• Jamie Hankin


Recently, I've been thinking a lot about my desire to go into teaching art and have been noticing, as mentioned in my last blog, how many artists and photographers are supplementing their incomes or diversifying their businesses by offering online instruction for a fee.

Back in the day, someone applying to get into art school had to show more than a desire, you had to show an aptitude, some scrap of talent, that when combined with instruction and hard work, might, MIGHT, be able to develop into an art career. It seems these days, wanting to be an artist and the ability and willingness to pay for instruction are the only criteria.

The instructors were and are to this day, rarely world-famous artists, but dedicated craftspeople, struggling to make work and gain some small audience, while passing on their experiences to others. People, relating to other people, the realities of their existence.

I have always felt that my art education experience, from student to apprentice to budding professional to experienced veteran, in some ways almost medieval, is the authentic way to learn almost any craft. Start at the bottom, invest your time, watch and observe, ask questions when you can, keep your opinions to yourself and practice, practice, practice and eventually, the work will mature and be recognized.

Nowadays, we have the internet. You can learn, for a price, from the most successful individuals in a particular field, without showing anything but interest and an available credit card. I'm not saying that's bad necessarily, people are paid lots of money to lecture about their particular success and often valuable lessons can be gleaned from this very specific, very individualized monologue.

Michaelangelo and DaVinci learned art as children, apprenticed to successful commercial painting studios of their era. Yet as mature artists, neither had many apprentices or successful businesses, as the repetition and lack of progression in maintaining a commodity based business was antithetical to their beings as artists. They couldn't imbue their students with their creative fire and had no time to be held back teaching fundamentals.

I love Annie's work, most of it, at least. I've heard the war stories about how she is inept technically and her assistants do the work. She can't teach anyone to be a photographer, because her skill, her talent, is intuitive and social, not technical. So, she can tell the story of HER life and her experience, but that doesn't mean that anyone except Annie can expect similar results. Steve Martin and comedy, Ron Howard and film direction, all of these celebrities and their unique and individual talents. They can provide some insight perhaps, and some hope, that maybe all your dreams will come true, but give me the one on one, master and apprentice relationship, with someone who is still growing, still learning, still exploring and struggling. That is an education worth more than money.

Me and Don King, circa 1985. Image by David Michael Kennedy

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