Art college professors with mediocre work?
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    Art college professors with mediocre work?

    I was signing up for some classes at an art college and I couldn't but notice that a lot of the teachers there have really mediocre work. I started to look at other places too, just out of curiousity, and it seems like a lot of big art institutions have a bunch of teachers that really aren't so good.

    Maybe its just me but do you guys that go/went to art school notice this a lot too?

    Last edited by Saraiva; August 14th, 2011 at 03:34 AM.
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    I go to Qantm College and it's common practice there to employ their own graduates in the year after they graduate. I think it's because:

    1. Younger applicants can be paid less,
    2. people who aren't good enough for the industry fall back on something like teaching, with the exception of those who genuinely really really want to be teachers of art. (There are some amazing, amazing lecturers and tutors out there that I know who do this, but there are also some tutors who can teach theory, but don't cope very well in practice.)

    The clue that you need to tell that is the teachers that actively question the business practices of the school or college are the ones you want to listen to, because 9 times out of ten they know that the courses that are written by the business entrepreneurs are not quite right for the industry they're targeting, or have missing information or are older programs written for 3DS max 2006, just as an example.

    3. Younger tutors that just stay quiet and do what they have to do are often the young ones who aren't experienced enough to understand more about the industry than the course managers or administration, because having teachers that know more than admin creates headaches for admin and for that reason I feel like I'm seeing less and less of them being employed. Same goes for high school teachers in my country as well.

    I even shared a course with someone who's employed to mind the open labs now.

    Anyway. Take what I say with a grain of salt because even though my grammar and punctuation are up to scratch I still have a few drinks of bourbon in me so I may be more opinionated than usual.

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    "Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach." (Those who cannot teach, become managers...)

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    I've always thought it to be more because those people wanted more to be teachers rather than artists.

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    I expected better of you Arenhaus. Send that quote to the TAD guys. That's an old quote, while true in man cases, cannot be used to generalize. I teach full time and run an illustration program and see if I can't do.

    Having gotten that horrible generalization out of my system, because I teach I find that all too often profs suck at what they do. It's part system, part doorway into teaching. Tenure is a great system for those who do research but bad because mediocre teachers can hide or get lazy. The people hiring new teachers are the old teachers. I have seen actual cases of not hiring the best person, using verbal dexterity to justify the selection of course, because the status quo might be threatened. How would you like it if you were average or below and really good people started popping up all around you? You might actually have to work or think.

    The sad fact is that there are an awful lot of teachers out there whose work is bad and are horrible teachers. The funny thing is that there are teachers out there whose work is bad or average and are still great teachers.

    Sorry I just had to respond to that baby and the bath water quote. For every teacher whose work is good or great we could probably list at least twice as many whose work is mediocre or bad. It just happens that I am here so I will respond to every "those who can" remark that I run across.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arenhaus View Post
    "Those who can, do. Those who cannot, teach." (Those who cannot teach, become managers...)


    That out of the way, there's a lot of teachers who are fairly incompetent. It's been that way with all of my art teachers except two, but those two have impressed the hell out of me with their passion for what they do.
    edit: With this "incompetent" I mean people who have no right to be teaching because they just don't know shit about teaching someone. Of course there's teachers whose work is not up to scratch but who really know how to teach people what they need. It's just hard finding them, at least I haven't yet met any personally.

    Last edited by Kjesta; August 14th, 2011 at 03:56 PM.


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    Sturgeon's Law.
    Do your research (it's easier now than it ever was in the pre-internet days). Check out teachers, both their own work and the work that comes out of their classes. There are people who are mediocre artists but fantastic teachers, and people who get hired because they are art stars but have no teaching ability at all. Also, remember that the entire field is grossly overpopulated. The percentage of art teachers who have no business being in a classroom is far less than the percentage of art students who have no business being in a classroom.

    Last edited by Elwell; August 14th, 2011 at 01:06 PM.

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    there's a lot of teachers who are fairly incompetent
    There are a lot of artists who are fairly incompetent too. If you have a bad teacher learn what you can and move on. Learn to learn!!

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    I've come across many teachers who are incredible at getting across to students the "why," "how," and methodologies required to make someone a true professional, but never developed the spark that would make themselves rise above the mediocre in their personal careers. This occurs a lot more than having a "genius" who can't cope with conveying one single useful thought to another person. Which would I rather have contact with? ...get real...

    My production teacher was a genius at planning prepress and classic high-end ink work, but was un-hirable because he was an extreme alcoholic. He executed his demonstrations by holding a pad on his knee, which shook uncontrollably in perfect synch with his shaking hands. Best teacher I ever had.

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    I've said it before, and I'll say it again:
    There are are excellent art professors with "mediocre" work, and there are excellent artists who absolutely can't teach.
    Who would you rather choose for your own education?

    Of course, your professor's own artwork must show knowledge and expertise, but still it can me smth you personally don't appreciate or just too plain to be interesting. But again, if it shows professionalism, then should be no doubts.

