Pursuit of Purpose: Artist Jon Duff – Motivating art students

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I came across Jon Duff’s artwork while visiting Delaware Center for Contemporary Art in Wilmington DE. The samples I saw were abstract and colorful.

1. At what age did you first sense your purpose? I think it was sometime in elementary school. I was always getting yelled at for drawing during class. Art became something I wasn’t supposed to do. That made it more appealing and it became an important part of my identity.

2. What did you experience that attracted you to pursue this particular purpose? I think the constant reminder that art is a ridiculous and impractical pursuit makes it more appealing. I’m attracted to the challenge.

3. A support group can be an asset during the early stages of trying to obtain any goal. Did you have a lot of support? And what type of things did they do to help you? It took a little bit of work convincing my parents that art school was a good idea, but overall I don’t remember ever feeling like I didn’t have support. My parents, friends, and girlfriend have always been very supportive. I have had a handful of very helpful teachers in school who have accelerated my development. Most of them have given me opportunities as an artist assistant and spoke to me in an honest way about art, which the classroom doesn’t always allow.

An art sample from Jon Duff

An art sample from Jon Duff

4. Compare the expectations you had before you started to the reality you have experienced since. I think the most important thing I learned after graduating from college during the recession is that nobody really cares whether or not you continue making work, so you better make it for yourself and hope that others can take something from it.

5. Often we have obstacles that hinder our pursuit. What type of obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them? I think money is an obstacle for most of us at any time no matter what field we are in. Besides the practicality of money I think I have been my own biggest obstacle. I have no specific solution for overcoming laziness and negativity. Over the years I have been able to integrate working into my life in such a continuous way that it has become part of my identity and daily routine.

6. Besides the earning a living, what gives you the inspiration to keep going? I used to work hard to justify the investment of a college education. Currently I simply don’t have anything else I would rather be doing. As I stated earlier, it seems important because it seems like something I’m not supposed to do.

7. I believe as we accomplish one purpose we discover another. Have you discovered or felt another purpose you need to fulfill? Lately I have been teaching college art classes, which have been both challenging and rewarding. I have definitely felt the drive to teach my students everything I wish I had been told in college. Being a part of the same generation as my students, I have the opportunity to relate with them on a level older instructors can’t.

8. It seems like everyday we read something about negative about our youth and a need for mentoring. What do you think of the role of mentors in cooperation with schools and parenting? Young people need to learn skills. Many of my students who are seniors in college have never had a job and have few skills that distinguish them amongst their peers. This makes searching for employment very difficult. It is our skills which make us self reliant and productive, and they are best developed through guidance at an early age.

9. What type of advice would you like to give someone pursuing their purpose? Do it for yourself, and be sure to enjoy the process.

10. I like to end an interview on a light note. What funny thing have you experienced in your profession? I usually dance a lot in the studio. Currently I have a studio at the college where I work. One wall of the studio is made out of glass so students can watch me work. The other day I was caught rocking out big time all over the studio by a group of laughing students. I realized then that there are a few aspects of my studio practice I’d like to keep private. I now have a large poster on the glass wall which states, “Please do not tap on the glass; it upsets the ape.”

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To see more of Jon’s work visit www.jonduff.com.

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