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In this special episode of Art Ed Radio, art educator and motivational speaker Kevin Honeycutt joins Tim to talk about innovation, artmaking, and the future of education. This wide-ranging interview is equal parts humorous and thought-provoking, as most of Kevin’s discussions tend to be.
Kevin Honeycutt will be the featured presenter at the NOW Conference on February 6th, where he will share his ideas on teaching art, creativity, and inspiration. Full Episode Transcript Below.
Tim: Welcome to Art Ed Radio, the podcast for art teachers. This show is produced by The Art of Education University and I’m your host, Tim Bogatz.
In today’s podcast, I am pleased to welcome on Kevin Honeycutt, who will be our featured presenter at the winter NOW Conference on February 6. What am I most looking forward to with his NOW presentation is just how specific it will be to art teachers. Now, Kevin is a thought leader and a speaker and a great source of inspiration. I’ll let him introduce himself, talk about what he does, but I’ll say this. He is a former art teacher, so he gets us. I love that, at the conference and in the podcast today, we will get a message to art teachers from an art teacher. Kevin is intelligent. He is hilarious. He is a great storyteller. And more than anything, he is inspiring. So, I’m looking forward to what he has to say today and even more so what he has to say on February 6. Like I said, I have a handful of questions that I really want to know about. Some ideas I really want to hear. I want to talk to him about his life, his story, his time as an art teacher, and what he’s doing now and what continues to inspire him. But beyond that, we’re just going to see where the conversation takes us. I’m definitely excited to see what transpires, so let me bring him on now.
All right, Kevin Honeycutt is joining me now. Kevin, how are you today?
Kevin: I’m good. Hanging in there.
Tim: Good. Glad to hear it. I’m really, really thrilled to be able to talk to you today. A lot that I want to cover with you, but can we just begin with an introduction? Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, about your life, about how you got to be where you are today?
Kevin: I’m the first generation from my family to graduate high school. Then, I went to college. I broke all the rules. I’m a colorblind art teacher, but I don’t know. If you don’t it, you can do what you want to do. Also, dyslexic. I have some learning disabilities. It’s kind of a miracle I went to college and got my teaching certificate in art. I became an art teacher because I grew up in poverty… and I have a book out there that kind of tells you where I’m from. I went to school in over 20 states because my dad was an alcoholic and a criminal. It’s a lot. There’s a lot there to unpack.
But all that feeds my art. All of that has always fed my art. All of that has always fed my kids. The broken kids, the damaged kids, the lost kids found me. They found my room. I wanted to be that because so many art teachers were that for me. Wherever I went, I found the art room. And I found my home. Because I could do that. I could always draw. And I think it’s because… I think people compensate. I think when you don’t have this, you build that. Those crazy art teachers, they always seemed like they were barely keeping their job and I thought, that looks like people I know! That’s the one safe place. They didn’t act like they were better than everybody else. They painted with their pain. They created with their damage. And that was instructive to me.
So, I became an art teacher. My first job right out of college I taught at five elementary schools. 1500 kids. Art on a cart. Good grief. I was the ice cream man of art. I’d go in the room, set up the supplies, get ready to go. By the time you set up, you have about 15, maybe 20 minutes if you’re lucky, of operable time, then you’re cleaning up. It was this drive by art. But a year of that and five different schools taught me a lot about classroom management. And then I got my first job where I was the art teacher in the town. Tiny little town. Inman, Kansas. 1100 people. I was all of the art teachers in that town. In the morning, I was high school. Then, I went over to the grade school and taught two units, 45 minutes each, of elementary. That’s K-6. Then, I hurried back because I had five minutes, literally, to get from the grade school back to the high school and be set up and ready for seventh and eighth graders to walk in the door.
I did 13 years of that. And I loved it. It was a big responsibility because I knew I can’t blame anyone. If they come to me in junior high and they don’t know their principles and their elements and… that’s me! That’s on me. I had to make sure, in 45 minutes, that I got them a good foundation in art and I worked hard to do that. I loved my job, but you can burn out. You can burn out. Especially when you’re the only art teacher in a district. There’s no one to talk to. They keep the music and band teachers away from us because if we ever joined forces, we’d take over the world. The fine art teachers. [inaudible 00:05:25] I knew the kids needed me.
