The Fellowship of Artists
I didn’t set out to be a teacher.
It happened very organically, in fragments so small that I took a while to recognize their significance.
My last couple years of college, I just started reaching out to some of the younger students — getting to know who they were, taking an interest in their artwork and their classes. I offered a freshman a smile and a quick word of encouragement in the hallway while we were waiting for our respective classes to begin. I stopped to take a peek at someone’s color theory project, and gave her a couple of pointers about mixing color more accurately. More than once, I took the time to help a frustrated student navigate a vague or confusing assignment.
Even then, I didn’t think about it as teaching. Rather, I felt a strong desire for community and relationship — to pursue my own art within a fellowship of other artists and learners. Welcoming the younger students into that community, and encouraging them to excel in their own artwork, was a natural extension of that desire.
And that, of course, is the essence of teaching. I am thankful that a few of my own professors saw me interacting with the beginning students, and were wise enough to gently point out that I might have a vocation. Heaven only knows how long it would have taken for me to figure that out on my own.
This spring will mark my fifth year in the classroom. I’ve learned a lot of tricks and techniques along the way, and have only had a couple of really spectacular failures. I’ve been privileged to teach a number of frighteningly talented young artists and truly delightful human beings. It has been a wonder to see them grow beyond my reach, seeking out their own paths and discovering the intricacies of their own callings.
I’ve grown a lot in those five years, too, but my fundamental understanding of what it means to be an artist and a teacher hasn’t changed. My vocation is to welcome newcomers into the fellowship of artists — we who are bound together by our shared humanity and our shared calling to create. My work is to challenge and encourage them to excel in their own artistic endeavors, just as my own teachers and mentors once did for me.
It’s a pretty amazing thing to be called to do with one’s life.