My undergraduate alma mater is The University of Georgia. . .And, before you yell, “Go Dawgs!” or “Sic ‘em” or some other iteration of communicative school pride, you should know: I only attended one half of one football game and That was Enough of That. I spent most of my four years inside the Lamar Dodd School of Art painting, drawing, digitally designing, and printmaking. Most of what I know about being a solid working artist (including work ethic, composition, participating in crit, running a crit, and looking at art), I learned from the incredible talented and especially formidable Diane Edison.
|This artist is just 13 years old. . .|
Ms. Edison (she always commanded more respect than the Art professors who went by a name alone), only teaches 8 a.m. classes, and as such her courses were usually very small which I appreciated. During my time at UGA, the Fine Art program was full of male professors, and I think one of the reasons I initially signed up for Ms. Edison’s classes was that she was a female teacher. I respect her so much, and her classes are a relentless practice in dedication, craftsmanship, and discipline. Her crits are something of legend. Crits last upward of two hours. During the crit, the entire class circulates from one artwork to the next. The artist talks about his/her artwork, students voluntarily respond one at a time, and then Ms. Edison speaks. Only one person is allowed to talk at a time; no one can whisper or make light comments because according to Ms. Edison, crits are scary and the artist has no idea if you are saying positive or negative comments (isn’t that so true?!). I whispered once during a crit; I was cured of that for life with just a stare. One Ms. Edison speaks; the crit of that artwork is over. Intense (and so awesome).
|Look Ma, No Black Pencil! The students are only allowed to use complementary colors to create richer dark zones of color.|
I can still remember trotting out of Lamar Dodd on a spring day feeling a major sense of accomplishment because I managed to hold my own during crit. And, to this day, when I make art (over a decade after undergraduate graduation), I can hear the advice and criticism of Ms. Edison; it is something that will resonate with me for as long as I create.
|This is a new 8th grade student. He told me this is the first Art class he has had since elementary school. Check out this totally raw talent!|
Ms. Edison’s medium of choice is colored pencil, so it is hardly surprising the cornerstone of her classes (during my undergrad tenure) dealt with colored pencil techniques. Some of the most valued -and basic- things I learned about colored pencils are that working on colored paper makes the work vibrant, layering color adds richness, and using black sparingly is for the best. She is a master, and it was a rare treat to learn at her feet. To this day, I still have a deep and abiding respect for what you can do with the humble colored pencil.
|We are still working on adding more “layers of color” to create depth. . .But, man, can this kiddo draw.|
And, I often teach the same skills she instilled in me to my middle school students (albeit we use Prang instead of Prismacolor as that better fitsour budget). . . I am always so impressed with how quickly my middle school students understand it. . . And so grateful I had the opportunity to learn from Ms. Edison and provide my students with the one-step-removed benefit of her knowledge.
|“Ms. Z.! Don’t take a picture of my work! You know I can’t draw” Yeah, right, kid!|
Do/did you have a master artist teacher who still inspires your practice? Please share!