Well, when I left there, I became a staff developer and, if you can believe it or not, a keynote speaker and staff developer as an art teacher. I always have art teachers come up and say, “We’ve never had an art teacher do our PD!” Shh, don’t tell anyone. I had to play it down. The down low. Because if I act too creative, the history teachers won’t respect me or the coaches won’t respect me. I walk a line. That’s where I am now. Teaching online. Doing a lot with pre-service teachers from Kansas State University through a friend of mine who kind of puts me out there in front of them. These are going to be art teachers and so I’m talking methodology for online… I’m a old guy. I’m Yoda. I was doing online art teaching… I don’t know how many… 15 years ago? Back when it was pretty hard. Training teachers to try to be… what’s the word… engaging and interesting online. That takes a lot more than wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa or Bob Ross. Line by line. They have want to. If you can’t start there, you’re not going to get anywhere. I always tell teachers, bring your weird. Don’t leave your weird at home.
When you’re teaching online, you have to be almost amplified. So they want to draw with you. Bring your jokes. Bring your weirdness. Look back here. See all this? That’s all on purpose, so kids will go, “Hey, what’s that mask thing there?” “Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Yeah, your modeling clay that I asked you guys to get? I hope you have it, but if you don’t, there’s that recipe for play dough that I sent you, too. Either way, we’re going to do faces tomorrow, so be ready for that.” If I can hook them, I can cook them. So, I kind of need a mall window here of things that they can look at. Anyway, so, engagement is a big deal. Coming from poverty, I also know that kids like… Like Madeline Hunter said, kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And that starts with just being a person.
Tim: Can we talk a little bit more about your time as an art teacher? Maybe just some of the highlights and maybe some of the low lights? What did you really enjoy when you were teaching art and what are some of the things that maybe you didn’t enjoy as much or some of the things that drove you a little bit crazy when you were in the classroom?
Kevin: That’s such a good question. No one’s ever asked that question. First of all, driving me crazy is a very short drive. I think, in a small town, you struggle to make sure people appreciate art. Here’s a real story. Elementary teacher keeps keeping this one kid out of my class. I went to her room and I said… third grade teacher. I said, “Why isn’t Anthony in art?” “Well, he hasn’t got his work done.” I said, “I have a degree. I can show it to you if you want. I’m a teacher, too. I’m not recess. I’m not optional.” “Well, he likes it so much. It’s just a really good way to motivate.” I said, “Again, I’m not optional. Creativity is not optional. I’m one of the teachers here.” I was always fighting that perception that I was fluff. That I was that cute, little enrichment thing they do when kids are taking a break from real learning. I have a hard time not getting angry. But I had to hang in there. Because you have these kids that you represent and it’s really important that you’re there for them.
I don’t expect people to know. If you wait for people to appreciate, you’re going to be waiting a long time. You just have to do your job. Do your job. As kids grow up… Now, I’m an old man. I’m 54 years old. These kids hit me on Instagram and on Twitter and they tell me I made a difference in their lives. Exactly what I wished was happening happened. That faith that you have to have. You have to have faith that you’re making a difference. At the end of the day, I always thought, look, all my kids aren’t going to become fine artists, but if they have a sketchbook under their bed that they pull out now and then and are proud of, if they pick out better curtains and better interior decorations because they were in my class, if once and while they say something smart at a dinner party and know who the artist was… Louise Nevelson or whatever name they pull out and everyone’s surprised, I’ve enriched them in that way. I love that part of it.
Things that drove me crazy. Let me think here. I think fighting the whole budget. I didn’t have a budget. They always think it’s cute to be that starving art teacher… a dumpster diver. That’s cute. At some point, it’s not cute. So, I fought hard over the years and I got my budgets where they needed to be and I had 50 colors of glaze. You can look at the glaze index over here. I had three bottles of each color of glaze. This is the kind of stuff that… Then, I started teaching jewelry and metalsmithing. Casting. Sterling silver and gold. Again, if I didn’t do it, the kids didn’t get it. So, I had to do everything. There’s nothing I could turn my nose up to and go, “I don’t do batik.” You can’t do that because you’re erasing that from the pantheon of their experience. You can’t do that.
