As part of our occasional series profiling the great teachers who work with the Belin-Blank Center’s summer programs students, we sat down with Jamie Boling to talk about his work, both with the Center and as an independent artist.
How does teaching influence your work as an artist, and how does your work influence your teaching?
Teaching’s biggest influence on my work is that it keeps me grounded in the foundation skills that I employ every day in my studio. My whole focus in the classroom is to de-mystify the processes that artists use in their work and to arm students with the ability to create whatever they can imagine. This approach to teaching requires me to break things down to the fundamental and to demonstrate daily the practical skills that make it all possible. I find that this method of teaching keeps me finely tuned and allows me to approach work with a heightened level of clarity.
My work and interests are constantly evolving. My teaching is closely tied to that evolution in that the questions and challenges that I encounter in my studio often end up finding their way to the classroom in some form or another. Since my approach to teaching is pretty organic, I am constantly working to find fresh ways to explore the issues and skills that are at the core of the creative practice. By being deeply engaged in my own work, I find that it enables the discovery of new directions to explore in the classroom.
What is your favorite part of teaching?
My favorite part of teaching is definitely the exchange of energy and ideas that takes place in our classroom. In my experience, creative people are also inherently curious. Creative curious people love to be around other creative curious people, so the more is definitely the merrier. The energy created by that interaction is electric and contagious. I work to create a scenario where we all realize that by simply being engaged, we become teachers as well as learners. That is when the magic happens…and that magic is why I teach.
What is the most important lesson you have learned about high-ability students (and especially talented art students)?
High-ability students have a work ethic that seems to be fueled by sincere curiosity. The lesson for me has been in how to feed the fire. I work hard to identify with students individually so that I can understand what is at the core of their inquisitiveness. That investment enables me to facilitate discovery and encourage students in a targeted way.
So when we consider high-ability students with a talent in art, the level of production and creativity can be off the charts. My job then is to tailor a unique curriculum that challenges the individual to dig deeper into their interests as well as to arm them with the tools that will enable them to communicate their findings in whatever form is appropriate.
All images © 2013 Jamie Boling.