Greg Poulin‘s office is home to both his profession and his hobby. Hanging on the walls and collected on the floor is an eclectic mix of paintings, some of them created for his own diversion and others as examples for his classes. From the model of a figure painting to the classic portrait of a lady, all of them demonstrate his passion for teaching and creating art.
Poulin essentially has two jobs: his career as an art instructor at Western Oregon University and his independent work as a painter. He grew up wanting to be a cartoonist, but he changed his mind in high school when he began painting live models with his father. “I knew right then what I wanted to do,” he said. Since then he has made painting his life’s work in the studio and in the university.
Poulin teaches painting, drawing, studio design, and life drawing at WOU and has difficulty deciding which is his favorite class. Painting is his specialty, but he also favors life drawing because it involves the study of anatomy. Each class offers him and his students abundant opportunities for learning.
For Poulin, art and teaching are integral to each other. “If I were doing one or the other exclusively, I think each would be a lot weaker,” he said. As an artist, he benefits from the challenge of discussing art with students and colleagues and answering their questions. As an instructor, he benefits from his active involvement in what he teaches. His students also benefit from his ongoing practical experience. They sense it, Poulin believes, when professors “aren’t involved creatively,” and so he brings his excitement and enthusiasm for painting into his classes, hoping that his students will come to share his passion for art.
“Be open to finding a passion in everything you study,” Poulin advises students, especially as they hurry through the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum (LACC). “Ask, ‘What is it about this that can excite me?’” Since Poulin teaches several LACC classes, he is aware of the temptation to focus on grades instead of course material, but he encourages students to explore and to take advantage of their core classes. The variety of studies in the liberal arts is important, he believes, because all fields are related to each other. “The mind understands the connections between all these fields,” he explained. Creative thinking, for example, is critical not only to art, but also to any discipline that involves problem-solving. Poulin would like to see students spend more time in studies outside their majors so that they can appreciate the connections between the different fields.
In Poulin’s own life, art and teaching have been connected, overlapping with his interest in music and the guitar. Music “complements the art,” he said, and has inspired much of his work. Even though he is a “very, very amateur musician,” he has been able to apply his appreciation for music to his artwork.
Poulin’s enthusiasm for his career, and his ability to pull together all his interests to support it, represent a life successfully devoted to his passion. Not everyone will have as much success as he has in pursuing an ideal career, but even so, “you have to keep doing what you love to do,” he said simply. “You’ve got to stay excited.”