But it’s hard when you’re the only person, so you do the best you can. You read journals and all of that and try to stay in touch. One thing I did was I was constantly subscribing to college journals so I could see what my kids were headed toward. What were they going to have to do in college? I found that I wasn’t doing all of those things. For instance, I resisted digital stuff for a long time. And I was proud of that. Being a Luddite in that way. The more I looked at colors and the more I looked at Photoshop and the more I looked at… I thought, man, I’m ripping my kids off here. I can’t do this.
So, I got one computer in my room. 26 kids and one computer. I would rotate them to give them experience with Illustrator or Photoshop because I thought, they’re going to get jobs today. Not yesterday, today. I want my kids to be tradigital. Tradigital. Yes, a firm grounding in traditional, but also digital and ready to get a job in industry so they’re not living in mom’s basement. I don’t think that’s cute. I know we all have to make a living. Some of my kids, they work… They do illustration in a shop somewhere. They know the difference between the work they do for money and the work they do for love. And that’s okay. To give them both things. I want them to be able to pay the bills. So, I tried my best to get kids ready for careers.
The more I went in that direction, I seemed to chafe my colleagues. They were like, why don’t you just teach art? Why are you doing all this digital stuff? Because I want my kids to get a job. It bothered them. One of them actually said it outright. He said, “If you keep doing all of this digital crap, we’re all going to have to do it.” And I said, “Why are we working here? Is it for us or for them?” I got in trouble. Most good school innovation dies with domestic violence, I say sometimes. I think the art room is a place where… I’m going to say this, okay? Creativity, innovation, and invention are all one thing. Send hate mail here. I don’t care. Because here’s what I think. Creativity… When you call it creativity, everyone that doesn’t do creativity thinks it’s optional. It’s cute. That’s the beginning. You have to understand. To teach kids to be creative is to teach them to have a thought no one’s had yet. That is innovation. That is invention. You want to talk about maker? Art teachers have been doing it the entire time. Now, I’m ready to take it up a notch. I’m ready to claim that. I think it’s okay to be that bold.
So, here’s what crazy things we’re doing here. Me and my five-year-old, we make things. We build something out of modeling clay. That’s a 3D scanner. Anything that we make out of clay, we 3D scan. We wireframe. We move it over to software. We 3D print. I show him that we can go from one to selling a thousand units on Etsy next week. My five-year-old. He has an Etsy store and he understands his Etsy store. I think that’s okay. Look, if you want to make one out of sterling silver and sell that thing for $300, awesome. But you got one. Once it’s done, you’ve got one. What if you could sell a bunch of them? What if you could do that to pay the bills? In the old days, like the Renaissance, you’d have a patron. We don’t have a patron. I don’t have a patron. I have to be my own patron. So, if I could use some of my work to pay for some of my work, I think that’s okay. Again, we’re already doing it. Everything your kids make in the art room is their intellectual property. They have something that belongs to them. That is awesome. Not every class can say that. This is all something we can do now.
So, if we’ve already made it… Now, what I’m playing with is what if I made it in clay and I scan it? It takes a little bit of work to scan something this complicated, but simpler things are really easy to scan. Things like mugs, coffee cups, pinch pots. Things a third-grader might make. It’s a fun time to be alive. Honestly, I had all this gear before the pandemic. Pandemic hit, my life changed because all of my jobs went away. Honestly, I’m just… I don’t know. I’m hanging in there. Doing online things and just trying not to lose my house. I’m just going to be honest with you. If it wasn’t for online, I wouldn’t be making any money right now. I’m waiting to be back on the road, in a room with teachers, on a stage with a conference. I have to get that back sometime. In the meantime, I’ve pulled out all this gear and gone back to school. I’ve gone deep on all this stuff. I have a five-year-old, so I have a good excuse for that. I’m going to turn a bad thing into something positive.
