Acrylic artist Hank Washington has been creating art and teaching art for close to a lifetime. In the summer 2016 issue of Acrylic Artist we learn how this lifelong teacher has inspired countless students. We asked Washington to share his thoughts on the benefit of working with the beginner artist. Here is what he had to say.
AA: As a teacher you are sharing your acquired knowledge. What key lesson do you recall from your early education?
HW: I received my formal education from Hampton Institute (Hampton University) more than 40 years ago. I remember being challenged to think differently about my personal art and its process. I was encouraged not to recreate the wheel but to create my own, in my style. I was encouraged to try new things, mediums, processes, styles and technologies.
AA: When you are teaching the basics to your students are you simply teaching or also refreshing your skills?
HW: One lends itself to the other—this is my joy for teaching art. Over the years I have learned much from my students that I could apply to my work. My job as teacher was simple—help students to problem solve artistically. The basics are nothing more than one’s foundation.
AA: What lessons about being an artist can we learn from spending time with younger (as in new-to-art) artists?
HW: For 15 years I taught a computer graphics class. All students knew I had a rule—if you were absent the day I taught a new lesson it was your responsibilities to find someone in class to guide you through the basics of the new lesson. Once the student could verbally discuss their level of understanding, I could then help the student with any problems. The result of this action was profound. The student that became the teacher showed a greater understanding and comprehension of the lesson. This is a lesson as old as time itself; you always get back more than you give! When we share our knowledge and gifts our rewards are great.
AA: How can going back to the basics, if even for only a class or seminar, help an experienced artist improve their technique?
HW: Fundamentals are the key to most success stories in life. Fundamentals are the building blocks for all we do artistically. I always enjoyed attending art conferences and listening to educators with different points of view whether I agreed or not with their opinions. My experience has taught me that every problem may have a number of solutions. We grow artistically if we allow ourselves to be open to new ideas, and revisit our basic skills.