Something I always tell my students, and have told them over my many years of teaching, is that in no way am I anymore talented than they are, and I mean it. Visual art is special in that there are no short cuts. It's a multitude of failures that open the door to those small epiphanies  that begin to reveal an understanding of the creative process, of how you fit within that process, and how you cultivate yourself through the years of experimentation, creation, failures, and hopefully a few successes along the way.

Some of the biggest hurdles for students tend to fall into the categories of value, edge control, proportions and composition. There are always anomalies, people that figure stuff out on the first go, have prior experience coming in, or simply just "get it" and things click into place after a few demonstrations. When it comes to these issues though, I believe the obstacle that truly holds a student back is fear. Ironically, when you assign the phrase "final project" or "finished piece" in any form prior to the execution of a new challenge for a student, they freak out!

I find it such a wonderful learning experience to look around a classroom of students who are all working towards a finished piece and visually problem solve in my head the issues that exist. As I walk around looking at the art, my critical mind begins to break down the problems and find visual solutions. Use this pencil here, add more value there, create a softer transition here, or emphasize a hard edge there. What I've come to realize is for myself is that my own fear has subsided in lieu of experience. If I pick up a large chunk of thick black charcoal and dramatically swipe across a student's image to emphasize a dark value or "push" a gray to black, the initial reaction is a minor freak out. But over the semester I've hopefully earned their trust and they know I have their best interests in mind. They step back, look at the change I make and the open mouthed freak-out face becomes a smile, a small epiphany moment. As the response switches from fear and anxiety to that Oprah "aha" moment, I realize that I am not teaching them how to draw, I am teaching them how to trust themselves, to trust their instinct and their education, and set aside their fear. The amazing thing is that it's been something they have been teaching me all along as well.