Tim: Yeah, I think that’s really good. Actually, that’s a good segue for me because I wanted to ask you just about your creative process. About what art making looks like for you. When you’re talking about how you’re diving into all of these new sorts of things, is that consistent with other types of art that you’ve learned, that you’ve done? Can you just talk about your process when it comes to creating art? I know you write songs. Things like that. What does the creative process look like for you?
Kevin: It starts like it always did. With a sketch. Sometimes it used to be on a plane. I would draw… I have a tiny sketchbook and it had to fit on the tray table. I was always on the run. 265 days a year, I was on a stage somewhere, but I could not stop being an artist so I would draw on anything that I had. I wish I could show you on my computer here. I draw on my computer all the time. Constantly. And then my hand wipes it off and then I draw again. There’s a living canvas on my laptop. Because I don’t want to just use some piece of technology. I want to be part of these things.
So, I still collect things that interest me and I still build things. From this is inspiring to I can make this with second graders to we can have one of these things here, put it on Thingiverse, and have a reputation as a working artist that might lead to an Etsy store and an income. I have to tell you, man. My mind has opened since the pandemic. I’m coaching kids on how to build their first store. I’m coaching kids on how to use social media. You might notice on Twitter I’ve got nearly 64000 followers. That’s on purpose. Because those people might be customers. I might need them to be customers. If I’m going to be a working artist and have customers, I have to build that.
Everyone can do that now. It used to be if you were rich and you had connections, you had it made. If you were poor, good luck, kiddo. Now, you can build your own audience. So, I tell kids, go out there on Etsy and find people who are selling like hot cakes. Find people who are making what you would like to make or you already make and slowly steal their audience. Go on social media. Find them on Twitter, Instagram, every place, and follow their followers. Because they’re already pre-qualified fans of your genre. This is hunting these days. I’m just teaching kids who are still biologically awkward paleolithic hunter-gatherers how to hunt in this new valley. This is not… People have been doing this kind of thing for a long time. As an artist, are you pre-buzzing your release? Are you talking on social media about how excited you are about your new t-shirt and what it says and what you’re trying to do with that?
Let me give another idea. I like textiles. I’ve always liked weaving. I found this site online that’s really cool… and I’ll go farther into that when I talk with teachers, but I found this site where I can… It’s called Spoonflower. One word. Spoonflower.com. Where kids can upload their artwork and then they can turn it into a pattern or tessellate it or whatever and decide how many images per square inch and then buy the fabric from themselves or buy the fabric already made into pillows, blankets, comforters, tea towels, everything for your house. Your Martha Stewart living, basically, with your art. Now, you can sell that. If you just want to buy your own… and I’ve done this already with my five year old. The curtains in his room were designed by him. He thinks every kid like him designs their own fabrics. He thinks that’s what kids do. And I want school to teach that! I don’t want my kid to be the weird exception. I want this to be something we do. If it’s good, it’s good. It’s good everywhere.
So, Spoonflower and suddenly you’re making your own stuff. Books, of course. Publishing coffee table quality art books from a young age so you’re used to publishing. Because without people seeing your art, are you an artist? Are you a secret genius? Are you Emily Dickinson with a trunk full of brilliance no one finds until after you’re dead? I tell kids, don’t be Emily Dickinson. Live out loud. Create out loud. Make out loud. Share out loud. Do that. If no one buys your thing, keep doing better things until someone wants it. And keep looking for your audience. A lot of times, my audience for my music isn’t America. It’s Australia for some reason. Or New Zealand for some reason. But what if you live in a small town and you’ve only shown your work to the people in your town? No one understands you. That’s going to hurt, man. You’re going to give up. I’m going to help kids find their people. They’re out there. They’re out there. I promise.
