When Art Lecturers Don’t Show Their Portfolio

It’s always strange to me, in my course of an art education, how many lecturers show their work and how many do not.

I always thought that as a art lecturer, no matter what/how many diploma, degree, masters you have, you have to show your work to your students to gain their respect and acknowledgement.

Not just rely on the paper qualification or the fact that you got the position to prove you deserve that position or respect as an art teacher.

You might think that perhaps, these students do not have a critical eye for art yet and perhaps perceive your art as not as good as it actually is (I guess…?), they won’t be able to appreciate it and thus lose their respect of you as a student of yours.

I think that at that point of time showing your art to them will let them start training their critical eye more, they will be able to look at your work and see that this is the standard of a lecturer’s work, this is the watermark.

Or they can totally not like your style and work and not listen to you during class, that’s still a valid possible effect of doing so.

I have had about an equal amount of art lecturers who showcase their portfolio/ artwork to the class and those who did not.

Those who always put their art forward and let us judge it for ourselves has always been a better lecturer than those that don’t, in my experience.

Some had no choice but to show it as part of their skill with a software because they are teaching that software to us.

Some were decrying all our art as something that their 5 year old son could do better than. However, they themselves have never shown a shred of their own work for us to judge for ourselves.

Some showed their hard-copy portfolio out of our own asking/curiosity about it, some even had their own personal public web-comic/website totally Google-able and accessible to anyone. You can even show it to your parents and say that’s your lecturer’s work. Look at who I am learning from.

A lot of students tend take things at face value and go “Oh if they got that position as a lecturer, they must deserve it.” and hence there’s no need to question and check their work.

I think once you start having bad lecturers or you start to realize that they are not that good. You will start to also develop a critical eye/thinking for yourself too and question the question “How are you allowed to teach anything?”

There are intriguing exceptional cases where like Carlos Duran, John Singer Sargent said that Carlos couldn’t do it himself (paint a certain way) but he could teach how to do it to other people and enable them to do it themselves, which is an interesting facet of being a teacher as well, almost like an athlete coach style of pushing your students to be better than yourself.

I, myself believe in art educators and teachers of an adult level, showing their work to their students to let them judge for themselves.

This belief also benefits the teacher, it personally leads to me wanting to improve my own art till it’s a level that is suitable for a lecturer.

I don’t want it to be the case where theory outstrips performance. Like Leonardo da Vinci said before “The supreme misfortune is when theory outstrips performance.” and that has truth to it too.

This belief also constantly ensures that you as a lecturer is constantly sharpening your own craft and ensure you don’t get stagnant from just purely teaching your subject. Not growing yourself and learning more is bad form for a teacher.

If you want to read more about art education, I have these articles written here:

Artist Etiquette Crash Course

Art School or Not Singaporean Edition

Drawing From Imagination : 5 Exercises to Build Your Drawing Memory/Reference Bank

If you liked what you read, please consider supporting me on Patreon (monthly) or ko-fi (one time donations).

Stay safe~!
JR

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