View Full Version : Pastel Class Etiquette Question: What to do with a blower?

08-27-2010, 01:03 AM
Hi everyone--

So, I was taking a pastel class in June/July which has finished now. I liked it--I like where it's located, I like the times/day, I like my fellow students, and I especially like the instructor. But I'm not sure about signing up for another class. Why?

The class is small: there are, let's see, about 6 of us or so. All very nice people. HOWEVER, there is one person who, at the 5-week mark in the 6-week class, decided to work large. In doing so, he generated a lot of dust. This in and of itself isn't a problem--we're going to get dusty, right? But here's the thing: He BLOWS!!!!! YES!!!! After every few strokes! I was sitting next to him and finally I moved, but still the air was thick with blown dust. I was beside myself. I am not even a person who is very sensitive of dust, i.e. it never bothered me before or since, but I'm telling you, the blower blew up a huge cloud time and time and time again. I was hoping the instructor would say something, but he is definitely in the "there's gonna be dust" kind of camp. I actually tried to discreetly say something to the instructor, but it's possible I was too indirect and/or there is a language barrier (he's French) and he didn't understand me. I didn't feel like I could correct the offender. No one else seemed bothered by it, although it's true that everyone else was on the other side of the room.

I ended up not going to the last class because I was expecting workmen that day. Then the class got extended, and we had the option of paying for 6 more sessions but I decided against it, because of the Blower.

Today, the instructor called, much to my surprise. He told me he really enjoyed having me in his class and hoped to see me in the fall class.

I was a) enjoying the conversation and b) a little caught off guard, and so I didn't know how to bring up the Blower. Which is to say, I sort of blew (ha!) the opportunity to tell him that the blowing dust thing really got to me.

Okay, a reality check: Am I being too sensitive? Would a blower in the midst bother anyone else? Should I say something to the instructor and ask him to talk to the Blower? Or am I being too prissy? I don't have respitory problems (yet! or ever will, cross fingers!) but I did have a sore throat after class that day. I don't want to throw water on anyone else's fun, but I did think it was . . . at best careless, or even kind of rude . . . .

08-27-2010, 02:38 AM
You should definitely tell the instructor and simply make it clear that you'd return if he would curtail blowing. Instead of blowing students should knock their boards on the floor if needed. If I were teaching the class I would much rather get this straight from you rather than simply seeing you leave the class with no reason given. You're doing the instructor a favor.

08-27-2010, 04:28 AM
I agree, speak to the instructor about it, that is NOT considerate behavior in a class environment. Sometimes being in a public venue with your arts will require you to stand up to unacceptable behavior by other participants. The proper etiquette is to speak to whomever is in charge first and in private. Then it is up to them to do the job of doing what is right to create a positive and productive place for all. If they will not, then you must choose weather or not to stay. I have been through this as a theatric director, believe me, I know from experience how these things can go. You should not have to put up with discomfort to do what you love to do. As Timon suggested there is an easy solution, you might suggest that to the teacher so he has a solution option to suggest the the offending person.

08-27-2010, 09:45 AM
I also agree....it is not acceptable in a class environment...it is the instructor's responsibility to be aware of the hazard...and to take care that all his students are aware of it too.

You might try asking him if you missed his speech on the indiscriminate spreading of pastel dust by students...which would alert him to the fact he should be giving it if he hasn't already!

08-27-2010, 09:54 AM
I actually tried to discreetly say something to the instructor, but it's possible I was too indirect and/or there is a language barrier (he's French) and he didn't understand me. I didn't feel like I could correct the offender. No one else seemed bothered by it, although it's true that everyone else was on the other side of the room.
Oh, Anne-Marie, it is sometimes very rare to find a compatible group and most especially an instructor that you really like. To just abandon it all without seriously trying to fix it is a shame. I totally agree with the advice above. If your instructor's command of English is getting in the way, you might want to speak to whomever is the "director" of the program. It is the instructor's and the program's joint responsibility to provide (as much as is possible) a safe environment. Converting Mr. Blower to a Paper Tapper is the answer.

And, even though your fellow students didn't "seem" bothered by it, they were all adversely affected. You are all in this together!

(I was the only pastelist is an abstract representation class a while back and I was especially careful to control my dust. I used all the tricks and techniques I could think of and frequently asked all my fellow pupils to let me know if it bothered them. No one ever complained. So it IS possible!)


08-27-2010, 10:40 AM
If all else fails, bring in a dust mask to wear. If you really want to make a point, bring in enough dust masks for everyone and pass them out the first time the blower blows!


08-27-2010, 12:03 PM
If all else fails, bring in a dust mask to wear

Good idea. Put it on the first time he blows and then glare at him. That should get the message across.

08-27-2010, 12:21 PM
good idea Don
and give the bill for the masks to the instructor, and throw in a bill for detergent :)
if the instructor scoffs at that, demand a refund -
compromising your health is Not a lesson that needs to be learned !
:} Ed
ps. making your own mark w pastel while coughing may be unique, but i wouldn't recommend it...

