Teaching Philosophy

My teaching philosophy centers on the activity of students learning a language – the language of visual form – and attempting to construct meaning about themselves and their relationship to the human condition through it.  Throughout the history of art human beings have practiced this language with numerous intentions in mind:  philosophical, religious, social, political, environmental, art historical, aesthetic, emotional/psychological, etc.  The visual arts are clearly an essential component of the human experience at many levels, and to acquire a sense of its history, meaning, and practical possibilities through the study of studio art is to become engaged with “the life of the mind” – that vital concept which is at the core of the liberal arts philosophy.

Generally speaking, there are five areas of learning that I emphasize in my studio courses.  These areas occur in the context of students realizing two things:  the importance of embracing a strong work ethic (I believe in a “blue collar” approach to making art); and, the sheer difficulty in making and thinking about art – though, it is a wonderful kind of difficulty that requires discipline, analytical and creative thinking, critical thinking, intuition, and caring.  The five areas of learning are:

As a teacher of studio art it is my goal to cultivate student-artists who:

Finally, recognizing the inevitability of change within my field, the importance of presenting ideas freshly, and the changing needs of new students, I consistently revise established courses (and/or presentations within successful courses), and design new projects for them. 

Paul Ryan
Professor of Art
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA  24401