The Decision to Teach


by Helen Norton August 01, 2019 1 Comment




I would like to share with you a little bit about my decision to teach or pass on my vocation as an artist to others.

As you would imagine, I think things through very thoroughly before I do them. I even consult my dreams and my long-time Jungian Analyst!  In fact I am such a big-picture person I often overthink because I am thinking about so many things - all the tangents that might happen, and do I want them!

Deciding to teach others and pass on my knowledge was a three year pondering. I know some of my wonderful buying clients might not be interested in this and in fact be cross with me (don't ask), but I promise you - my concern about you has kept me up for many nights, and I declare I have to move on from worrying and just do it, to give back and join the community in some sort of helpful way for my own sake and sanity!

It's quite a different journey for me after being a painter alone in my studio for thirty years, to now turn to learn something very new. To be accountable on a personal level for what happens as a consequence of my actions in real-time! I tend to not mince words, and call a spade a spade. I would probably get a grade 'Z' for my lack of political correctness.  One of my brothers says I usually revert to the 'elemental' points when things get complicated, and I have to confess I felt that was a deep compliment.

I matured in the bush with hard men, where doodling around with 'pleasant swan dances' when a straight shovel would do the job, would leave you on the side of the road with no waterbag. I am having to learn things about teaching people like 'sandwiches' - no, not morning tea (although that too), I mean, how to deliver the critique necessary for a student to learn. One slice of white bread (how is that a compliment?) then a blob of hard cold truth (the critique or bitter pill), and then another nice piece of bread on the other side. I have to say, I am enjoying it, but I might switch out the bread for two shovels with the 'you know what' in between.

But fear not, if you are considering being a student. A sense of humour will get us through. Things are going well so far with a handful of new one-on-one clients, (including via Skype) where I have found nurturing, coaching and teaching others how to access and grow their skills in creativity very satisfying so far. Um... and so have my students :-) 

Some of you would know about that old saying on how we learn something new - we start with unconscious incompetence, then we move to conscious incompetence, then onto conscious competence (the land of being clear about the steps) and then onto unconscious competence, where perhaps the advanced artist or master of his trade dwells, just operating instinctually not thinking about things like 'how did I do that?' For me to pass on what I know, I have had to take a step backward, to be 'conscious' of my competence, so I can instruct others in it. It is quite a journey!

Many incredible, natural and practicing 'teachers' may give up their teaching finally to become the artist they always wanted to be - this is their aspiration after a lifetime of service to others. Equally, I know many very experienced professional artists who are longing to make some changes in their life, and after decades of enjoying the privilege of a studio to themselves, long to be with people, helping them. A couple of them taking up training as Art Therapists. 

Bob Juniper comes to mind as a great teacher who was also an incredible artist. He maintained his teaching practice at a college in Perth throughout his entire successful career.

It might seem obvious but the truth is, many great artists simply won't teach as it requires us to 'unpick' our own process of how we get to our lofty ideas (the process) in order to teach it. I admit this has been the hardest part of all.  We might simply not want to share the secrets as if doing so will ruin the mystery for our audience and we may well enjoy the god-like status our mystery gives us. Being a devoted artist really does require a lot of self-focused navel-gazing to get things done you know. 

 


For me? I'm done with that. I want to live on the ground in my village, like a baker or a butcher. I am quite sure my desire to share with others at this time of my life is rooted in an earthy 'feet on the ground' spiritual stage of realizing my own mortality. I find myself imagining I am a mature and gnarly tree, who has a plan, (well nature has a plan for me) which is to throw all my seeds out there to the wind (what I have learned) before I kak it!  It feels now, that - what I know is not 'personal', and not particularly just mine. It belongs to everyone, and it's my job to hand over the goods before sunset. For many years I have felt a bit empty as an artist, and I am thinking this might have been the missing chapter! Oh, that and the 10 half-finished novels I have on the go... but that is another story.

I can see that all of this will make me a better artist in my own practice, and I am looking forward to it. 

I have also begun the work in the background of creating some ONLINE ART WORKSHOPS for those who are too far away and will hopefully be offering these early next year.

I would love your feedback on all this. Please feel welcome to write.




Helen Norton
Helen Norton

Author



1 Response

Sue Pearce
Sue Pearce

August 20, 2019

Hello Helen,
I enjoyed reading your blog, thank you for sharing your thoughts behind what you are doing.
I was introduced to your work by my now husband, when I came to Australia in 2003. He still has a booklet of your work and poems which he loved, and several of your pictures torn out of a book and stuck around the room!
We live in France now, so I’m excited to hear you may be doing classes ‘on line’ as I love to sketch and use pastels (but never find the time ;) )
I wish you every success spiritually with this new journey.
Warm wishes,
Sue

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