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Posted by Hylla Evans on

This is the first of several posts on teaching encaustic painting to beginners.  Next post will have a syllabus. Post #3 is a supply list for teachers.  Post #4 is a class handout for students.  Feel free to add your own comments on the topic of each  post. Yes, you may print this series for your own use as long as you include:  ©Hylla Evans 2012, All rights reserved.  Do not distribute by any means.

Know your material inside out.
Knowing comes from both cerebral learning and studio practice.  One without the other is not enough.
Know an accurate history of encaustic.  The gold standard is in The Art of Encaustic Painting by Joanne Mattera.  Have that book available (plus any others you like) for students to peruse during breaks.  Much information is available on the internet and some is blatantly wrong.  The internet is not a vetted source.
Assemble all technical information about waxes, the nature of medium,  and reasons for fusing tools and the techniques of each, various substrates and their properties.  Know how encaustic behaves alongside other media.  Know this from your own experiments in addition to what you've been taught.
Know every tool artists use with encaustic.  Though you won't show every tool in class, you will get questions.  The breadth of misinformation out there is astounding.

Know how to impart your information generously and accurately.
Teaching encaustic is not a good plan if you don't have training and experience in teaching itself.  Learning styles vary, artistic development varies, students come to class with strong interest and some knowledge.  As teacher, your handling of each of these differences is critical to everyone's success.  It's important that you be able to mentally identify the learning style of each student in the class quickly.  Draw them out at the start of the day to gauge HOW each learns.  If you want books on general teaching methods and identifying learning skills, you can easily find those.  I recommend the Teachers College bookstore or online articles.  
I'm not suggesting that you give students a test on entry.  Have one go round of students introducing themselves, keeping it simple but giving you good information.  Ask them to address any of these: what is their art medium in which they are most comfortable, have they taken a class in encaustic or read books, how do they come to find this particular class?  Provide name tags then you make notes on what you glean from each student telling you about herself.  Though your class will be diverse in experience, you need to help each artist move forward from where she is now.  You want to encourage each individually in the course of the class and with follow up email.  Encourage them to contact you by email but don't require it.  
Respect each student's privacy, strengths, and vulnerabilities.  Class is not a competition and you need to diffuse any notion that one student is better than another.  
If there is a question to which you don't know the answer, say so.  Get the answer and communicate it to the whole class the next session or by email if there isn't another session.
Unless the class is convened specifically to teach your own methods of making your own art work, do not make that a subject of conversation and try to diffuse such requests to after class or during a break.  People cannot help but to try to please the teacher and consciously or not, some will mimic your work.

© Hylla Evans 2012

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