be seen is important.  This means thinking about the context in which you wish to be seen.  Who is your intended audience? To whom will those viewing your work compare you?  Are these comparisons welcomed or are they troubling? Are you making choices that will place your work where you feel it should be?

CRAFT AND EXPERIMENTATION: Artists make things, and the manifestation of those things is sometimes a question of craft. Is what we make effective in expressing our ideas? Is the quality of our labor meeting our intentions for the artwork? Are we simply reproducing the ideas and craft of others?  

AUDIENCE: Who is the intended audience? Is the work accessible to its audience? Does the work engage the audience in their own experience, in conversation, or the construction of new meaning? Does the work alienate potential audience?

MEANING: Does the work construct meaning? Is the meaning intellectual, emotional, embodied, spiritual, et cetera? Remember, meaning isn’t inherent in experience; meaning is what we make from experience. Does the artwork help a viewer construct meaning for an experience of it?

EFFECTIVENESS: Does the work meet its intentions? Does it provoke questions? Are we inviting conversation and engagement? Has it made an intervention? Does it bring solace? Might it engage joy? Does it matter?

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