An Interview with Inspiring Art Educator: Vincent D.

We recently met art teacher, cartoonist, and freelancer Vincent. Read the interview below and his talents and passions reveal themselves. We need more dedicated art professional like Vincent who recognize the value of art in our culture and our society and are willing to share that with the rest of us. Thanks Vincent!

Cartoon sketch of an art teacher teaching students how to draw the human body

Do you have a favorite art style or genre?
It would have to be Pop-Art. From the moment my Dad brought home a copy of MAD magazine to me when I was about 11, I wanted to draw like the artists found in the pages of that magazine. The social parodies and political humor had a huge effect on my development as a cartoonist.

Do you have a favorite artist?
Kai Heinonen, he’s kind of an obscure artist whose book “Let’s Face It!” had a profound effect on my penciling and inking style. He influenced me as a child and his work continues to.

Do you create your own art?
Everyday, both as a teacher and as a freelancer. I am always developing new stuff, currently I am working on a cartoon strip that I hope will go into syndication in the near future.

How long have you been teaching art and how did you get into it?
I am going on my 15th year as a teaching artist, teaching Cartooning and Comic Book Illustration. A wonderful person by the name of Ruth Matthews gave me my first job working as an art instructor for the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts.

What is the most challenging/rewarding project you’ve undertaken with your students?
Taking each of my High School and Adult students through the process of penciling, inking and working with a script to illustrate a 6 panel comic book page was extremely challenging and rewarding. Each student is required to take a scene’s description from a pre-decided script. They have to find the proper perspective to convey the mood in the story and then sketch it in a 4″ x 4″ panel, just like a professional comic book illustrator does. Comic book illustration is not for the faint of heart, a lot goes into it.

Tell me about one student on whom you feel art class had the most impact?
I had a very talented, diligent young man who took my cartooning course at Westchester Community College. He asked a lot of questions and I could tell that he was sponging up everything that I was teaching him. Some time had passed and when he contacted me for a recommendation letter in order to help him with his application into the School of Visual Arts, I was really delighted for him.

How do you address all of the various levels of talent, skill and interest in Art in your classroom?
My goal has always been to present lessons which are both entertaining and easy to follow so that I can teach an 8 year old and an adult the same lesson. For example, the lessons I teach in expressions incorporates the use of a game that I came up with (“The Expression Game”). Each student picks a set of Eyebrows, Eyes and Mouths, each set is numbered 1 through 6 and they take turns putting each combination together to form an expression on the character’s head. Once we figure out what the expression is telling us about how the character’s feeling we write down the “formula” so that each student has a record of how to draw this particular expression.
Eg: E.B. (Eyebrows) 1 + E. (Eyes) 3 + M(Mouth) 5 = “Surprised”. We then erase the expression and start all over with a new combination. These games really bring the lessons to life and require all of the students participation.

Why are you an art teacher?
It just seemed like a natural and logical progression for me to teach the very art form I have been studying all of my life. Being an art teacher has helped improve my own skill set, because when you have to teach it you get better at it!

Do you have a “philosophy” about arts education?
As a teenager I remember going into my high school art class and breathing a sigh of relief. That was the place where I took all of the chaos, all of the anxiety and confusion around me and inside of me, quieted it all down and turned all of that into an object of art that I could be proud of. It was a good practice to get into and it has served me well into adulthood. So it is very personal for me to see that arts education is something worth keeping around.

If I walked into your classroom, what would I expect to see?
I really get into the cartoon characters that I sometimes come up with in class, sometimes I even give them voices, so you might hear my students laughing! So one should expect to see a fun, but a highly instructional class.

What is the most challenging thing about being an art teacher?
Honestly, sometimes it’s the actual space in which I am assigned to teach a class. I was once given a band room and the students had to use musical stands instead of solid tables to draw on. It was challenging, but we got through it!

What is the most rewarding thing about being an art teacher?
Having a parent of one of my students come up to me and ask “Did she really draw this?” And answering proudly; “Yes of course!”

Image of the class intro flyer that describes what students will learn in Mr. Davis' cartoon class

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