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    I have a small anecdote, one of my coworkers wanted to take an art class (he's already an artist in a game company, but he's a 3d guy.) So he sends me a link to a small private school to see what I thought about it, so I checked the program and the teachers' portfolios, on the school website. So my answer was: Yeah the syllabus looks ok, you should take the class if it's given by X or Z but not if it's given by the others.

    To make a long story short, he never thought to look at their work, and was flabergasted that I told him some of the teachers had terrible work. It seems some people just think if someone has a title, it means they are qualified.

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    Once upon a time, people who wanted their children to master a "trade" apprenticed them to those who were actually successful practitioners of that trade!

    What a concept. . .

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    That whole "those who can't" argument is not valid. I have had art teachers that were ignorant clowns who didn't take the craft seriously and will even admit "those who can't do teach". I think they are more babysitter then artist.

    There are too many serious teachers out there that do it just to keep the visual language alive to disrespect the field. A great artist isn't necessarily the best teacher and the best teacher isn't necessarily the best artist, but you should be able to see if they know what they're doing.

    On the otherside of the coin If they are blessed with natural talent, that could be a draw back. They can't teach you how to overcome obsticals they've never struggled to overcome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    On the otherside of the coin If they are blessed with natural talent, that could be a draw back. They can't teach you how to overcome obsticals they've never struggled to overcome.
    That's very true. The worst French teacher I've ever had came from Paris. I myself would be very hard pressed to teach someone German grammar because it's so embedded in my mind that I don't really know the side of someone who struggles with it and how to make them understand. I suppose it'd be like that with all subjects.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    They can't teach you how to overcome obsticals they've never struggled to overcome.


    Excellent point, Raoul Duke!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I expected better of you Arenhaus. Send that quote to the TAD guys. That's an old quote, while true in man cases, cannot be used to generalize. I teach full time and run an illustration program and see if I can't do.

    Having gotten that horrible generalization out of my system, because I teach I find that all too often profs suck at what they do. It's part system, part doorway into teaching. Tenure is a great system for those who do research but bad because mediocre teachers can hide or get lazy. The people hiring new teachers are the old teachers. I have seen actual cases of not hiring the best person, using verbal dexterity to justify the selection of course, because the status quo might be threatened. How would you like it if you were average or below and really good people started popping up all around you? You might actually have to work or think.

    The sad fact is that there are an awful lot of teachers out there whose work is bad and are horrible teachers. The funny thing is that there are teachers out there whose work is bad or average and are still great teachers.

    Sorry I just had to respond to that baby and the bath water quote. For every teacher whose work is good or great we could probably list at least twice as many whose work is mediocre or bad. It just happens that I am here so I will respond to every "those who can" remark that I run across.
    I'm glad you're an example of someone who is both doing AND teaching. I know a few professors who are like that and I want to end up being a great illustrator AND teacher.

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    "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach" - bullshit.

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    Alot of my teachers had very stylized portfolios. So something that is mediocre to me, might be fantastic to someone else. It's a little subjective.

    Overall my experience in college so far.. there's a few gems, some mediocre, and quite a few that were just horrid. I immediately switched out of all my horrid teacher's classes. But what I found interesting with most of the mediocre teachers is that they often have GREAT advice. They were fantastic speakers/teachers. Although their portfolio's didn't particually impress me, I was eager to hear what they had to say. They helped open my eyes to looking at objects differently... different ways to make art, different ways of thinking. One particular teacher in mind taught on the basis of learning to see and giving drawings soul. He basically spent most of the class just speaking, even though it was a studio class. Although I'm not a fan of his personal work, there was an improvement in my work after taking his class.

    I've had also very experienced, highly professional teachers, who poorly conveyed their knowledge to the class. I asked questions, but their answers weren't all that helpful. Just because someone's talented, doesn't mean they're meant to teach!

    Is there a way you can sit in on a class? Ask if you can just sit and watch them teach the class, and say you're considering the course.

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    At some point it becomes about the desire to teach and learning the tools of communication just like we learn the tools of drawing and design. There are some great artists who teach and know how to do what they do but don't know how to effectively communicate that to students.

    The sports world argues about this all the time. On ESPN there will sometimes be the discussion of; can one really coach or even analyze at the highest levels if they have had no experience at high levels of performance. There have been some great players who make horrible coaches and players who may have only played high school ball, if anything, that have made incredible coaches. If a teacher can't relate his/her own experience to others then it is of no use.

    I really believe that the holy grail is a great artist who is a great teacher (think about the time needed to accomplish both) but I also believe that there are some great teachers out there who are mediocre artists. The important thing for me is that those teachers are always working to stay current. Even if the work is mediocre at best keep doing it to get better, keep writing and in touch with other artists. And please stay open minded. One of the greatest downfalls for college teachers is clinging to academia and what they know rather than keeping pace with what's really happening. That is the greatest danger of not doing.

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    There's also the flip-side to the teaching argument... sometimes the teacher is a great teacher and fantastic artist, but his art/teaching methods doesn't relate to the students.

