Talking with Teachers: Jane Davies
05 Wednesday Sep 2012
In this series, Talking with Teachers, you’ll meet art and craft instructors from around the world. We’ll take a look at their artwork, peek into their creative process when it comes to designing and developing workshops, and—of course—check out their class lineup.
This week I’m talking with Jane Davies. I was excited to hear from her, since her workshops are always popular, and because her reputation as an instructor is impeccable. I also love her artistic philosophy: “I believe that the act of showing up and engaging is the most important activity I can do as an artist.” You can find more about Jane and see her beautiful work at her website, and read more about her artistic adventures on her blog.
What classes do you teach, and where?
That is a LONG answer. Generally my topics include painting, collage, mixed media, and encaustics. I teach around New England, including my own Collage Journeys retreat here in Rupert in August, and travel anywhere that will have me.
So far: Art Unraveled in Phoenix, Art and Soul in Portland, CREATE in NJ and in Chicago, and next year I’ll be teaching at Paperworks (this link opens a PDF document with a class description) in Tucson in January and at Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island in July. Oh, and I teach online all year. Here’s my workshop calendar.
At Art & Soul Portland, Jane’s workshops include: Scribble Paint, Intro into Encaustics, Plaster and Wax, and Abstract Landscape: Exploring Color and Composition.
Is teaching your main job, or do you have another occupation?
I have been a professional artist for all of my adult life, but only started teaching seriously – i.e. doing it as a living rather than an occasional thing – about three years ago. I had finished my last book, “Adventures in Mixed Media“, and wanted to spend more time on fine art: not art-for-a-book or art-for-licensing (as I’d been doing for about ten years), but art as personal and aesthetic exploration.
Teaching seemed to be a good way to support a fine art practice: not just financially, but in a symbiotic way. I love teaching and I love making art, just about equally. Making art is how I keep my teaching fresh, and teaching is how I support my art.
What is your creative process for developing a workshop?
In developing new workshops I start with a concept, and then fit it to the format. My online workshops consist of six weekly lessons with ongoing commentary and discussion on a group blog; I usually only write the first two or three lessons, and outline the rest before beginning. Once I get a read on the students’ needs and capabilities I write the remaining lessons. One-day workshops are more challenging for me to design because I have to edit out so much content I would like to share. The creative challenge consists of deciding which activities I can get the most mileage out of in terms of art content and giving the students a foundation for working on their own. The other challenge is keeping the content flexible to meet the needs of different groups of students. I love it all!
How has teaching impacted or affected your sense of a creative community, or tribe?
Teaching has absolutely CREATED my sense of community! It has changed the way I view what I do in a profound way: instead of working in relative isolation, I feel deeply connected to colleagues and students alike. I get inspiration and satisfaction from interactions with both. I definitely don’t see teaching as a side gig or merely a means of supporting my art. It is integral to what I do as and artist and as a person.
How is the teaching process a creative one in itself?
I may have answered this question, but I’ll elaborate here. For me the creative challenge in teaching is trying to get into the students’ minds, see what they see. I try to understand their goals, frustrations, and expectations through the lens of their experience, and then create ways of helping them move forward. MY goal is to help students realize their individual expressive capabilities. I want them to discover their own creative edge.
Do you take classes?
I definitely take classes! I give myself a “professional development” budget each year, and use it to attend workshops and conferences. It is essential for me to keep new ideas coming in, and connect with other artists. This year I took a five day encaustic workshop with Daniella Woolf, and attended the Encaustic Conference in Provincetown in June. That’s probably it until 2013.
Thanks, Jane, for sharing your creative insights with us! For more information on Jane’s workshops, check out her website. And to read about Jane’s creative journey, be sure to visit her blog. To see her Art & Soul Portland classes, visit their website.