art classes seattle
                             China Blog #3

Over half the teaching assignment has passed now and I have been pleased to see the art work that the students are able to produce.  Clearly, the Chinese as a folk, are well acquainted with pictorial representation.(I can’t wait to travel to southern China to see the  Karst mountains by boat).  

Even though nearly half the students have had no previous experience with water color painting, they painted very well!  Encouraging as this is, I'm aware that the method of letting the painting guide the forms, instead of simply, drawing onto the colored forms, is difficult for them. Reminded of the richness of Chinese watercolor painting, I understand how it would be challenging to “give up” the beauty depicted there, for an unknown picture which may look quite raw in comparision.

  So, I have decided to “spring” an exercise on them next week. Quite often, I complete a painting demonstration describing the process as I am painting the picture. Then the students paint their own rendition of the motif. Next week, after allowing them to develop the color composition, I will instruct them take a walk around the room and stop by a painting they admire. Then surpise, they get to finish that painting!

In this way, I hope that they will be able to experience a fresh approach. I am sure this will be fun, plus it’s not an intellectual approach to the art.

It will be interesting to see how this goes!
(P.S. It lived up to my imagination and more.)
China Blog # 4

Nearly at the end of my teaching now, with 2 days left, I’m beginning to feel the twinges of sadness that takes place after every completed teaching event.  It is the destiny of a teacher to always have to say goodbye to her students.  I grow to love them and then I miss them.  Sometimes I contemplate what it would be like to stop teaching, just so I’d never miss my students.  I know that’s silly, because if that were the case, I’d never experience the vicarious pleasure of teaching each and every one to develop artistically.

This experience has taught me how much I rely on verbal communication to convey the artistic process.  Since my Chinese vocabulary is limited, I have found imitation invaluable when teaching in a foreign language.  Still, this has been the most challenging experience of my career.  Not only was I in a completely foreign place, with physical challenges like extremely hot weather and a large group of 40 students painting with less than ideal equipment, but I also had to pantomime many of the improvements I wanted the students to make to their paintings!  

It seems that I have been successful with  the teacher trainees. Their expressions of gratitude for my humor and art techniques are most appreciated.  My own evaluation would be a bit harsher though.  I would have liked to be clearer in my explanations and my demonstrations could have come out better.  When I return to Teacher Training in Seattle, I hope to bring with me the things I have learned.  I can imagine it will seem so much easier to teach a small group of 25 compared to a large group of 40 here in China!  Hopefully, the students back home can understand me!

Established in 2007
by Artist/Educator
Janet Lia

Blog #2 Janet's Arrival in China

After several days of travel (one to Beijing, another to Xian and then next day, to the school in the countryside) I am finally settling in to my new home for the next weeks.  Today was my first teaching day and I think it went quite well!  When I focus on the teaching, I forget all about home and worries about whether or not I will be successful and just do my job.
Teaching through a translator is time consuming, but makes one really think about what one wants to impart.  Although I taught several lecture style sessions today, the most important thing for me took place after breakfast when I galvanized the students to work together in the school garden.  We created a little pond for the goslings and all watched with satisfaction as the tiny creatures ventured into the water for the first time.
The animal husbandry here is very different from my chickens (almost pets)!  When one of the goslings was sick, it was left to die in a bucket, sweltering. I asked if I should put it out of it’s misery? They implored me to please let it die naturally.  A contrasting experience was watching a man at an outdoor trout restaurant in the mountains free a cicada (think giant beetle with incredibly loud, incessant cricket sounds) from a large spider’s web. It took considerable time and trouble to achieve this without harming any creature.
I wonder about America. How much of individual consciousness with regards to the importance of life, comes out of our own wish to avoid pain?

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