How Indian art teachers are different from their American counterparts?
(Part 1 of 3)
(Note: This article is based on my limited exposure to the world of art and interaction with teachers in the two countries. I admit it does not represent the universe and someone else’s perspective could be far from what I have narrated here. Use of “She” is just to avoid mentioning both the genders)
The casual Indian approach to everything in life permeates to the world of art as well. This is what I experienced while taking guidance from art teachers in India and America. My observations are narrated under the following topics.
- Supply list
- Specifications of supplies
- Explaining the technique
- Critiquing the works
- Explaining while demonstrating
- Painting by students
- Supply list:
An art teacher in the US would list out the items that a student must possess while coming to the class. It would be a printed document with no scope for ambiguity. An Indian teacher would verbalize and keep changing the list each time she talks to a student with the result that the student is invariably ill prepared to paint.
Here are 2 pages of supply list that the Berkeley based American Watercolorist & teacher Julie Cohn provides to the students.
American Watercolorist & teacher Julie Cohn’s supply list page 1/2
American Watercolorist and teacher Julie Cohn’s supply list page 2/2
- Specifications of supplies:
An art teacher in the US would specify each item so that the list of supplies is not only complete it is of specifications suitable for the painting exercise that is intended.
Take the case of paper – the most important constituent of a watercolor painting. She would specify the watercolor paper in entirety – the size (22’x30” or….), the weight per square meter (300gsm or….), the finish (cold pressed, hot pressed, fine, rough or…), the brand (Arches, Fabriano, or…), and the configuration (loose, block pad or….). A teacher in India would either not even know the details of the paper and which type is used in which case; or she would hesitate to share the knowledge with the students. I have seen students in India using bond paper or cartridge paper for watercolor painting. No wonder they feel frustrated with results and give up too soon.
Coming to the brushes, a teacher in the US would prescribe what size, what shape, what length, what hair and what brands. A teacher in India would harp on Sable hairbrush without realizing that its price is just impossible to afford and moreover, the fact that Sable hair is not available as it is banned.
Next come the paints. An Indian teacher wouldn’t know or talk about the color fastness, the meaning of different series, the degree of transparency of different watercolors and how to deploy that property. Even the list would be incomplete.
Then comes the water for painting. I have seen students in India using a tiny, flimsy, and dirty container for watercolor painting, whereas one should be having at least a 1.5 liter pail. My teacher in America would recommend not one but two pails, one for cleaning and another for taking fresh clean water.
3. Explaining the technique
My American Watercolorist teacher Julie Cohn would explain how to stretch the paper for good results. She would explain how to mix the colors on the palette or onto the paper and with what results. The chemistry of paper wetness and the paint dilution would be taught by actual demonstration. She would explain the use of warm and the cool colors, what colors to mix to obtain different shades of water & its stillness, and the human skin, or the clouds, or the human hair. She would explain the use of hair dryer, the use of different types of masking materials, the spray bottle, the use of Mr. Clean for wiping out the colors, the use of tissue paper, the sponge, and the rag. The list is long.
In India I have seen watercolor students struggling with loosely held sheets of thin paper on the table itself, making puddles of water, using too thin brushes, applying layers without drying the previous layer and so on. The results are frustrating and students give up on watercolors too soon.
The reader may like to visit
to know more about Julie Cohn, the Berkely based American Watercolorist and teacher.
(To be continued in next blog)