The importance of a great teacher
So many of the ideas I explore in art and writing come from seeds planted by David J. Passalaqua (1936-2004). Dave was a master artist but even more importantly to me, an extraordinary master teacher.
Dave showed me a world that had always existed behind a locked gate. He knew exactly what Picasso, Michelangelo and all the giants were doing on the page. It was like he could see how their brains worked and then could show you how to see it too. He seemed to perceive and experience space in a kind of surround sound and amazingly, he could translate and teach you from that space. His enthusiasm for art and for the work his students produced was endless.
So what is a great teacher?
Of course, great teachers share their knowledge, expose you to information and help you to find it for yourself. If they are particularly generous they share their wisdom.
They teach you how to teach yourself. They make sure you can leave them and not become dependent by giving you the tools to do it on your own.
Great art teachers don’t teach you how to paint like they do, they bring out what you do naturally and help it grow. They inspire YOU and your unique way. They see your strengths when you can’t see them and leave you alone when they see you’ve got it. They uncover your spark or help you to believe that you have a spark and most importantly, they help you find your own voice.
A great teacher teaches students how to study, learn, think. They know that it’s the path, process and what you learn along the way that’s important. The finished piece is a by-product that comes out of the study and exploration.
A great teacher teaches you how to teach yourself and Dave’s main objective was to teach us so that we could make art from a place of knowledge and inspiration that would span our entire lives. Dave was particular about how he named things. He used the word ‘study’ to indicate a realm that included visual exploration, drawing from life and on location, looking at schools of art and artists (especially the masters: “stand on the shoulders of giants!” he would say) and even scholarly research. He told us he was teaching us to study and that study lasted a lifetime.
The most important thing my great teacher Dave did for me was teach me how to think independently and see the visual world. He woke up my brain and gave me a way to relate to the world through art. This gave me a sense of purpose and connection. He taught me to love art and showed me that I can do it! Because of Dave I have a vision for teaching others: I believe if I can do it, if I could learn to make art, than so can you.
I am grateful to have studied with Dave for ten years. It seems like everyday I use something he taught me. And that is just awesome.