After a hard day’s teaching of a difficult group, I sometimes ask myself how I got into all this! The very first time I stood in front of a class was in the village of Maghama in southern Mauritania. I tried to motivate the children to look at the plants and animals around them and asked them to do some drawings for my book while our expedition left for a few days in the bush. When we came back, the children gave me a thick envelope full of wonderful drawings.
That was back in 1999 and since then one thing has just led to another: I was asked to talk about my profession in my daughter’s kindergarten group, to do a workshop for a foyer, and then Luxembourg’s National Education Ministry supported my pilot project “DA VINCI UND SO WEITER”, which ran for 7 years. This project tried to apply sketchbooks in everyday teaching from kindergarten to the end of secondary school and I had the privilege of working with over 2000 pupils and 80 teachers, many of whom I taught in parellel teacher training seminars. I have worked in pilot classes with pupils with special needs in all three levels and had brief encounters with the Ministry’s pilot schools “Eis Schoul” and the “Neie Lycee”.
Since 1992, I have had the pleasure of teaching highly motivated children in the “Summerakademie”, Luxembourg’s International Summer School and since 2007 I have been leading workshops in the ‘Zoo School’ of the Parc Merveilleux, Bettembourg. More recently I’ve been teaching school groups abroad: during festivals in France or during residences in Japan.
And of course I’ve taught adults: in Art Colleges in Britain, France and Germany, in evening classes, summer and other schools and more recently through Master Classes.
Teaching people to draw and paint nature, in nature, helps to increase their patience as well as their ability to really look and see and…it’s fun! Getting close to nature is a great antidote for stress.
I take a holistic approach and include ‘warming up’ exercises, ‘ right brain’ mode exercises, diaphragmatic breathing and ball games to open up the hand (joints).
When I teach, I try to work on an individual basis as much as possible,
following through the work in progress. I don’t teach finished “recipes” but I do try to give what my best teachers gave me: know-how which enabled me to learn and progress by myself long after being taught!
For me, the most important thing to be aware of about good teaching is something that can neither be taught nor be learnt: it is what Rudolph Steiner called the “gift of of the good teacher”. You either have it or you don't.
I ‘m not sure I would like to teach full time - I enjoy my artistic practice too much for that! But while tutoring private students I have worked alongside the student and this can be very productive for both the teacher and the learner!
But why teach? Some of my most fond memories are of being taught by Master Taxidermist Dick Hendry and by other Artists/Naturalists such as Eric Ennion or John Busby in their Master Classes. These were also crucial moments in my artistic development. My shadow painting work and ‘automatic drawing’ sketchbooks are derived from my teaching!
So teaching is a way of saying ‘thank you’, of ploughing that goodness back into the soil and of helping to make people aware…of THE BIG ISSUE. So, in addition to my books, teaching is my contribution to environmental awareness and protection and it has even been a source for new ideas in my artwork.