Todd A. Dobbs
Digital Photography Instructor
The Art Institute of Colorado
There's no line between artist and educator. Both disciplines feed into each other. Todd A. Dobbs , Digital Photography Instructor , The Art Institute of Colorado
Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?
Most educators have a similar story about an instructor who inspired them at a young age, and mine is no different. On a whim I enrolled in a vocational photography program in high school. I was introduced to the first in a long line of influential teachers, all of whom reinforced my desire and passion to balance art and education in my professional life.
How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?
There’s no line between artist and educator. Both disciplines feed into each other. I’m a better teacher because I’m a professional artist, and I’m a better artist thanks to being an instructor in the arts. What I teach is based on my actual experience, not just pulled from a textbook
What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring—and how do you inspire students to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits?
I tend to frustrate students by giving open-ended assignments that force them to make their own choices. I may ask them to re-create a well-known photograph, but I don’t provide any rules or parameters on how. Most of them take the safe, literal approach, but some test the boundaries of what an acceptable solution is. That’s when things get interesting for me, and when I see students pushing themselves to take more risks. They have a way of inspiring their peers to do the same.
How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?
I find there’s very little difference between students in different programs when working on team projects. It really comes down to their personality. I think that students working in groups fall into a role—leader, workhorse, procrastinator, etc. I meet with them individually after group assignments to discuss their contribution to the team...and the related career paths that may interest them, based on the tendencies they displayed working with others.
What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?
Follow instructions. I can’t stress enough how important it is to give your client or employer exactly what they want.
What’s the most critical advice you would offer any student embarking on a creative career?
Communicate with your client/employer so everyone understands what’s expected.