This blog is about Graphic Design, Vector Art, and Cartoon Illustration

December 15, 2014

Showing students where to look, not what to see

As an art teacher, I was always interested in helping students to look at things, but I strongly resisted the urge to tell them what to see. Yeah, I know it's a cliché, and if it seems a meaningless jumble of words, I think I can explain.

Personally, when I want to learn about something, I want to draw my own conclusions. That means that if I had never heard of a particular artist, I want to see their work, I want to learn about why they did it, I want to understand the media, and the circumstances surrounding their creative effort. Whether they are good, or bad, or awesome, or evil, is a decision that I want to make, I don't want to be told that.

Of course, if someone is going to the trouble of encouraging someone else to, for example, listen to a particular band, it's implied that this artist is of value, or of interest. So, teachers who simply say that something is great, or important, aren't really saying anything at all.

Presenting something, and letting people draw their own conclusions, can be frustrating. There are so many things that I care deeply about, such as the difference between Helvetica and Arial, that it actually hurts my feelings to see people so often completely miss the point. I would like them to be able to see what I see, but I can't make them. I can, however, show them where to look, stand back, and hope for the best.

So if you want people to learn about something you care about, present it the best you can. Yes, a lot of people will completely miss the point, and you will become anxious to tell them what they should be seeing. But many people will understand, and that makes it all worthwhile.

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