For almost any artwork, any genre, there’s someone out there. The best thing to do is go hunting. Find out who’s doing what you do and successful. Sidle up to them. Hey, I love your artwork. I just want to know… I want to learn at your feet. By the way, when you approach somebody who’s a working artist and a kid comes to you with a voice like that, you cannot resist that. Unless you’re a total jerk, oh my. I tell kids. Be everybody’s kid. Be humble. Be courteous. Be the person they want to hand their legacy to. And in some cases, they will. I can prove to you this is not crazy. But if you’ve never done this before… I’ll meet some art teachers and I’ll suggest this to them. A lot of times, their first impulse is, well, you’re commercializing. Yes. Yes. Of course. Here’s my portfolio that’s not commercial. Here’s my portfolio that pays the bills. Yes, I am. I am.
Because when you start talking about kids making a living… The shop teacher is doing it. The woods teacher. Power mechanics is doing it. The literature teacher should be doing it. Because if kids are writing… This is a book that comes from one of my teacher friends from Wisconsin. Comes out twice a year. Inside the book is all the things kids write for the whole year. Instead of just writing and handing it to one person, the teacher, they publish the book. It comes out twice a year. It’s a compendium of everything they’ve written. Before the kids leave and graduate, they published their own books. Here’s a kid’s book. This is a high school kid. His first published work. The minute he publishes this on CafePress… not on CafePress. I’m sorry. Lulu.com. L-U-L-U dot com. Self publishing for free. The minute he clicks publish, he’s got a bar code on the back and he’s published and he also has a legal copyright in the United States. This kid.
So, I’m in Australia, showing this to elementary kids and one of those elementary kids lost his mind because he’s a photographer. In Australia, depending on where you live, there could be very interesting things to point a camera at. But I would wager… I don’t care what town you’re in…. there’s something to point a camera at. Every picture you take, kids, is your intellectual property. Your potential product. So, take a lot of pictures. Take a lot of pictures. How do you get good at photography? Take a lot of pictures! When you first start, you’ll take 100 pictures and two will be good. Then, you take 100 more and four will be good. And if you just keep going… What’s it cost to take pictures these days, kids? Nothing! We took pictures and you had 24 pictures and none of them were good. And you didn’t know for three days while you were waiting for the film to be developed. And you paid $25 for that. It’s free for you. So, what’s your excuse again? Get busy! The only person that can stop you is you. Get busy.
What do you want to be true? When you go for that scholarship meeting, don’t go in there with a portfolio full of artwork with coffee stains on it. Walk in there with a coffee table quality printed book of your work that’s museum quality. They’re going to say who are you again? Because they don’t even have that. That professor. You’re going to have an unfair advantage against kids who don’t know any of this. So, my job, I think, is to make sure kids know. They should know, right? We always assume they’re digital, they understand, but not… The web and technology prepare a buffet of tools that kids can be successful with, but for the most part, I think they’re eating the napkins. I know my job. My job is to show them how to turn these into opportunities. To turn their art into something people see, not just some secret thing.
When you’re teaching ceramics… We used to call them love pots. These tiny pots kids make on the potter’s wheel that don’t rise above the pan. They’re so small and cute. They’re cute! The walls are like two inches thick. They love it! There’s a moment there where you can stop and say, I made one. They dry it off and they pull it up and the foot’s got a serrated blade edge there. If you don’t graduate past the love pot, you’re not ever going to get to success. So, when it gets above your hand… How do I help them get their art above their hand? Up to here. So that it starts to be thin. Take some risks, yes. When you first do that pot and you’re trying to make it thinner and you don’t really have the finesse down yet and you go too fast, too hard and the whole thing gets… and you lose it and you basically want to cry? There’s a graduation moment in all art. Photography, anything. But I think keeping kids excited through that.
Imagine now if we never got to teach them in person again. How would you do it from home? For me, I have to do it with them. I have to do it with them. I have to find a way to do it with them. If we can do it step by step and I can be honest… Look, if you’re not willing to suck, you can never be great. If you only do what you already can do… and this happens with gifted kids a lot. They won’t risk a B. How do I role model? I don’t know, but I’ll figure it out with you. How many times have you done this? You act like you’re not very good so they can be better. Because if you do it as good as you can, what are they going to say? I can’t do that. I’ve had times when I drew so badly in front of grade school kids, they said, “Mr. Honeycutt, I’m worried about you. I think I’m better than you. Are you going to get fired?” No, I know I have a job, dude. I don’t have to show off in front of grade school kids. I want to bring them along. Just keep them tantalized enough that they just can’t stop. Hook them.
