College of Fine Arts

John Gee: Drawing the Line

By John P. Gee, Associate Professor of Art
Winner of the 2000 College of Fine Arts Dean's Teaching Award


Knowing how and where to draw the line has been a primary concern for me as an artist/educator for more than 35 years. I regard line as both a descriptor and a metaphor. There have been times when "the line" was clear and incisive, and there have been occasions when the line was blurred and equivocating. I have witnessed line evolve from a means to an end or to an end in itself, from actual to virtual. I have had the pleasure of inviting many students to step over the line and pursue a career in the visual arts.

Although I have taught classes in other areas, for the past decade my primary responsibilities have been teaching drawing classes. I feel fortunate in having been able to work with beginning students all the way up through the curriculum to the advanced students and most particularly the defining senior project in drawing.

As an educator, I regard myself as both a mentor and facilitator. Teaching for me is a personal dynamic which is challenging, multifaceted, and very rewarding. While I still adhere to a fundamental core of knowledge and basic foundations skills, I also am acutely aware that in my chosen profession I am forever pursuing a moving target. I must remain open to change, be flexible, and constructively vulnerable. I seek to effect a balance between the physical means of creating art and the intellectual, intuitive awareness required to appreciate the visual arts. A stimulating and nurturing environment which encourages communication and dialogue is at the heart of my educational philosophy. I believe that students also should learn from one another as well as teaching the teacher.

Initially for the beginning student, there is exposure, experimentation, and discovery. Then can come challenge, failure, success and a growing appetite to learn and achieve. Finally for the advanced student, there is a shared body of knowledge, experience, resolution, and an emerging artistic persona. All of these things require reassurance, critical dialogue, and clarification. I endeavor to build bridges for my students in order for them to better access their own creative potential. I champion both structure and serendipity. Reinforcing confidence and instilling a sense of professional commitment is of paramount importance. Formal and contextual issues surround a core of constructs and theories in my particular pedagogy. The knowledge and experience I have to share with my students is rooted in the past, alive in the present, and focused on the future. I would like to believe that the students get as much as they are willing to give. In effect, to quote Goethe, "If you would create something, you must be something."

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the classroom. I found that the visual arts aren't necessarily visual anymore. There are, after all, lost and found lines. Teaching is a profession that alternately drains and revitalizes me. There is some madness to my method (sans lines), and I wouldn't have it any other way.