This month, The Slice profiles LPIE Art Instructor Tim Hancock, who teaches art to 3rd graders at Burton Valley and to special needs students at Springhill. Hancock’s artwork is featured as part of Walnut Creek’s Utility Box Project, which invites local artists to beautify metal utility boxes around the city. Hancock is pictured below with his illustration at the corner of Main Street and Civic Drive in Walnut Creek.
What do you do for LPIE and how long have you been doing it?
I teach 3rd grade visual art at Burton Valley Elementary as well as the SDC (special day classes) at Springhill Elementary. This is my third year teaching for LPIE and my second year teaching the special day classes.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I am a local illustrator, fine artist, and arts advocate and have been teaching art in the Bay Area for over 15 years. I graduated from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with a BFA in Fine Arts and Illustration. I am constantly inspired by the creative process, and love experimenting with many different types of art mediums, styles, techniques, and approaches to making, creating and teaching art.
What is your favorite thing about teaching the age groups you work with?
Third graders just want to have fun and create, they can still be wowed, bright-eyed in amazement by a perspective lesson, and then can turn around and surprise me by producing a sophisticated piece of artwork that shows a great deal of promise and talent. I seem to discover many gifted artists; it's a very fun age to teach. The students are always eager and excited, there is a lot of freedom there and I find that they lack some of the inhibitions and hang ups some of us older folk have surrounding art and perfection. My highest priority is giving every child a good experience with art and hopefully making an impact that lasts a lifetime. I still remember my third grade teacher.
For my students with special needs, I am working with a wide spectrum of abilities, so my primary focus is presenting a diverse set of ever-expanding lesson ideas that can accommodate a wide variety of students with different strengths and challenges. I have had to rethink my whole approach to art instruction after teaching visual arts to students with visual impairments, and have adapted my lessons so that students with physical challenges, such as a limited ability to grasp, could actually handle and manipulate a brush and participate in the art lesson and paint.
My goal is to make my lessons accessible and understandable to every child so that they are able to successfully express themselves uniquely without too much help from an aide or teacher. I have a great deal of empathy and compassion with this group as my daughter has significant challenges and is a student in one of these classrooms, so this is a group that is close to my heart.
What is the most surprising thing about your students?
I am humbled and amazed by the strength and perseverance of the children with special needs and their ability to express themselves and show tremendous presence of mind, intelligence, and talent. I am honored to facilitate another form of communication for these unique children.
Third graders surprise me and remind me of the importance of "art for arts sake", the power and value of being able to express oneself, and the joys of being young at heart and free. Everyone these days, including our children, are under lots of pressure and have many expectations, with extracurricular activities, etc., so it's nice to be able to teach art in a happy, creative, calm and free environment. Art is therapeutic.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I spend a lot of time working on my various free-lance illustrations projects, comic and children's book ideas and I am currently in the process of finishing an ambitious graphic novel that I've written and am now illustrating.
I exhibit my landscape paintings locally and a couple of my playful illustrations were recently chosen for the Walnut Creek Utility Box Project and can be found on the corner of Main Street and Civic Drive. I process through life creatively, it's therapeutic, and art keeps me young at heart. I try to share the gift of art with my own children, too.