We all know that teacher that we had that the bell rang and you thought, dang, it’s over? You were bummed that the class was over. So, how do you design learning like that? Lately, I’ve been doing a whole lot of drawing simple things. Because I’m working with elementary… Let’s see if you can see that. Simple things like this. Because I’m really… They don’t know I’m teaching transition shading. The teacher lets me do it because I’m saying head, abdomen, thorax, exoskeleton insect. They love my lesson. What they don’t get is I only had one thing I wanted to do and that’s to teach contrast and transition shading. I got my curriculum in through the Trojan horse of whatever curriculum they hired me and I did both. Art teachers have been doing this the whole time. We’ve been teaching a lot more than art. It’s just that people don’t always get that. So, rather than say it… because I’m not young anymore and I’m not stupid. If you don’t say it, you can do anything you want. I know everybody out there who’s listening knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Tim: Oh, for sure. For sure. That’s what our teachers are great at. Just a little bit of subversive action for the greater good, I think. That works well. Now, I want to ask you, I guess, for some advice for teachers. I know this year has an incredibly difficult year for everyone involved, students and teachers alike, but what advice do you have for teachers who are feeling burned out, feeling uninspired, just having a really difficult time with things this year? What would you tell them?
Kevin: Here’s my go-to. Perfect is the enemy of done. Just go forward. Just go forward. Number two, find your people. Find your people that you can get on Zoom and drink wine with and let it out. Don’t let it build up. I’m seeing good teachers burn out right now. You’ve got to give yourself grace. You’re not going to get this down in one moment. But imagine this. Imagine your own child back in, let’s say, junior high and they won a fellowship to go to Antarctica for the research station there. It’s a big deal. It’s probably going to lead to scholarships. You’re happy about it. On the way in, the plane crashes. Your kid is okay, but now you have to spend the next year making sure they don’t get behind academically using anything you have. What would you do for your own child? Try. And remember, just be you. Lead with you. I think the minute we go, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, and they say online instruction and we feel like we just put on a straight jacket… That can’t be art teachers, man. We’ve never worn that. We have resisted, ripped it off, and half the time, it’s not buckled in the back anyway. Just go for it. I chose art because no one bothers the art teacher. Because, largely, no one understands the art teacher. Be that person, that operator, that you’ve been.
In fact, I know a lot of art teachers that are leading the way right now. Because a creative approach to all of this blows away a precise academic approach to all of this. One is amazing and fun and the kids… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but sometimes when the kids do an art class, they are so excited because, compared to academic classes that are going wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, wa, they’re amazing. My five year old had a music class yesterday online and he was all over the place. He loved it! That music teacher was just… I could tell she was who she was in the elementary classroom. Exactly that on Zoom. She laid down. She acted like she went to sleep. She woke up. She was over exaggerating. She sang a song about the morning. I’m sitting there going, yeah, girl. That’s exactly it right there. You have to be that. If you’re sitting there like this and acting like that bird from The Muppet Show… Remember that eagle?
Kevin: If you have a board up your butt, this isn’t going to work. And I’d say this, too. I’d say this. Every cool thing you do, art teachers, record it. Hit record on Zoom or whatever you’re using every time. Because I promise this is going to happen. When we get back to school, you’re going to have those kids on the spectrum who trigger socially, who don’t do well in your class because they’re not good socially. When you’re wearing a headphone… One headphone in, one headphone out. That’s my rule so you can hear me and the archive. They’re taking your two-point perspective lesson, the one you recorded and put on YouTube, and they’re kicking butt with that. While the other kids are doing it in the room. Now you have a new way to teach.
Don’t waste energy here. Make sure you’re recording the stuff you do. I have 124 art lessons so far that I give away for free. I know it’s not going to change the world and it’s not Julliard. It’s basic principles. How to draw a tree. How to draw a face. The nose is halfway. This is one third. It’s fractions of the human face. Basic foundational things. Let’s say it’s October and you get a new student next year and we’re back in class. She missed the first weeks of school. No, she didn’t. Just give her the lessons you’re creating now.
