Simply Done Well

The hardest thing to teach high school kids, especially high school artists - with them being in a hurry about EVERYTHING - is to simply take the time to do something well.    I had a really hard time communicating that to my beginning photography students this semester.  The notion that one has to put the time in to develop the skills necessary to really excel at something is a tough concept to fully absorb.  I know I definitely forget it sometimes.  I constantly have to remind myself that to do something well, I have to commit to it.  That means giving it time and consideration.  If I can't even do that, how do expect my students to do it?

Some kids have that built into them though.  They want to do their best every time, because that's how they're wired.  I had a student this semester who turned in a really, really nice print to me today.  We've been focusing primarily on making good prints lately, which this is.  Its balanced.  The composition works without overcrowding any one element.  The tones and contrast are good.  It's exposed correctly, both in terms of shooting and enlarging.  It's just a good print.

But - and here's the part that made a student work blog-worthy (which is something that I haven't done before, and am a little scared I will embarrass said student) - this isn't just a good print, it's good art.  

A little back story...this print is part of a final project of the semester that is about content.  In this project the students are asked to develop and communicate an idea that would be better shown than explained.  I like this project because I like hearing what it is that my students have to say.  A large portion of high school art, they're not ready for this.  They need to learn the how, or they need to gain more confidence, or they just aren't sure what they "have to say" yet, so when they start to show what they think, and communicate it, there's nothing more exciting for me.  Disclaimer:  Please understand that I try to contain myself in front of the kids.  I don't want them thinking I'm easily excitable. That could lead to chaos.  Bedlam.  Fun.  The art room is no place for fun.

Untitled Print, 2012
Josie Flynn

This print really struck me though - maybe because so much of my own work addresses some of the same ideas.  It immediately spoke to me of nostalgia and moving forward - of things that have been, that no longer are.  It's so simple.  It speaks of the changing seasons, but not just the seasons outside - it also speaks of the seasons of life.  The swing is still, abandoned.  Summer is gone.  Play time is over.  And yet, there is something inviting in the trees that call us to wander past them - away from the tire and toward a new adventure.

Art should be this simple.  It shouldn't be so contrived conceptually that you have to read extensive texts on Postmodernism to understand the artist's intention.  It should just speak and be beautiful, and leave the viewer with a funny little "Hmm.  I hadn't thought of it that way" feeling.

Thanks for the reminder Josie.


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