Ben Zhao

Zhao – Art teacher at SW since 1992. I was a freelance photographer and graphic designer before that.
Classically trained in painting, drawing and calligraphy. 3 years - Architecture Design program at the U.
Switched to functional ceramics due to chemical allergies.


Philosophy

Our western culture takes too many short cuts, always aiming for quick results instead of the journey or the process.
In art and in almost any type of learning, we look to be spoon-fed. We artificially inflate self-esteem and ego. Very few things in our western culture emphasize gaining in spiritual and emotional growth.
In my room, it’s an apprenticeship/mentor learning situation. Everything is individualized. Kids are encouraged to build a whole person—to find out their true self and grow from there. If they are not good at certain basic skills, I am not going to tell them they are good; or introduce some “fun” art process to make superficially pretty things, just to make them feel good. I want kids to understand that good art and good crafts have to come from hard work, focus and perseverance. There should be no art tricks and fun processes to “mask” the human spirit in art. Magic and creativity output come from a foundation of hard work, an accumulative process of many small steps.
Analogy and metaphor in imparting knowledge and passion in athletics and music might be a good starting point for someone who has not experienced learning art the “apprentice” way.
I guide students who want to help themselves grow. My assignments and suggestions are tailored to their exact needs. The duration of each assignment and process depends on the inner growth and maturity of each student.
Yes, I give group assignments and lectures but each one of them can be taken in many different levels.
Kids are used to being “shepherded” to march to the same beat and hand in mediocre assignments. So young kids may tend to be lost or test my system because it seems like there is too much choice and freedom. But once they want to grow up and help themselves, there is no better way and no better place. They will grow much faster as a person and as an artist because the foundation of trust, honesty and integrity has been established.