So, hit record. Hit record. Again, don’t wait for perfect. It’s not going to happen. I’ve got parents thanking me for drawing lessons I did 10 years ago. That stuff you’re doing is evergreen. It’s always going to work. How to draw a praying mantis. How to draw a beetle. How to draw a lightning bug. How to draw… You know what I mean? They love it. It’s like candy for some kids. They will binge learn from your lessons. Jump in there and try it. And listen. Find your people to call. That kind of example. What can we do now to turn this situation… in front of kids, by the way. Because kids are watching. They’re watching what we’re going to do. You have to be braver than you are. Hang up the phone and cry if you have to, but they have to see us… Kids, it’s going to be okay. Now, do I really know? God, I hope so. But no, it’s going be okay. We’re going to work our way through this. We’re going to come out stronger than we were. We’re not going to waste this crisis. We’re going to get better. We’re never going to get caught flat footed again. Next time, we’ll be ready. Because we’re the adults in their lives.
Tim: I love that. Then, I guess, just one last question for you. Kind of along the same lines of what you were just saying. I guess we probably we want to end on a little bit better note. I think it’s important to look for inspiration, look for motivation, so what do you think teachers can do to find inspiration, to find meaning, and reanimate their teaching, and just get through the rest of this school year here?
Kevin: One of the things I’m doing is getting out all my old stuff. All my old stuff. All the stuff you kind of started and you didn’t have time. I don’t have time now, but it seems like I need to… I need a shot in the arm and it needs to come from me. From younger me. From ambitious me. I don’t know. I go back to the old stuff again. I’m putting that stuff on the wall and I’m looking at it. And I’m going, how do I keep developing? Because, to me, the well has to start with its own water. And so if you don’t have water and you’re down to mud, you can’t really give people anything. So, how do we get water back in the well? For me, it’s been revisiting what I used to do, hat I almost do, what I start to do. Get out your clay, get out your whatever, and become a maker again.
I think part of being an art teacher… The most challenging part is I feel like sometimes teaching art stole my art. It kind of did. I was so busy teaching art, I didn’t get to create art. And then when you get home, you’re so tired. You’re like, do I want to do art? I did art all day. Kind of. I have to find a way. Find a way to rationalize. If I know I’m going to do an online sculpture class, I get to make a sculpture. I get to make a model. I get to make an example. I get to make. Ah. I’m enjoying that. I’m not looking at that as work. Now, I’m hooking it. I’m making sure it all works. And, hey, Jacob could you unmute? Thank you, Jacob. All of that. Whatever. The cost of doing business, maybe.
But I’d say jump back into who you are as an artist. Go find your art again. Get your stuff out. Get your old sketchbooks out. Get it all out. I did that. In a room, I got out everything. I spread it out on the floor and I walked from end to end and went, I found myself again. I thought, I’ll teach that! I was good at that. Don’t waste anything. Anything you’ve ever created, get it out. Go clear out the file cabinets and find that stuff and I think you’ll find inspiration. What inspired you when you first started? Whatever that is, find it again. Now, you’ll probably interpret that… We’re the Rosetta Stone for that motivation, but you’ll interpret that again. Draw. Look around. My kid is all over me all the time. I haven’t left this house. That five-year-old needs… He’s creative, I’ll give you that. I mean, I think this has been good… This is crazy. His language, his vocabulary, his art, his creations… That’s all he does is create. I don’t know. I don’t want to give that away. I was on the road all the time. And so some good things. Look for the good. I promise there’s good there. And keep talking to those students. Keep working on relationships.
