I’m sure you’re dying to know what its like to be a traveling art teacher; the perks and the pitfalls. Here is your behind the scenes peek from my perspective.
I’m on my way home from Tubac, AZ after two successful workshops. It’s been a long trip, but worthwhile. Even though I’ve come down with a nasty cold, I wouldn’t trade the experience. Most of my energy had been consumed by teaching and sightseeing, so I’m over-due with a post here. I have been having a hard time coming up with a focus for this post until today, the first ‘down’ time I’ve had.
To begin with, teaching art is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. A friend recently wrote a caption to a painting he made as a demonstration: “People paid to watch me paint this.” That really sums up how I feel about teaching art. I get to paint, and share the process with other art enthusiasts.
Evolution of Workshop Development:
But, these workshops don’t just happen magically. First, either a venue contacts me, or I contact a venue. We go back and forth about dates, compensation, logistics, subjects and numbers. I often plan workshops over a year in advance. Once we’ve come to an agreement on terms, I have to come up with a tantalizing description, supply list and images that will ‘sell’ it to prospective students.
Next, we tackle the laborious task of getting the word out. Social media posts, newsletters, fliers, brochures, advertisements and word of mouth are all important here. If there aren’t enough participants, the workshop won’t happen.
Traveling Art Teacher Packs it Up
Then, as the workshop date approaches, I review the supply list and begin packing for the trip. It is always a challenge to pare down clothing and personal items and leave room in my bags for art materials, handouts, technology and comfort items. (I brought my own pillow on this trip and have NOT regretted that!)
Most venues help with arranging rides to and from the airport, lodging and logistics. At Tubac School of Fine Art, instructors stay in a modest but comfortable casita, just down the road from the school. It is wonderful to be able to walk to class each day. We are also within an easy walk of several local restaurants and a market. I remembered to take photos of the casita on this trip!
The Workshop Finally Arrives!
Finally, the actual teaching part is what keeps me motivated to do this. It is very rewarding to see adult learners light up with successful paintings, take in new ideas and ask insightful questions during the workshop. I have found a camaraderie in almost every class that I treasure.
I love seeing folks returning for second or third workshops with me, and making friendships that continue long after the workshop. Another benefit of teaching these classes are the things my students teach me! I’ve had great book recommendations from students, gallery, restaurant and museum suggestions, and more. But probably the biggest insight I gain from teaching is persistence.
“A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” – Elbert Hubbard
This past weekend’s workshop was a prime example. Because I was really sick, my demonstration painting from day two looked pretty dismal. On day three, I decided there was nothing left to lose; and I radically changed it. It is probably not one of my strongest pieces, but I think I salvaged it. If I had been painting at home, it probably would have gone into the trash. But because I wanted to set a good example, I decided to try to work through the issues. It was a great example for students, who sometimes have a tendency to throw in the towel too soon. Above all, persistence is often the cure!
Finally, the workshop comes to an end, and we must say goodbye. Strangely enough, I like this part too. Folks tell me how much the workshop meant to them, we vow to keep in touch, and I get to return to my private life, my husband, studio and pup. (After I re-pack everything!) It’s always a challenge to fit everything back into my bags. I’ve usually added a couple of souvenirs, maybe a couple of additions to my art supply stash, and it is really a miracle that my suitcases zip. For this trip I got all of my clothes and toiletries in a 19” carryon plus a personal bag. My checked bag was filled with materials for two different workshops plus my pillow. Whew!
In summary – for me the perks of being a traveling art teacher are:
- Seeing new places
- Meeting new people
- Helping artists learn
- Being inspired by students’ efforts
The pitfalls are:
- Pitching and preparing for classes
- Being away from home and studio