Paula Ford
08-27-2010, 12:23 PM
When I teach a workshop, within the first 10 minutes I tell everyone "NEVER blow on your work, especially here in this workshop."

The person needs to be told. It's dangerous to the health of everyone in that class.

08-27-2010, 12:48 PM
Hi everyone!

This is great--thank you all so much for your responses! You all provided me the two things I was seeking: a reality check and a variety of solutions! I did not think about bringing a mask before (as I don't have one yet), but that is ingenious! I will also talk to the instructor. While I usually prefer a direct approach (i.e. to approach an individual privately) in this particular case, I don't think the individual (the term, "charming-but-brash young man" comes to mind) would be open to modifying his behavior as a result of such a request, and so I was concerned that if the instructor got involved, it would seem personal and I didn't want to stir up a drama. As the creativity coach Julia Cameron says: keep the drama to the page, the stage, or the canvas!

Thanks all!:wave:

08-27-2010, 01:01 PM
I agree with that advice - the best thing to do is to tell the instructor. Especially since that's why you left the class. If he doesn't know it's a problem he might lose other students to the same problem. He has several options - first to speak to the blower and explain the knocking method, or move the blower to a distant spot where no one's near him if he won't change his habit, or drop the blower (and keep more students than just you). Also, the health lecture about blowing and inhaling pastel dust is a good thing to bring up. The blower may not be aware of that either.

Being an old man who used to be a brash young man, I might just bring a trash can and explain why I knock instead of blowing directly to him. He probably doesn't know about the health risks, but whoever tells him may give him a lot more years of working life as a pastelist.

Then again if I was teaching a class I'd probably unplug and bring my HEPA filter in order to show the class, but maybe your instructor doesn't have one - and then station said blower right on top of the filter to protect everyone else from his bad habit.

The instructor has lots of options, but he won't know that he needs to use one until someone actually tells him there's a problem. Where he's standing, the blower's probably not interfering with his painting.

Deborah Secor
08-27-2010, 01:03 PM
Uh, you might just give a dust mask to the Blower. It's hard to blow with one on! :wink2:

I'd definitely bring this up to the instructor privately, quietly letting him know. As an art teacher, I've had to diplomatically handle such things over the years. It comes with the job. (I had to deal with the Tapper. He nearly drove all of us insane and was blissfully unaware of doing it. Tap tap tap tap tap tap tap.... :eek: Turned out he was deaf and couldn't hear it. That was a tough one.)

08-27-2010, 02:18 PM
I'd definately tell the instructor why you are hesitent to return to his class. That would be a kindness. As an instructor, I'd wonder why a student failed to return without explanation.

One of my first instructions to my classes is about pastel dust. It includes the information about keeping it out of the air as much as possible; no blowing, light tapping occassionally, go outside to knock off excess pastel if necessary. I do not recommend placing it on the floor for heavy banging. A friend of mine who works at an art institute went to a lecure given by a guest lecturer on the hazards of art materials. He told me later that pastel dust can stay airborn for up to 10 hours!

Just imagine what that dust is doing to the probably unsuspecting blower!


Tom Behnke
08-28-2010, 12:52 AM
All the above advice is dead on. What I want to add is, as an instructor (not in art but in writing and computers), I really do urge you to tell the your instructor the specific reasons you are hesitating to/not returning to class. There is no way the instructor can improve his class or his teaching without some feedback. So from the teaching point of view, I would want to know exactly why someone dropped my class.

08-28-2010, 01:15 AM
So many good points here--you know, I never even considered that the Blower may actually not know about the dangers of blowing. I do think this was his first pastel class (he had been working in acrylics before and had brought them to class) and it is also true that the instructor is not that concerned with dust and did not bring it up in class. (The class is one of those, work-on-your-own-thing + individual critique classes, with no formal instruction or lectures or demos.) It's important to have safety information and maybe he just didn't know.

Robert--I literally laughed at loud when you wrote, "Being an old man who used to be a brash young man . . ." That really made me smile. :)

Deborah--I got a laugh out of your post, too. I can only imagine the young man's reaction if I handed him a mask! Your Tapper story cracked me up. Confession: I myself can be a Tuneless Hummer. I don't even realize it half the time. I shared an office for years with a man would impulsively yell: Uncle! Uncle! which was my clue that I had been torturing him with my (tuneless) rendition of Barbara Streisand songs. :lol:

08-28-2010, 02:02 AM
maybe he's blowing to choke you into not humming? :evil:

08-28-2010, 10:11 AM
Uh, you might just give a dust mask to the Blower. It's hard to blow with one on! :wink2:

Maggie P
08-29-2010, 03:00 PM
I have to agree with the above. As an instructor, I'd want to hear from you directly. I have no problem approaching someone in my class and telling them not to blow on their pastels. It gives me a chance to give my "reasonable precautions and safety" speech as well. Blowing on the pastels puts dust in everyone's lungs, so it's a safety issue.

I'd have more trouble with a hummer...that's not as easy to address. I've had hummers and whistlers in my classes, and it's a lot harder to deal with tactfully.