Artist / Teacher
Brooklyn based artist and teacher Suki White talks this week about covid restrictions as a kindergarten teacher and embracing her artistry.
Jayda B. - Tell us who you are and what you do?
Suki White - I’m Suki White and I'm an artist based in Brooklyn. I’m also a Kindergarten Teacher.
J - Can you talk about teaching, especially in Covid and how that's been?
S - This is actually my first year as a full time teacher and it's been really hard. Thankfully the school I work at has a lot of outdoor space for us to work in and hold activities. It's tough.
J - What are the odds that your first time teaching would be under the limitations of Covid.
S - Especially working with kids and younger kids, who are physical and love playing and playing with each other and their teachers, enforcing that (Covid restrictions) has been heartbreaking.
J - Are you teaching art?
S - General kindergarten, but our curriculum is very art-centric. I get a lot of my personal inspiration from the kids and what they make throughout the day.
J - You say you draw a lot of inspiration from students?
S - Their imaginations are so crazy and wild and I really think everyone could benefit from spending time with little kids and their imaginations. I love humor and I love playing off other existing ideas like the “Goodnight Moon” piece, which is such an iconic children's book and I think a lot about old children's books or old advertisements that a lot of people would remember, and try to twist that. I try to implement humor into my art, that's important to me.
J - What made you want to become an artist?
S - I always knew I was an artist but it took me a long time to figure out what medium fit me best. Growing up my creative outlet was theatre and it wasn’t until college that I became more serious about visual art. I find there are a lot of similarities between acting and visual art, but acting is so collaborative and I have found I work much better on my own terms, making my art all about my vision and wants.
J - What types of materials do you like to use when you’re creating a new piece?
S - I started with crayola markers actually, and sometimes still use them. I use some paints too but, during the beginning of quarantine, I purchased an ipad for the first time. Since using that, seeing my art go from manually focused to digital has been interesting. I still draw on it with “Procreate” but it's definitely different from how I started.
J - Has Covid changed your process?
S - Quarantine has been really great in the sense that now I have more time for art and more time to think about art. Before, I was working a lot and forcing art in the little slivers of time that I had whereas now, within the last six months, yes everything fucking sucks but, I’ve been able to make time for art and its made me realize that I can really financially have this venue to make my life work - Which is crazy but I feel more validated in a way that I can do this. Through Corona, I’ve been able to put those pieces together.
J - Has your work become darker (or lighter) since Covid?
S - I think it's actually lighter strangely. I’ve been feeling darker but I try to make work that feels contradictory to me or what's happening to try and balance things out. In college, I made a lot of sad art and I haven't made “sad art” in a while. (laughs)
J - Did you go to college for art or design?
S - No, I majored in Humanities and minored in art during college. I did not like school at all but art, and taking a bunch of art classes was definitely an avenue for me to get through.
J - Do you feel artists or designers that have gone to art school have an advantage over you?
S - When I'm feeling insecure, I definitely feel that way. Generally, in this “Instagram Era” I see other people who are like me, who are so obviously artists and it makes me feel confident that no matter what your educational background is, it doesn't matter. It matters if people like what you’re doing or not.
J - Do you think moving to NYC has had an affect on your work?
S - It sounds cliche but I do think there's so much inspiration everywhere in New York. With the people I see outside and now that I'm going to Kindergarten everyday I feel so energized to be around people and even just walking. That’s made me feel more inspired whereas home (Massachusetts) feels a bit bland.
J - What made you want to start your Etsy shop?
S - It was so easy to start it which sounds kind of dumb but I had my own website for a while and it was expensive to maintain. I just loved the Etsy community and the volume of things you can find there and maintaining the shop is more convenient.
J - How is teaching important to you within the art community?
S - I love teaching and I think it's so important. So many of the teachers at the school I work at are also artists on different mediums and I don't think that's a coincidence. People that teach are often artists and value having a malleable mind and being a malleable mind.
J - What's your favorite thing to do within teaching?
S - I still feel so new, but I love any sort of prompt that could be for example, “what makes you happy” and view how students will draw that differently. I really like open ended prompts and discussing with students about what they make within that.
J - What's your mantra / something you try to live by everyday?
S - It's pretty simple but I find myself, telling myself often “it's okay”. If I feel irrational or if something bad happens I have to keep reminding myself that it's okay and every night I get to sleep in my bed and that idea usually calms me.