Article Written by Bria Cappelli.
Brooks Turner started college in Los Angeles, California, thinking he was going to be an English teacher. Today, he is a professional artist and an adjunct art professor at St. Cloud State University. In an interview, Turner shared how intertwining art, writing, and education has led to his successful career. After taking an art class in college, he discovered how much he loved being an artist. He also began to help his friends with their art projects and developed his passion for teaching. He did not give up on writing, though. He said it had always been tied to how he processes his thoughts and ideas.
“I love writing, I still write. I don’t have as much time for it right now, but it’s sort of just another manifestation of how I think through art, life, and teaching,” Turner said.
At first, he was more successful and got more opportunities as a writer. Out of college, he was hired by his mentor and famous American sculptor Charles Ray as a research assistant. Turner said his mentor was very passionate about teaching art, which made a big impact on him. He was encouraged to experience and create art in a different way. Together, they published his first book.
When he moved back to Minneapolis, his hometown, Turner became an adjunct professor at SCSU. ART 105 Computer Studio was the first class offered to him in the spring of 2018, but he went on to take on other art classes as well. He said he did not think making things in Photoshop was considered art before teaching ART 105, so he did a lot of research about digital art. Now, he makes digital art on a regular basis.
“Because I taught that class, it totally changed the trajectory of my art making. So now, most of what I do is digital paintings,” Turner said.
His art career started outpacing his writing career when he began connecting with the art community in Minneapolis. He would go to art galleries and exhibitions and write about the artwork he saw. It was not long before his network of artists grew, and he went from writing about exhibition art to creating it.
When asked what advice he would give to students, Turner said they should pursue their curiosity. He encouraged students not to give up on something if they cannot stop thinking about it.
“If you’re passionate about something, do whatever you can to celebrate and enable that passion,” he said.
Turner said he loves working with his students and how supportive the art department students and faculty are. He has enjoyed the unpredictability of what they will come up with. He has aimed for an environment in his classes where he and his students are working together to learn and grow as artists.
“In some ways, teaching is a kind of explorative process where I’m learning alongside the students; and, to me, that’s the ideal,” he said.