Teaching Philosophy

Teaching art and design is a uniquely problematic endeavor, how does one teach a person to be creative, to be an artist? Can this be taught at all? It’s a complex issue, but I think that, in as much as it can be done, the best way is by example, and this requires one on one tutoring. The most important part of all my classes is when the teacher and the student work together to tackle a creative challenge initiated by the student. While I make it clear to all my students that it is important that they present a personal response to each assignment, I also explain that the final work that they will create will not be purely “their” work, in fact these are educational exercises and the result will be a collaboration, to varying degrees, between the student and the teacher. In addition to this individual work all of my classes include group work that emphasizes the importance of discourse and knowledge of past and present practice in the field. In this respect class discussions are important, centered around critique of assignments as well as other class activities, for instance: slide presentations, field trips; assigned reading and research projects. Where appropriate other questions and ideas related to the class are discussed. These might include the question of what determines the value of a work of art, social issues raised by work made in class, the responsibilities of the artist in society; the relationships between art and craft or between visual imagery and verbal expression.

As a teacher of art and design I have three goals. The first is to provide my students with the necessary technical skills and knowledge of materials. Students should gain an understanding of the full range of possibilities offered by the media covered by the class, together with a skill set of techniques for achieving their aesthetic goals. This aspect of my teaching addresses the concept of “craftsmanship”, and it raises a number of questions; how is craftsmanship defined, is it important? From my experience of teaching both digital and traditional classes I feel that the issue of craftsmanship is just as relevant to digital media as it is to traditional forms. I teach students that craft is an issue that can not be avoided, whilst stressing that all issues of media should always be secondary to the conceptual under-structure of the work. This is particularly relevant to artists and students working with digital media at this point in history. As with all new forms the specifics of the new possibilities offered by technology can easily over shadow the question of content; the medium becomes an end in itself. With this in mind I think that when teaching in the digital context it is particularly important to focus the attention of my students on the larger picture, the work of art that they are creating, and that any studio program that emphasizes digital media should do the same.

My second goal as a teacher is to introduce my students to the idea of visual analysis, both with regards to their own work and that of others. Students are taught a number of aesthetic systems of analysis with which to judge their work in visual terms, for instance: the analysis of visual components; the analysis of composition; the analysis of color theory; the elements and principles of design.

Once these two areas have been dealt with we move beyond purely aesthetic questions; students are introduced to the critical analysis of their own and other’s work, and learn to apply this analysis to their future work. They learn to think carefully about all decisions they make with regard to materials and technique and to relate these decisions to a historical and theoretical context. Most importantly they learn to formulate conceptual objectives for their artwork; as far as the class is concerned their work will be judged according to these goals that they have set for themselves. While the class assignments provide a general starting point, I emphasize that their work should above all else be personal, and that the process of actually creating the work can teach them something that they didn’t know when they started. The piece that they planned to make will inevitably have been changed by events during the course of it’s physical realization, when this happens their work is talking back to them, so one piece will lead to the next. My goal here is initiate an on going body of work that is both an expression and a means for development of their ideas and interests. This is how art can become a part of their lives, and this is the first step towards becoming an artist.

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