By: Sterling Hundley
We are told that creativity is an endless well of possibility. In reality, creativity is a system of logic addressing the imperceptible. Artists have the role of drawing imperceptible phenomena into the visible world.
As an illustrator and an educator, my job is to make things clear. In the studio, intuition is an ever-present influence that guides the pencil and the brush between lucidity and flow. Here, it is welcomed; encouraged; lauded. Yet the classroom shines a harsh light on intuition. There is no unchecked decision. The classroom is the space for unpacking choices driven by unseen forces. Here we are charged with the responsibility to explain. To explain is to share truth earned from years of observing and doing.
I find intuition to be the least effective of approaches in teaching. While intuition is a remarkable and powerful gift that lives between innate talent and hyper-awareness, it does little to provide insight into the underlying logic behind our choices. To a student, an education should provide structure and consensus so that knowledge can be understood, repeated, emulated, built upon, and ultimately challenged. I have been made a better artist thanks to the students who have challenged automatic answers.
If done correctly, an educator takes more from their teaching than they ever have to give. Each student offering a unique perspective and challenge, as we try to unlock the riddle to reach them. To hold yourself to the standard that you profess is to be committed to unraveling the logic behind the magic. This pattern plays back on an endless loop between studio; life; classroom and back into the studio. The practicing artist who teaches with conviction is rewarded through an ever-deepening understanding of their own choices. This three-part act is invigorated through cogent conversations with ambitious and eager minds and actualized through practice.
These are the unwritten rules that are discovered on the fringes of the Academy. It is not that theory has no space here, it is that the educator is the practitioner who challenges their own theories and tests their hypotheses through each new creative work; each new experiment. And it is in the marriage of the idea and its manifestation that we test the validity of our assumptions. On rare occasions, we prove these an assumption to be true, and our work catapults forward through the discovery of new knowledge.
The methods that you will find here are the collected observations from the pursuit of a curious mind. I assure you that for all of the apparent logic and structure that a book portends through its organization and writing, all of this began as a spark of curiosity that I refused to let die out. What is on display more than anything is stubbornness, a deep curiosity for the unknown, and a relentless pursuit of leaving an authentic mark.
Ultimately, I believe these ideas to be true. Yet, I encourage you to approach this book with skepticism, knowing that to truly bring value into this world as an artist, you must enter into the unknown and bring something back to those that you left behind. You must make them see it with their own eyes. There is no single system, pathway, pipeline, method, or process that is universally true. What is presented here are governing principles which, at best, provide structure, understanding, and scaffolding upon which you must dress your own story.