    When I teach database design to students, there are students who can understand what I'm teaching and other's that cannot. This has nothing to do with the how smart/talented the student was. It was just a disconnect. People learn differently. Most really good teachers have methods to reach most of the students. However, no matter how fantastic the teacher is, he won't reach ALL of the students.

    Plus, some students just don't want to be in the class. Just because a person is studying art, it doesn't mean that they love the drawing class and can't get enough of it. Or... even worse, they are looking for that "magic" technique that will make them an fantastic artist.

    So, yes, there are a lot of teachers that can't teach or are bad artists. Just like there are a lot of students who don't want to learn what the teacher is teaching.

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    If I'm going to watch a demo, then I want somebody to be a great artist. If I'm going to take a class or listen to a critique, then I want somebody to be a great teacher.

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    I just don't care for the Modern/Contemporary biased art teachers. They tend to teach me very little of what I need to know.

    And, Glenn Vilpuu is an awesome artist who is an exceptional teacher.

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    I knew the modern art thing would come into this. Why does it always rear its ugly head. What we are doing is by definition contemporary 'cause we're doing it now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I knew the modern art thing would come into this. Why does it always rear its ugly head. What we are doing is by definition contemporary 'cause we're doing it now.
    What Bill just said is part of what makes my eyes roll back into my head. Picasso, Matisse and Sargent all were making art at the same time. I hate the words modern art or contemporary art. So called modern art is over 100 years old now, how good could it be if you were too stupid to see that it wouldn't always be modern or contemporary?

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post

    I knew the modern art thing would come into this. Why does it always rear its ugly head. . .


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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I knew the modern art thing would come into this. Why does it always rear its ugly head. What we are doing is by definition contemporary 'cause we're doing it now.
    It's relevant to this discussion. On the surface the two genres have an isolated existance and polarize the art world. If a teacher wants to teach the next Damien Hurst, but the student wants to be the next Frazetta, then the two may not be compatable and shouldn't waste eachothers time. I just think concept art and conceptual art are miles apart. Everybody should know the two are related and the knowledge is relevant. The biggest problem is the dismissive and closed minded attitude that comes with the territory. "Modern Art" is too hard to understand and "commercial art" is too easy to understand.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I knew the modern art thing would come into this. Why does it always rear its ugly head. What we are doing is by definition contemporary 'cause we're doing it now.
    See it as the name of an art movement, rather than a description of it's 'newness'.

    Or else, in my head at least, postmodern would be art from the future.

    ...which is only my opinion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    If a teacher wants to teach the next Damien Hurst, but the student wants to be the next Frazetta, then the two may not be compatable and shouldn't waste eachothers time.
    did this happen to a number of you? i've seen similar sentiments come up before. i can't believe a decent teacher would try and shoehorn students into any particular path. at college we had hyperrealists, abstract expressionists, and people who made casts of lost shoes. the tutor can steer people in a direction applicable to their skillset but the main thing they did was try to give advice that facilitated us reaching our goals, not change our goals completely.

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    The biggest problem is the dismissive and closed minded attitude that comes with the territory
    Which?

    Vermis-I know what the poster was trying to say and you can get away with it with Modern. That can define a specific period but contemporary cannot.

    I am going to agree with cro-magnon here. What a weird sentence to type. These discussions always spiral into whiny diatribes about bad teachers teaching, oh God, modern art. And if those teachers are forcing you to go in a direction then you definitely need to get out. But ultimately it comes down to taking responsibility for your own education. Learn what you can and take the reigns.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cro-magnon View Post
    did this happen to a number of you? i've seen similar sentiments come up before. i can't believe a decent teacher would try and shoehorn students into any particular path. at college we had hyperrealists, abstract expressionists, and people who made casts of lost shoes. the tutor can steer people in a direction applicable to their skillset but the main thing they did was try to give advice that facilitated us reaching our goals, not change our goals completely.
    It happened to me. The course I was on was a graphics one where you could specialise in illustration in the final year. We had no 'in house illustrator' as a teacher, so despite offering it, I was pushed away from illustration toward advertising and graphics which is where the other tutors skills lay, and where they thought realistic careers lay. I persisted, and ended up with a mediocre portfolio when it came to illustration, but loads of cartoon stuff as I enjoyed drawing cartoony creatures, people and Brian Froud inspired bumf that I did in my own time as I'd been told I'd never get a job drawing silly little animals all day long. I returned to the college one day, weeks after the course had ended and happened to meet a guy from an animation studio who was on a one day lecture. He loved my portfolio after he saw it. Took it away and I eventually got a job with the company he worked at. I fell in love with traditional animation and ended up, drawing silly little animals all day long.

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    kev ferrara is offline Registered User Level 17 Gladiator: Spartacus' Dimachaeri
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    The reason this debate is so important, and it should be taken to heart, the most important thing everybody needs to understand. And what is critical here, not just for art students but for all of us, and we have to recognize that, and I think we'll all be the better for understanding that going forward.

    Last edited by kev ferrara; August 16th, 2011 at 02:55 PM.
    At least Icarus tried!


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