“I don’t know everything. I’m never going to know everything. There may be a topic that you know more about than I do. You may ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to, and I’ll have to find the answer and get back to you with it.” 

Of the 171,476 words currently in use in the English language, those are among the hardest for me to say. And that’s why I say them, out loud, at the beginning of every workshop and class that I teach.

My name is Anthony Pfohl, Jr., and I am not a humble person – I never have been, and I doubt I ever will be. It’s always going to be a struggle. And yet, modesty – the knowledge of one’s own limitations – is one of the most important qualities an artist can have. Without it, progress is impossible; how can you learn if you already know it all?

It’s also an essential belief for a classroom. As soon as the words come out, tension melts, anxiety decreases, and everyone feels free to collaborate and grow together. It encourages the proper mindset both for me and the students. It’s a reminder to myself not to get egotistical, show off, or use big words that confuse students just to sound cool.

“I don’t know everything,” when said by the teacher, has a deep effect on the students. Whatever attitude a teacher presents, the class will reflect that attitude. If the teacher is arrogant, he or she will be met with resistance from the students, especially the intelligent ones. Then again, if the teacher is humble, he or she will receive cooperation in return.

Finally, it’s a growth mindset. If you begin by saying, “I don’t know everything,” then you acquire the mind of a child – the ability to experiment, even to play, without fear of looking foolish. At times, more often than I like to admit, I’ve failed and let my ego get the best of me. I never learn anything during those periods.

That said, the desire to learn, to play, to grow, not just in my own painting, but as a teacher, has produced better and better results with time. I’m not starting this website because I’m a “guru” in the sense that I’ve got it all figured out – I don’t. Rather, what I’ve learned is how to learn – and that’s the gift that I’d like to share with as many people as I can. And hopefully, I’ll continue to learn from all of you as well.

Would you like to be a part of the learning process? If so, join the Watercolor Guru Community. Read the articles. Leave comments. Join the newsletter to get advice and tips. Email me at watercolorgurunews@gmail.com and tell me what your biggest frustrations are – that way, I can make future content that will help you the most.

Lets all get better together.