It’s hard to go from being teacher to student

betty ming liu Art 9 Comments

My happy tra-la-la year of taking painting classes is officially over. Just got “The Talk” from my new collage teacher — the one about how I have such potential but if I don’t take myself seriously and paint every week, the art ain’t gonna happen.

On some level, listening to him felt like a huge cosmic joke. Every semester, I give a variation on this lecture to at least one special student who is doing (at best) second-rate work in my class. I try not to take their mediocrity personally but it usually offends me.

How surreal then, that barely an hour ago, I was on the unfamiliar receiving end of that familiar monologue. It passed in a blur. But I think I heard something about my “tremendous intellect,” that I am “obviously a romantic” and that almost no one does orange art. That last point meant that I could actually be unique if I’m truly passionate about orange as my favorite color.

During The Talk, he critiqued the piece that I hastily threw together over the weekend. I was attempting a student trick — the one where you think you’re so good that you’ll defy the odds and pull a rabbit out of the hat.

But my teacher said my work was “all over the place.” Then he gave me an assignment: rip up bits of paper, paint them orange, arrange them on a canvas.

Don’t make it complicated, he said.

Think of it as writing music, he added.

The result doesn’t have to allude to anything definable, he stressed.

Okay, I agreed.

Then I told him that I would miss next week’s class. And you know what happened next — I got zapped by that Annoyed Teacher Glare.

Over the years, students have hit me with all kinds of excuses for their absences. Even so, I thought mine was pretty original. As he sat there waiting to hear what would come out of my mouth, I flashbacked to the explanations I’ve accepted from my students. They’ve missed class to observe holidays, adjust to new medications, deal with family dramas.

“Uh, um,” I said while my classmates bent over their projects, pretending they weren’t listening. “My best friend just became a grandma & I need to visit her and the baby in L.A.”

Unfortunately, he didn’t seem impressed. But he was somewhat appeased when I promised to bring him back a souveneir pen.

After that, I walked out of class thinking, “I’m too old for this.”

I am about to turn 54 very soon. I’m not giving out the date on Facebook or anywhere else for fear of presenting identity thieves with the info they need to access my Social Security number and finances. But I digress…

For half a century, I have wandered this earth in search of myself. I was a slacker in high school and barely got through college. This meant that I had the perfect personality to make it in the rough-and-tumble world of old school journalism.

Now it’s time to be someone new. Maybe I can become a person who finally finds the missing parts of herself. Maybe I can even be a long-time divorcee who finds romance with a man. True love.

One of the final comments from my teacher was that I need to “be brave.” Well if I’m going to rip up bits of paper, paint them orange, glue them on a canvas and feel that I just made art…no joke, that demands courage.

Okaaay. Gotta end this post because my thumbs are shot — this is the first time I’m blogging on my BlackBerry! Posting via cell phone is a cool feature of my new website set-up. So, ciao for now. ;) Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Comments 9

  1. Betty, that is hysterically funny! (Because it was you, not me.) Karma, such a lovely idea, isn’t it? Actually, the assignment with the orange bits is quite challenging and should result in something interesting.

    And by the way, I am super impressed that you can actually blog from your phone! I haven’t even tried that yet!

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    Yeah, aren’t you lucky it wasn’t you! One of my readers emailed me and wanted to know what my homework looked like. Am I capable of that much honesty…and humiliation? I might let y’all look at it sometime. And I LOVED blogging by phone. I felt so modern. :)

  3. In my personal point of view, every teacher has different standards in teaching including YOU.

    I think your ORANGE color in arts is unique. Just enjoy your trip and face your teacher & paintings later. LOL.

    Life is short and we should enjoy what we put as our priority in this summer! (this moment) ….^^

  4. Hilarious! On the positive side, the teacher is confronting you with reality, forcing you to be honest with yourself about your talent and potential. The difference here is that it’s likely sinking in with you, where it might not be sinking in with your students when you have The Talk with them.

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    haha, laura. i actually think students are pretty responsive. maybe it’s just that they won’t respond when i want them to! i need to accept that. after all, i got lectured but i’m still in l.a. now. :)

    but i will try to do my homework next week. :)

  6. Betty,
    First of all, I love your new website.

    Orange is my favorite color too!!! I have this orange tote I used daily. Orange is a happy color, that say a lot about how we accept ourselves. :)

    If you have time while you are in LA, give Katie a call. She would love to see you.


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  8. In June, my 11 year old son told me off handedly the day before we flew to California for a week that he heard people are “agressive” toward people who wear orange. I had planned to wear my favorite orange polo for the fllight the next day but decided to wear a dark purple shirt instead – just incase he was right. Color does affect people and I didn’t want the slightest problem with security guards or flight attendants. The purple shirt seemed to work. There were no problems. I wonder what would have happened if I had worn the orange polo. Good luck with your orange collage (just don’t wear it!).

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    hmmm, never heard of orange described as aggressive. that’s interesting, carrie. maybe i’ll wear orange on the flight home and see what happens. i’ll wear something that matches my new pedicure. we went to a vietnamese nail salon (the salons out here are all vietnamese rather than korean). after considering all the available colors, i thought about my collage teacher and decided to get orange toe nails. they’re not horrible, i swear!

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