I get such pleasure out of teaching just about anything about art to people at any level of experience. I guess my favorites are anything about color, design, painting and drawing. I also love to teach printmaking. I know, that’s pretty broad. I think these are more difficult to teach than craft classes like stamping or paste-paper making because they require a deeper knowledge of art. At least in my humble opinion. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy teaching classes like paste-paper making. Nor is it to say that teaching them isn’t a lot of work. It is!

However, not everyone can help someone to figure out why their drawing doesn’t look right, or how to use color to make a painting look richer. And not everyone can instruct others without being overbearing, grabbing the pencil or brush and taking over the work from the student, or simply not being able to convey help in a way that is understandable. Or not being able to figure out the problem in the first place. I’m far from perfect in this arena but I do work continuously to improve my teaching.

Barbara Kemp Cowlin Drawing Workshop

I am still grateful to have been put through the paces in how to teach when I went back to school and got my post-baccalaureate teaching certification.

I also have my friend, the artist Nina Solomon to thank. When I first started teaching, it was terrifying. I started with elementary school students, about 30+ per class, 6 classes per day, and no break between classes. So each day, my schedule was: 4th grade, 3rd grade, 2nd grade, 1st grade, lunch break, 5th grade and sixth grade. 5 days a week! No breaks between classes to prepare for the next group.When I look back I can’t imagine how I did it.

Well, I know how I was able to survive. And that was through Nina’s help. From her I got amazing advice and some functional items for the classroom (art studio). Probably the most helpful advice was about how to keep art supplies and student projects organized by color coding absolutely everything. I color coded tables, and color coded boxes. I practically color coded each student!

She gave me the idea of using soda flats (those cardboard boxes used to deliver cans to stores).  I set up each box with all the supplies needed for that day for that class at that table. At the end of each class, the students would dump everything into their table’s box. Then I’d race around, stack the boxes up, set them aside on their shelf, pull out the next grade level’s set of boxes, place them on the correct color table and usher in the next class. Wish I had a video of me racing around. Actually, I’m glad I don’t.

In addition to this system, Nina advised me to have each class come in and sit down in a small area where I’d explain and show what we were going to be doing. She claimed that it helped students to transition from their previous class to this one. It also allowed me a few moments to make sure I had everyone under control, which is a lot easier to do before they got their hands on the art supplies. And it worked like a charm.

Did I mention that my budget was $800 for 800 students for the whole school year?

Needless to say teaching adults in a workshop situation is a lot easier, especially when I keep my other teaching experiences in mind. Yet it’s still a lot of work!

I taught a Monotype Printing workshop recently. Although I have a press and have always used it in the past for printing monotypes, this time I decided to start out with hand printing since it’s rare for a student to own their own press. It was so easy and effective, we never ended up using the press at all! One of my students usually works in watercolor and had never done any kind of printmaking before. I can’t resist showing a few examples of what Nyla produced during the two-day class.

A black and white image with a "ghost" of the print on the right

The original monotype is on the left. On the right is the “ghost” print–that’s what it’s called when you print what’s left of the ink on the plate after making the initial print. Sometimes ghost prints are really interesting and can be used as a base for additional printing or for collage, adding pastels, colored pencil work.

First try, 2-color monotype

A two color monotype, using various tools to scrape ink and create texture.

Scraping paint off

Nyla let the first coat of paint dry on the plate, added a second color and then scraped to reveal the first color. At least I think that’s how she got this effect!

Multiple color monotyp

Multiple colors.

Stencil monotype

Getting more complex, using stencils and multiple plates in this monotype.

Nyla’s off to a great start. I know know this because she came by to borrow my book, Monotype by Julia Ayers, and has ordered some supplies.  By the way, I demonstrated and made examples during the class and they were nowhere near as nice as Nyla’s prints. Go, Nyla!