Through my experience in teaching, I have gained some perspective about how students learn a wide variety of ways and paces. As they grow, so do I (though I have much to improve, I am loving the journey!). I love working with young artists and designers - there is an unmistakeable freshness in their canvas, the potential that has yet to be discovered.
I am reminded of my youth, and the years I spent training as a long-distance runner, swimmer, and cross-country skier. I was very fortunate to have coaches who drove me, supported me, and pushed me to achieve at my highest level (shout out to Mr. Shipman and Ms. Sangster!). Now, as an instructor, I am able to employ some of the same strategies with my students, to support, to encourage, to help them grow to fulfill their greatest potential. I like to think of myself as not just a teacher, and as also a coach.
The practice of artists and athletes is synonymous. To become a successful artist or designer, one must have a strong devotion and passion for their craft. Endless practice and experimentation with a variety of media and technique, are comparible to athletic drills and workouts that tone the overall physique (for example, blind contours and swatches are equal to hockey players who lift weights and run drills to strengthen their skill and ability). To be a master of their visual technique, an artist or designer must keep focused on goals, and train themselves, in the way one does not just start running one day, and call themselves a marathon runner. That achievement comes with work and discipline, as success does in visual communication. And even then, there is always room for improvement, to run longer and faster, and to complete perpetually more challenging goals.
And the similarities continue:
The artist/designer is the athlete, and their teachers and mentors (if they are fortunate enough to have them) are coaches. Mentors are especially beneficial, as they provide a concentrated focus to help drive the artist/designer to reach their goals. This is comparable to a trainer, specifically working with, say, a goalie (forgive all the hockey references, must be the Canadian in me coming out again...) to ensure that the goalie is as successful to the height of his or her potential.
The family, friends, and social media followers of the artist/designer are the cheerleaders. Their purpose is to root for the team, but not necessarily know the game. It is particularly important for a budding artist/designer to be cognizant of this, as the enthusiasm of the cheerleader (while offering valuable positive reinforcement) can often encourage over-confidence, and blurring of the reality of actual skill.
The pride and sense of accomplishment one gets from working hard and completing good work for a client as a designer, or making a sale as an artist, is equivalent to the elation of earning a medal or trophy for a game well-played.
One does not need to emphasize the idea of competition, but in this case, the competition (or rather, goal orientation) must lie within the individual. In such a way that a runner is not necessarily gauging themselves on what others do, but instead on how much they can push themselves.
As a final statement, I received a memento from a race long ago, upon which these words were written:
"WHAT YOUR MIND CAN CONCEIVE, AND YOUR HEART CAN BELIEVE, YOU CAN ACHIEVE".
Beyond the sentiment being slightly trite, it rings true for both artists and athletes. Success can be measured by one's passion, personal drive, and is fueled those who support and encourage them. I just feel so lucky to be part of the team :)