Shawnee State professor teaching more than art

January 11, 2013

Joseph Pratt

PDT Intern

Lane Raiser is in his 23rd year of teaching various art classes at Shawnee State University where he likes to focus on creative process and watercolor painting.

Raiser enjoys teaching his creative process class, because it gives him a chance to teach the students about art, but also about life itself, where he takes the opportunity to help the class learn their true selves and to explore their true artistic nature. The class is taken mostly by art majors, but students from all degrees benefit from applying his process to their existing work.

Raiser begins most of his painting sessions by a long meditation, looking into himself and the painting. Raiser looks at the world around him as much as possible and spends a lot of his time staring at a canvas. Without his true artistic process, he feels that he rushes the painting and it turns out badly. So, when he painted his award winning watercolor of a frozen creek bed, entitled “Seed of Faith,” he focused on the ice crystals and how they formed geometric patterns above the earthy bottom of the creek, each prism of frosty blue and purple ice frozen in a swayed motion, clinging to the still bed.

He examined every stone below the ice and the reflection of water on them. He put himself into the watercolor completely and painted it the way he believed the story needed to be told. The almost 1,000-hour process results in a shockingly almost photographic painting of the creek.

“Even though people say my paintings look like photographs, they’re watercolors that have been transformed from a photograph,” Raiser explained. “I mean, the images are still true to their compositional features, but the colors have been jacked up and the texture has been more pronounced in some areas and some gestural marks have been made to overplay or underplay a section to create what seems to be a more effective image to me. “

This important artistic process is what Raiser hopes to instill in his students every semester. The class is partially a lecture-based course, but includes a lot of drawing, since Raiser feels it is the basic step in creating art. The rest of the class is an open-ended sort of improvised session where Raiser encourages his students to use any form of media they feel comfortable with, as long as the project is something to challenge them and stir thought.

Raiser doesn’t want his students working for grades or money, but for self-discovery. The income is the icing on top, but the internal drive and true identity of art is what he finds to be the goal. Raiser believes a lack of these things lead to creative anxiety, because it leaves the artist unfulfilled and unhappy.

“I believe that if we, as humans, want to be happy in our lives, we need to live up to our creative potential,” Raiser said. “We all start out that way, but conditioning from school, the media, our peers, parents, and everyone else causes it to kind of get it beaten out of us.”

Raiser explains that careers and salary become the focus of our life, and we lose track of what is important to ourselves. We also become consumed by the market and what we drive or wear; we let these things define us.

“These things are not creations we made in our own head, but what someone else did, and the constant chatter of media temptations cause us to never really know our authentic nature, which we only learn by what we create and what we put out into the world. It also helps us define who we are and expand ourselves. When I paint a picture, I am no longer my own little ego wrapped up inside myself, but I become much larger. I become my work,” Raiser said.

Raiser aims to teach his students that you ironically find yourself in losing yourself in art. He tries to explain to his students that each portrait they paint is a self-portrait, because it reveals who they really are. Raiser even argues that the most authentic self-portrait is one without the artist actually appearing in it physically.

“I worry about younger people now who are growing up in this virtual environment who have lost this sense of connectedness to the natural world, because you just can’t beat nature as a source of inspiration and wisdom in life,” Raiser said. “All of these virtual things are second-hand and watered down and homogenized to the extent that it is nowhere incomparable the real, natural world and the natural world causes us to think more deeply about life, as opposed to this constant succession of e-mails and high energy special effects in the media all of the time. We never have prolonged thinking periods.”

Raiser recently won two awards just in the past semester. Raiser won best of show in the 2012 Midwest National Abstract Art Exhibition for “Seed of Faith” and since has won a national watercolor show in Wichita Kansas. “Seed of Faith” was the second best of show award Raiser has received at the Midwest National Abstract Art Exhibition and it sold for $1,530.