How Indian art teachers are different from their American counterparts?(Part 3 of 3)
(Note: As I said earlier, the blogs in this series of 3 are based on my limited exposure to the world of art and interaction with teachers in the two countries. I admit these do 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)
In earlier Blogs (Part 1 and part 2 read below this blog) I had compared the teaching styles of American and Indian art teachers with regard to the “Supply list”, “Specifications of supplies”, “Explaining the technique”, “Critiquing the works”, “Demonstrating”, and “Explaining while demonstrating”.
After the 2nd Blog was published on the 25th July, I received several comments. Among those who agreed, one was quite bitter with the Indian style of teaching. Two even went to the extent of expressing that some day they would like to take lessons from North American teachers. Another respondent narrated her pathetic Golf learning experience in India, drawing analogy with teaching of art in India. Some one else wrote back and compared art teaching status with teaching of all the sports (tennis, table tennis, swimming….) in India. One person wrote back asking if in art colleges, isn’t collective analysis of each others’ art done by the pupils? I have no answer but I am sure some artists should respond to this question.
One artist wrote back “I feel that Indian teachers are hesitant to share their knowledge, they feel it some how diminishes the “aura ” around them. They may, at times, throw our some nuggets of information, which one has to be smart enough to pick up and understand and use it effectively thereafter. I find Indians very “protective” of their art work and they tend to take critique very personally. Perhaps that is the reason we do not see much open discussion about a work in class from the colleagues and teachers in a public forum.”
However, there was one artist who differed and said one eminent Indian teacher believes in students learning by observation rather than verbalization during her demonstration. She has a point ….up to a point though.
In this concluding Blog (Part 3 of 3) I shall narrate my observations under point 7-Cleanliness and point 8-Painting by students.
The general culture of cleanliness that one experiences in all aspects of society in other countries, can be noticed in the field of art as well. The classes that I attended in the US had dust free, neatly laid out work places like the picture below. For Watercolorists, there was tissue roll, a sponge, 3 pails of clean water, a slanting board to fix Watercolor paper, a brush holding mug and so on….for every student.
The picture above is the workplace of a student in American Watercolorist Julie Cohn’sclass. One can see 3 largish water pots before each student. One for washing brushes with warm colors, one for cool colors and the third for taking clean water.
Over and above that, the artist has either a spray bottle or an ordinary squeeze bottle for adding absolutely clean water on the palette. I have both. See picture below.
Spray bottle (left), Squeeze bottle (right)-both for absolutely clean water
The students are expected to clean up the place at the end of the class and even fill the 3 waterpots with clean water for the next class. Students are taught how to clean the waterbrushes and even shampoo those with special soap to prolong their life.
See picture below of Cheapjoes’ Brush Cleaner Soap.
Use of Mr. Clean/Total Home (branded cleaning sponges) is taught for removing the unwanted watercolor from the paper for obtaining almost original whiteness and transparency of the sheet, a practice never seen in India.
See picture below of Total Home carton and the sponge
In comparison, the class rooms-that I have seen-in India are dirty and untidy. One can see cobwebs all around, notice dust on the tables, easels, and the chairs that the students use. The chairs are rickety, easels do not have pegs, sometimes the lights do not work, wash sink is choked…the list is long. And the pity is that the teachers as well as the students are reconciled with the state of affairs. Even an art school run by an eminent artist wasn’t an exception.
Cleanliness leads not only to better ambience for producing art, the art itself comes out clean, transparent, and more presentable. This leads to better customer appeal.
8. Painting by students
Some teachers that I have seen in India rarely observe minutely the way the student is painting. They hardly walk up to the student’s workplace to check…….isn’t the brush too thin, isn’t the waterpot too small, isn’t the water on the paper too meagre or too much, isn’t the water too dirty, isn’t the paper too thin, isn’t the color mix too watery, isn’t the next layer being applied too early, isn’t the paper properly fixed on board to prevent cockling, is the student using cello tape or the masking tape for fixing the paper on the board? The list is endless…and many teachers do not pay any attention to how the student is painting. The student ends up picking up wrong practices, or no consistent basic technique.
The reasons for this lackadaisical approach in Indian teaching are many. Insufficient knowledge, low committment towards students, inability to communicate, or perhaps (hope not) unwillingness to share. I also find that in India the teachers themselves are not reading and learning any further beyond what they have read and learnt in their academic life. In modern times, there are innumerable ways of learning by reading books, manufacturer’s (art material) literature, watching videos on the web and so on. These opportunities are hardly being utilized.
I have known some exceptions among Indian teachers who read, watch, and learn. But they need to improve their ranking on many other aspects of teaching.
Dear readers, in these three blogs I have been critical of Indian art teachers and have admired their American counterparts with regard to 8 aspects of teaching. I must now add the 9th aspect and that is of Abstracting.
I observed that the American art teachers that I interacted with were painting and teaching more realistic styles. They were rarely delving into Abstraction. The Indian teachers that I came across were able to delve and think more creatively on Abstract side. They were able to visualize and guide their students into unique and interesting compositions. They were also venturing into gradual evolution of the composition, sometimes even altering the approach midway.
I must add one more observation and that is of time consciousness among American teachers. They value (monetize) their time and keep a clock in front with alarm set to know when the class should end. Like for any engagement with teachers in American society, the charges are hourly and the art community is no exception. On this account I like the Indian teachers who usually are willing to stretch the time a little bit at students’ request.
I consider myself fortunate in getting trained under American as well as Indian art teachers. On 8 points, where the American teachers were good, I learnt from them. On the 9th point of Abstraction, in which the Indian art teachers excelled, I learnt from them.
Watercolor Societies/Associations ( regional as well as national) are quite common in America. They conduct monthly free demonstrations /paid workshops for imparting education in watercolor painting. Similar trend has started in India in couple of ways (Watercolor Society of India is one of them) . I wish them bright future and success.
It is my sincere wish that after reading my blogs, the art teachers in both countires would make up in areas in which they are lacking. That would be a great advancement in art teaching in America as well as in India.
With this blog, the 3 blog series “How Indian art teachers are different from their American counterparts?” gets concluded.
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