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The Most Challenging Profession – by Robert Genn

The Most Challenging Profession
by Robert Genn

The other day Joe Blodgett and I were discussing what  we might have done with our lives. We both thought if we'd become medical doctors we might have been of greater service to mankind. We agreed that putting out oil-well fires, blowing up buildings, and engineering underground sanitary sites were not for us. Joe took his usual stance that the job of teacher is so difficult that it shouldn't be left to teachers. I told him I wouldn't have minded being one.

"The problem," said Joe, "is that teachers are often security hounds--they're not like artists--they need the safety of unions, regularity of hours, and decent pensions. In the meantime, some of them burn out."

I pointed out that artists burn out too. I agreed that sustaining a high level of quality instruction is exhausting. I told Joe that those who do it well need to be paid more, and knighted.

My role model was my attendance at Art Center College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Many of the faculty were, and still are, professional artists, illustrators, industrial or fashion designers, etc. Many were only part-time teachers. Also, in L.A., it was relatively easy to bring in creative celebrities for demos, discussions or group crits. Art Center was mighty enriching. It still is.

Both Joe and I have recent BFAs and MFAs among our close friends. Many arts grads arrive on earth like Martians stepping from a strange saucer. They are fresh from a culture of artistic literacy, sometimes brilliant, but not necessarily artistic competency. Many fine arts graduates have little or no idea of time-honoured academic
procedures or processes. Many schools, many universities and many teachers just don't see it as important any more. Countries like Russia and China think it still is. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before North Americans will be getting most of their art from Asia.

Joe took off and took my bottle with him. I noted three points we had agreed were worthwhile for current students who might seek a life in art:

*Consider workshops and seminars with professional artists.

*Know that some skills are going to be hard won but totally worth the effort.

*Take time for private study and work. At some point in your life you're going to have to go to your room.

Best regards,


PS: "A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using and tiring it, just in the same way he can wear out the oberelbows of his coat." (Winston Churchill)

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to publish from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of Robert's artistic insight, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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