SchoolArts Magazine

AUG-SEP 2014

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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A D V O C A C Y them. You don't have to pick between being great at one thing or just medio- cre at many things. Mastery is not a t itle deferred on someone, it is a condition of excellence. If we continu- ously think of ourselves as having m astered something, we will only I n the olden days, to be called a "Jack of all trades" was a compliment. Such a person was consid - ered to be a generalist; s omeone who knew enough about many craft or trade skills to be able to bring them together in an inte - grated and practical manner. A useful indi- vidual indeed to have a round the campfire. Handyman vs. Master But over time, in cul - tures around the world, t he "Handy Harrys," "Johnny-do-it-alls," "one-man bands," "roll - ing stones," and "Jills o f all trades" ceased to be the most desirable catches. Trades, guilds, and villages no longer wanted a bunch of "masters of nothing." They desired mastery. In France, it is said that "he who embraces too much has a weak grasp." The Vietnam - ese claim that "being master in one job is bet- ter than being average in nine jobs." A c ommon saying in Mexico is, "If you aim for everything, you hit noth - ing," and in China someone might be described as being "equipped with many knives, yet none is sharp." Sim - ilar proverbs supporting skill mastery can be found across the globe. Striving for Excellence Today, the prevailing attitude toward multiple skill development is that being able to do many things doesn't mean you are a master of none of Eldon Katter Marion Martinez's skill is evident in the high level of artistry in her artworks, which are made from discarded computer components. limit ourselves. So we encourage our students to strive for the mind - set of excellence and to be good at whatever they do. Ultimately, it will be others who will decide on the merits of their skills. So what would it take to make Jack or Jill a master of some - thing? How might Handy Harry become a master artist? Well, it sort of depends. There are some who say that it takes 10,000 hours, or ten years, to master a craft, and continuous practice to maintain mastery of one's craft. Whoa! If that were true, it would certainly limit one's ability to master multiple crafts. Precision, Practice, Punctuality Skill development need not always be focused on mastery. Skill development is a mat - ter of habit—a habit o f patience, precision, practice, and punc - tuality. Skill is being competent, good, or even great at something, whether it's sports, music, woodworking, weaving, or any other pursuit one is passionate about. So if Jack, Jill, and Harry learn how to be patient, precise, punctual, and habitually practice techniques, they will succeed. For they will know that skill is a crafty habit. Eldon Katter is former editor of SchoolArts and co-author of Explorations in Art (Davis Publications). ekatter@ ptd. net Skill development is a matter of habit—a habit of patience, precision, practice, and punctuality. 12 August/September 2014 SchoolArts

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