Visual arts

Beloved Staples art teacher retires after 21 years

On the occasion of her retirement from teaching the arts at Staples High School for 21 years, we ask Camille Eskell to reflect on her life and career.

I was born and raised in Kew Gardens, Queens, NYC. I moved to Connecticut in 1990.

What was your own artistic training and did it prepare you well?

I attended Queens College/CUNY for undergraduate and graduate studies which had an excellent art department. I completed a Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Fine Arts (Painting), although I have worked extensively in sculpture and drawing as well, studying with well-established artists/teachers. My artistic training prepared me very well, but an artist must always find his own voice without the direct influence of others.

Why retire from teaching now?

Teaching is a second career, and it’s been 21 years of a rigorous, physically demanding, but largely rewarding profession. I started teaching a bit later than most and although I exhibited and created my art professionally during my tenure at Staples, I want to focus more intently on my work as an artist.

How would you rate the art program at Staples?

It has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and is quite extensive. Course offerings explore many aspects of the visual arts, from the cornerstone of drawing to an exciting range of digital applications, painting, printing and three-dimensional activities.

What is your approach to teaching art and has it changed?

I tried to convey the understanding of form and structure as they study shading, and the notion that they translate a three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional plane. I endeavored to give the students I worked with for four years a range of experiences in technique, media, composition, subject matter, eventually preparing them for more independent artistic endeavors.

What is the best and hardest part of teaching art?

The best part is working with motivated students who are enthusiastic about absorbing and applying the information you present, and getting to know each student as a whole human being due to the longevity of the relationship in the drawing program. The hardest part is dealing with uninterested students who attend classes out of necessity but fail to recognize the value and depth of the subject.

What impact has the computer had on you and your students?

It is a very useful tool; ideal for compositional sketches in higher level classes like Honors Studio Art and AP Studio: Drawing. It allows students to test how an evolving composition looks, modify aspects such as color, tone, etc., easily search for a reference, search for an artist, find a particular piece of art , etc.

What is the most difficult aspect of art to convey to students?

Perhaps the seriousness of it; that he engages his whole being, physically, mentally, emotionally.

As an accomplished artist in your own right, what’s next for you?

First continue to create my works without being fragmented and hindered by time. I also want to continue showing my work as I have, connecting professionally and developing my artistic career.

Miggs Burroughs has been a permanent resident of Westport and a full-time graphic designer since 1972. He is a co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments.

Ann Chernow has been a resident of Westport since 1968. Her work has been exhibited locally and internationally. Chernow is an honorary member of the Westport Artists Collective, a board member of the Westport Museum and other arts organizations.