There are always teachers that I will remember because they were just that special… I wanted to share three of the most memorable art teachers that I’ve had while growing up.
When I was growing up, I had to attend Korean school on Saturday mornings. My mother would drive me into the Bronx into a rundown inner city high school that was rented out by the Korean school for the morning. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, singing, dancing and even art. Our art class taught us the age old practice of calligraphy or in Korean “Seoye”. The reason why I bring this up is that we had the most eccentric teacher I’ve ever had. She was an older Korean woman who wore her gray hair in a tight bun. Her demeanor was stern and self-assured and her posture seemed looming and stalking, which scared the living bejesus out of us kids. She reminded me a little of Miss Trunchbull from the book Matilda. She was prone to long rants about the proper way to grind ink and how to hold the calligraphy brush. Her voice would boom across the room seemingly shaking the windows. Mind you, this is in the eyes of an elementary school child. She would pick a victim and hold his or her hand (which in turn was holding the brush) and forcibly mark over the student’s work while critiquing. Each stroke had meaning. Each movement of the wrist and hand was something more than it ever seemed.
But as I got older, I began to appreciate her personality and her dedication to her craft. She was in fact a very intelligent, independent and well-travelled woman. She lived her life on her own terms and did what she wanted to do. I admired the lessons on things like the right consistency of ink or how a letter was formed always in a downward motion in a continuous and single stroke. I saw the softer side of this woman at a small gallery where she exhibited her students work and spoke with my mother, aunt and myself about why she thought one of my pieces was special. To even when she offered me a slice of watermelon at the annual school picnic. I think that her dedication and intensity showed how much the art of Korean calligraphy meant to her. She put her whole self into what seems like simple letters but instead getting in tune with yourself and your environment. She taught me to really put myself into my art, and I will always remember her fondly.
Another art teacher that I will always remember I will refer to as “the Chain-smoking Art teacher”. Each week during the school year, my mother would take me to a local art store/gallery in a neighboring town which held art classes. The classes were flexibly structured where I could just pick a reference photo from this mish mosh pile of books, calendars, magazines etc. and try to recreate the image. It was literally a side room with surfaces that were counter height for us to work on. My art teacher was this grizzled old woman who consistently smelled of old cigarettes on her breath and person. Her raspy voice would guide us on how to outline our subject on the page and ensure that the proportions worked. While the students were diligently working, she would step out of the room to have her cigarette breaks. The first drawing that I made was of a horse galloping. I was obsessed with horses at the time. When I tried to draw, I started with the head first. My attempt was left wanting. The chain-smoking art teacher took over and sketched out the body in proportion to the head of the horse. I remember sitting amazed at how she formed the horse in a realistic way.
Lastly, my favorite art teacher was in high school and the last of my formal art education. I was a part of an everyday AP Studio Art course with seven other students. All of us were so different and had such different styles and we ended up really enjoying the camaraderie. I remember working on our projects and listening to the Black Eyed Peas 2003 hit album Elephunk, good times. But I digress. My art teacher was the coolest. She happened to be heavily pregnant at the time and would eventually go on maternity leave during the school year. She wasn’t an overly imposing woman but her manner of speaking was to be respected. Every week we would focus on a different concentration. We would review slides on a projector of famous works and analyze them, I know so old school. Then we would be set free to start our weekly project in adherence to that respective concentration.
I forgot exactly what our first project consisted of but I remember that it was a portrait drawn in pencil. We usually photographed each other as references and this project was no different. I was having trouble figuring out how to capture my model at the time. While struggling with the bulky digital camera, my art teacher told my model to lie belly down on top of one of the tables with her upper body peering over the ledge. My teacher then managed to get her heavily pregnant body onto the floor and lay on her back right underneath the table. She proceeded to take shots of the model’s face from below. I thought that she was so badass. Even while she was on her maternity leave, she came into school to help us prepare our portfolios for the AP exam at the end of the year. She really was a great instructor.
I’ve had plenty of art teachers but these three were definitely unforgettable. I hope you guys enjoyed these blasts from the pasts. Do you guys have any great memories of teachers past?