Printmaking and The Tao
“When the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready... The teacher will Disappear.” -Laozi
It seems fitting that I should conclude my blog posts regarding the woodblock printing course I took this summer with a quote from the Tao Te Ching. The classic Chinese text outlining the fundamental philosophy and religion of Taoism has been credited to the 6th century BC sage, Laozi. It was the search for a teacher which lead me to seek out a class in woodblock printmaking. Even in the age of YouTube instruction, there is still no substitute for an excellent mentor and a supportive and inspiring community.
Having my appetite for learning whetted by my own self-guided exploring, this printmaking class provided the teacher I was needing and so much more. It was simply one of the best professional development experiences of my career! Not only did I get to learn about media and techniques that I had only been scratching the surface of (no pun intended!), I learned about the power of an excellent mentor. Jennifer Dunbar, the instructor of the woodblock printing course I attended at the Torpedo Factory this summer, was not only a skilled, inspiring, articulate artist and educator, but a supportive colleague and wonderful creator of artistic community. Not every artist can teach. And not every artist/educator can make the studio a safe space to be yourself as an artist and allow you the latitude to pursue your own line of artistic inquiry. This demands a great deal from a teacher. Allowing your students this freedom means keeping an open mind, tailoring your instruction to meet varying needs, and letting go of the false comfort zone of being "all knowing." Indeed, not knowing and exploring together can be one of the most powerful teaching tools. So its safe to say, I took the course to learn about wood block printing, but learned a whole lot more. I will miss having such a wonderful mentor at my side this school year, but I am looking forward to having the time to explore on my own. Then, hopefully, continue my studies with Jennifer next summer. I'm just trying to have confidence that indeed its is time for me to be on my own...but, to quote Jennifer, "There's always email and the internet!"
Our little class was a mixed bag of current college students on the cusp of their professional careers, professional adults seeking artistic respite from demanding day jobs, and homemakers and retired folks modeling life long learning to their children. As variety is the spice of life, so it its true for the classroom/studio. I learned much from my classmates and their individual artistic visions. I was often inspired by the creative bravery and resilience. But, most of all it was refreshing to meet strangers, leave friends, and be reminded as we grew to know each other better that inside each of us is a child: ready to explore, create, and enjoy the journey along the way!
To see my final works and to learn more details about the techniques I learned from class please click to the Works in Progress page. Thanks for reading!
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