Teaching has re-entered my life after twelve years or so, and I'm happy about it--I'm enjoying it much more than I did in the past when I taught mostly in an academic setting.
I've been thinking about my workshops--specific things like where and when to schedule them, and what to include in the allotted time--but bigger questions too. Like why do I want to teach and how much of my time and focus to devote to it?
The "why" question--well, I get paid of course, and enough to make it worth my time. But it's really not about money--I want to keep things affordable, so I don't make a huge amount. Traveling to places like the San Francisco Bay Area (where I'm heading tomorrow) is a great perk, but I'm also happy with places that lack so much allure, and also to teach in my own studio. So--it's not about jet-setting (though, OK, that does thrill me a bit!)
Curiosity comes into it--a feeling of discovery. It's so interesting to watch what happens when each artist's personal vision mixes with the techniques I teach. I haven't taught very many students yet, but I believe each so far has left the workshop ready to take off in his or her own direction.
But here's the biggest reason "why" ...for years I've wondered if a life centered around painting and selling paintings might be just a wee bit self-centered. Yes the art itself contributes to the world, and apparently I have to do it or suffer extreme anguish (!) Not much choice there.
But especially since entering my 50s I've wanted to contribute something more, and to connect with other artists in a constructive manner. Teaching workshops seems to be a way to do that, to gather up a lot of things I've learned and developed and pass them along. The perk for me is to be in the presence of other artists for a few days, with everyone focused on painting, intensely in the moment and doing what they love. It's very rewarding.
As for how much time and focus to devote to teaching...I'm just feeling this out as I go along. Teaching is definitely a parallel activity, important in its own right, but I can't let it distract me away from painting. The right number seems to be about 4 or 5 outside workshops a year, and a few in my own studio, depending on the number of interested artists. I have also learned the difference between signing on with a well established art-workshop venue, and working things out with someone who wants me to come to a particular area but is starting from scratch. The former is easy, the latter more time-consuming, but in some ways more rewarding--and I remain open to all of it. I've met wonderful people in both kinds of situations. Suggestions from readers for future workshop locations are welcome, and anyone who wants to do the ground work to set things up can probably convince me to go anywhere!
Last weekend was my first in-studio one day workshop, where I took the photo above. Two of the participants were close friends, another was my former painting teacher from college (what an honor to have him in my class...) and the fourth was from Tucson, AZ. She was in the area visiting her sister--and it was her emailed request a few months ago to spend time in my studio that launched the idea of having a small workshop here.