Embrace imperfection. I had a photography teacher. He said, “The camera already does it perfectly. Everything you do that’s not perfect is your style, is your art.” It took me a while to believe that. A lot of us are in this chase to draw perfectly. Photo real. We have to prove we can. You can chase that rabbit for your whole life if you want to, but the minute you deviate… Here’s one more example of that. I had a student who was on American Idol. [inaudible 00:34:42] Made round two. I’m like, yeah! Wes, you got this, man. I’ve had a couple students that went a long way in those creative places. But he came back. He didn’t make it past the third round. I said, “What happened?” He said, “They said come back when I sound like me.” And I said, “What do you think that means?” He said, “Well, I can emulate anyone, but until I have my own style, I can’t win.” I thought about that, right? That thing you think is your imperfection might be your brand. I tell kids that. That your biggest weakness is your biggest strength waiting to be shown well.
So, bring it. Bring real. We can role model that with our insecurity and our efforts and, yes, our frustrations and the way we work through it so they can see us getting through this, too. We’re going to do this. We’re going to be okay on the other side of this. We’re going to be better on the other side of this. Look at any movement. Look at artists. Picasso. People who live through wars. Created through wars. Expressed themselves through wars. They didn’t stop. They created their way through and now we have that to look at. So, I want to do that, too. I want people to look at my art and say those were his pandemic years. I tell my five year old. He’ll say, “Can we buy this?” And I’ll say, “AP.” After pandemic. We had AC. We had BC. We’re going to have AP. After pandemic.” After that, we’re going to create like crazy, so get ready. Get your paints. Get your palette. Get it all ready and tell your kids the same thing, too.
There’s one more thing that you can do. If you challenge your students to create a time capsule of everything we’ve lived through, everything we’ve created through during the pandemic, every meme you made, every artwork you made, every photograph took is primary source documentation of a historic event. When’s the last time we could tell kids that? So, when we come out of this, I want that to be somewhere findable. Here’s what we did. We didn’t give up and wait. We didn’t cower in the corner. Brave people get bigger when things are hard, not smaller. Do that. Right in front of your kids.
Remember that other thing. Who do you call when it’s tough? You have to have those people. Whoever that is. And if it needs to be me, we’ll give them my information. I have more than one person who calls me and I talk them down from the bell tower. I have several people like that. Make sure you have that group of people out there. You matter. You matter. Being creative right now, for kids, is a big elixir. They can’t get together. They can’t meet. They can’t have the birthday party. At least we can help them develop that creative thing inside that helps them survive this thing. If we do that, they are never going to lose that because they survived with it during this. They’ll have it for the rest of their lives. What a great job we have.
Tim: Yes. Yes, absolutely. Kevin, thank you so much. Everything is incredibly inspiring, incredibly enlightening, and it’s been a pleasure to talk to you. So, thank you very much.
Kevin: Thanks, Tim. See you soon.
Tim: Thank you so much to Kevin for everything that he shared. So many good ideas. So many great things that he said. It might even be worth another listen to make sure that you catch it all. One important thing that Kevin talked about is the power of connections. How they won’t let us talk to each other. Won’t let us talk to the music teachers because we would take over the world. It can be tough for art teachers when we’re alone. When we’re on an island. That’s why hearing from another art teacher like Kevin is so great. He knows what we are going through. He’s lived it. He’s experienced it. And he can validate our experiences. That’s a good feeling. That is powerful. I think that’s something we can celebrate. Because what we do as art teachers is special. We’re unique to our schools and we need to celebrate that. We need to share that experience. We need to share our ideas with each other. We need to lift each other up and make each other better.
Honestly, that’s the goal. That’s the point of the whole conference. With NOW, we want to share with each other. We want to help each other. We want to inspire each other. The conference is a chance to connect. A chance to engage with other people who do what you do and understand what you do. That’s a chance that we don’t get often enough. So, come to the conference. Or if you can’t come to this conference, maybe you come to the next one or the one after that. Sometime in the future. But I want to encourage you to put yourself out there. Find those connections. Be willing to learn. Be willing to share. We help each other and we are all better because of it.
Art Ed Radio is produced by The Art of Education with audio engineering from [Michael Crocker. Remember that you can sign up for the NOW conference at The Art of Education University website. You can see even more from Kevin Honeycutt, the details of his presentation, and everything else you get when you register. We really do hope to see you there on February 6. Thank you again to Kevin Honeycutt and, as always, thank you for listening.
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.