A Painter's Journey Part 7 – The Painter As Teacher
International Artist|December - January 2021
In the final article of this seven-part series, John Hulsey concludes his visual journey through his outdoor and studio painting processes.

When God Softly Speaks, watercolor, 23½ x 41½ (57 x 105 cm) As I gained confidence with my Plein air watercolors, I tried ever-larger paintings to try and express my experience with the vastness of the landscape. Here, a one-point perspective is framed by the rhythmic tree plantings. It beckons us to take a walk with my collie, Painter, along a familiar path toward our home along the Hudson River in Garrison, New York.

I have always believed that the ability to make a life as an artist is a rare privilege, and with that privilege comes a measure of responsibility. I have also noticed that the world works on the principle of a circle, call it karma, and to receive one must give. For many of us, the giving back process manifests in the form of teaching and sharing the knowledge we have been able to gather up and confirm through decades of doing what we love. Teaching is not for everyone, of course. Not every artist or painter possesses the temperament or interest in becoming an effective, if not inspiring teacher. Both my wife, Ann, and I had teachers in art school who probably should not have been in front of a group of impressionable young artists. However, those bad experiences were actually beneficial to us because they taught us a lot about what kind of teachers we would mold ourselves into later on.

Among the many benefits of a life, which includes teaching, is the opportunity to get to know people from many different backgrounds and walks of life. I started teaching Plein air watercolor workshops in about 1984 when we were living on the Hudson River just north of New York City. Back then, I never saw any other painters working outside on what is the most scenic, dramatic, and beautiful part of the river. I considered the area my personal bailiwick and used it as my laboratory to learn how to paint in watercolor outdoors. After a year, I started showing and selling my work, which brought attention from others who wanted to learn what I had learned. I decided to offer three-day Plein air watercolor workshops and I immediately had 10 students signed up. I had never taught anyone before, but since they were paying me, I was determined to make a professional job of it. I organized and printed out a curriculum that could structure the class experience. Remembering those unpleasant experiences from school, I adopted compassion and positivity as my teaching style. I made some dumb teaching mistakes that any novice does, of course. I accepted people of all ages and ability levels, and that created difficulties in moving everyone forward at the same pace. I tended to work for my classes too fast and had to adjust my expectations of what they could accomplish in a session. I didn’t think to consider that my elder students would have difficulties with some of the walking and hiking we did to favorite painting spots. Things like that. Easy to fix.

Over time, I kept offering workshops and I think that I improved as a teacher, gradually, and I relaxed a bit more into it. Along the way, I learned a lot about people, life, and painting watercolor. I always learn something valuable from my students, especially about painting.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM INTERNATIONAL ARTISTView All

Shared Joy

Claudia Hartley chats with Scottsdale Artists' School about her roots as an artist and instructor

3 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Agile & Precise

Sandra Bartels moves swiftly between pastels and pastel pencils, focusing separately on each area of her subject

3 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Social Realism

Warren Chang breaks down his recent paintings capturing elements of life in California during the past two years

5 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Tactile Response

Anastasia Trusova utilizes gels, palette knives and scrapers to create multiple textures in her paintings

2 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Painting an Intimate Self Portrait

Like most self-portraits, this painting is an personal paintings often arise from rather mundane circumstances.

4 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

The Drama of Nature

From plein air studies to final studio paintings, Kim Casebeer distills the intensity and vibrance of the landscape

3 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

FIVE PROBLEMS WITH GOUACHE (AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM)

James Gurney tackles challenges specific to the medium of gouache

3 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Not an Easy Task

My teacher, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Loften said that when he looked at a painting, he was looking for three things: feeling, imagination, and the ability to communicate those first two.

4 mins read
International Artist
April - May 2022

Louis Carr — Intimate Spaces and Youthful Portraits

Louis Carr is an artist based in Raleigh, North Carolina, who is well-known for his intimate and delicately rendered portrait and landscape paintings.

5 mins read
International Artist
December 2021 - January 2022

Young at Art

Harley Brown's fascinating things no one else will tell you

9 mins read
International Artist
December 2021 - January 2022