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Some professors/instructors never let on whether they think you're a lost cause
or someone to respect... in my case, I attended an art school in New York City
in the early '80s. My critiques were the whole class variety--teacher
facilitated discussions as to whether or not we met our objectives...everyone's
work hanging on the wall and each piece discussed one by one. These were civil
and tame experiences for the most part, which basically taught us how to THINK.
Anything harsh was purely the result of some 18-25 year old's lack of basic
communication skills rather than malice.
In my 3rd year, I took a painting class from a teacher who was supposedly
brutal, but from whom I would supposedly learn a lot. I began the class with
much trepidation. I had worked with other artists who experienced the pot
breaking, demoralizing, stifling critiques we've been reading about and expected
I would be crushed in this class. I thought I was "due for the inevitable" so I
The teacher was impatient and rude, but not necessarily brutal. I realized I
might be able to handle whatever he dished up, but after a couple of classes
where I didn't get any feedback, I asked him (timidly) to look at my painting
and offer me some. From that initial interchange I somehow ended up doing pastel
drawings of the cityscapes out the window (similar to what I was doing on my
own) while the rest of the class did figurative oil painting. We were all
illustration majors (anything even remotely "commercial" at a fine arts
institution is a bottom of the barrel choice, by the way--apparently similar to
art education majors, from what I've been reading, although that major wasn't
Suddenly, I seemed to be in independent study, and he never gave me feedback.
When I worked up the nerve again and asked for it (also mentioning how hard it
was to work in the darkened room where only the model was lit), he told me where
I could get spotlights. (Everyone seemed to be painting in the dark; I was
drawing out the window.) A few weeks later I again requested feedback and he
said, "I'm not worried about you. Just work. You'll be fine." Maybe I needed to
be clearer about what I was looking for, but I certainly wasn't getting anything
I will never know if he was writing me off or if he truly "wasn't worried" about
me. (I'm curious about what Lauren will say regarding her similar experience.) I
wish I could remember how I ended up drawing in his painting class. I ended up
completing my BFA through a self-designed independent study program, trying to
bridge between "fine" art (drawing and painting) and "commerical" art
(illustration, which was drawing and painting too). I ended up not receiving
critiques (or career development, for that matter) from faculty in either
department (fine arts vs. illustration) since I was working my own program....
did I just fall through the cracks and did they believe in my objectives or were
they writing me off? I don't think I'll ever know.