Teaching: on the front line

February 20, 2004

What is your experience of teaching? Pat Leon asks teachers how they manage.

Name:  Tim Davies

Age: 43

Job: BA fine art course director, Swansea School of Art and Design

Salary: senior lecturer grade

Qualifications: BA fine art (Norwich School of Art); MA issues in art and architecture (Kent Institute, Canterbury)

Experience: I've been an artist in residence at various places, run workshops and taught in Swansea prison and in art colleges. I work primarily in installation, although there are two-dimensional elements to my work. A book on my work, Process: Explorations of the Work of Tim Davies , was published last year, and I've just been shortlisted for the Artes Mundi prize, which is for visual artists whose work expresses humanity.

Hours spent teaching : Two to three days a week. I teach attitude, a way of doing things and of taking responsibility for what you say. Self-belief and passion are not easy to teach, so I try by example. Students are invited to private viewings. They can see me actively engaged. I experiment in terms of placement. I get things wrong. I rejig. Art is not something you put down at five to catch a bus.

Hours on red tape : Not much time for it, but I do it and it is draining.

Hours on research : Two and a half days plus weekends. As an artist, my research time is pure studio practice and exhibitions. I'm passionate about my subject and I work long hours in the studio. My work germinates over a long period. When I do exhibitions, I can take several days out.

Teaching bugbear : Students who don't want to be there or shouldn't be there. They have a dreamy idea of being an artist without having any sense of what's involved in terms of commitment and rigour.

How do you solve it? When I interview students, I ask them why - in a society governed by a media that sees art as sensational or unnecessary - do they want to be an artist? My job is to give them confidence and encourage them to believe they can do it if they really want to.

Worst teaching moments? Sitting on paint in a new pair of jeans.

Oddest? When students tell you what you said years ago. In a studio, you teach off the top of your head, but students can take notes. I always say: "If you're not here, you might miss the one occasion when I utter the magic words about how to become the best artist in the world. I certainly won't remember them."

Teaching tips? Learn to grit your teeth and develop a sense of humour and a thick skin.

Outside interests: Family and music - anything except country and western and very dark heavy metal.

Tim Davies' work is featured in the "Artes Mundi" exhibition at the National Museum and Gallery, Cardiff, until April 18.

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