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"Every good painter paints what he is."--Jackson Pollock

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Creating, Teaching, Sharing and Controversy

Flowers in alcohol inks on Yumo paper
I am coming to the end of nearly a week at CREATE in Chicago---a learning experience for me, in more ways than one. My friend, Debbie and I chose CREATE as our annual art retreat together because Donna Downey is no longer hosting Inspired as an annual retreat, and the dates for CREATE worked for both of us. As I perused the class selections, I chose carefully, registering for classes that I  thought would offer me new techniques that I could incorporate into my encaustic work in some way.

I learned everything from painting with alcohol inks, to soldering with torches, to new journal-making techniques and even worked with leather and metal stamping. I walked away from nearly every class with a new idea I could apply to my work at Encaustication. I was feeling really good about my experience right up until one of my instructors decided to get up on a soapbox at the end of one of my classes and make a very self-centered speech about stealing from other artists. It seems that this artist is perfectly happy teaching new techniques to fellow artists (and getting paid to do so), but is not okay with these  techniques being used in others' work, or being taught by anyone else. Now, why in the world would I pay top dollar to learn techniques that I can't use or incorporate into my own work? If I were to master a particular technique, why would it be unacceptable for me to teach it, simply because someone else taught it to me? Haven't we all learned from our teachers, mentors, and fellow artists in one way or another? Very few ideas are novel ones---but if we do take one of our "ah-ha" moments and go out and share it with others AND profit from sharing it, why in the world would we accuse someone of theft when they began to use or share the very idea they had paid us to learn? Food for thought....if you feel you have something "special", then go out and trademark it, or patent it----don't TEACH it, earn money from teaching it, and expect your students to simply Ooooo and ahhhh over it, without actually using it!

On the flip side, I had a wonderful experience with a different instructor who took the time at the end of class to encourage everyone to sell their work as artists. This instructor was the polar opposite of the previously mentioned instructor. This teacher was inspiring, encouraging, and shared ideas and resources that were above and beyond the class description. That's the very definition of a mentor, and I'm proud to call myself her colleague.

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