Yesterday I was chatting with a contractor. (That’s takes up a lot of my time these days.) He mentioned a young person he knew who’d returned to Rochester and wanted to pursue a career in art. I really miss teaching right now, so I told him, “If you put him in contact with me, I would be happy to coach him.”
“I’m not sure you want to do that,” he answered. “He has some baggage.”
Painting can help you sort that baggage out, but a career in art actually requires more organization, drive and perseverance than a more structured job. From our conversation, I suspect the young man isn’t ready to buckle down yet. When he is, he will find a mentor.
To generalize wildly, most painting teachers have two separate groups of students. The first are high-schoolers who want to put together a portfolio that will get them financial aid at the school of their choice. The second are middle-aged people. Both groups are searchers, and I particularly love classes that are a mixture of the two.
Some painters can’t really handle the solitary nature of their work—I tend in this direction myself, which is one reason I miss teaching so much right now. I painted with a dear friend for years. She eventually left me for her husband when he decided to retire to Florida. She has fallen off the art scene since then, which is very unfortunate, since she was greatly talented. But she hasn’t found a new painting partner in her new home.
Sometimes people will paint for a few years and then quit. That’s not failure; that means they’ve explored long enough to untangle the knot that was bothering them, and they can move on. Others find that painting has its own intrinsic value, and they continue with it. Eventually, they become artists, not art students.
It’s wonderful that they stay in contact with me. Their successes feel like my successes.