Friday, January 20, 2017

Tips for Teaching

The best way to learn or improve your art is to study with someone who's work you admire. At some point, many artists or designers decide they would like to share their knowledge and become instructors. Some instructors are good teachers, some are great. Good teachers become great ones through experience and adding to their instructor skill set. In my experience as a teacher and workshop host, I’ve observed a number of things great instructors do.

At the beginning of a class or workshop, a great instructor talks about how he/she prefers to approach teaching.
  • Do you want students to interrupt immediately if they don’t understand something or would you rather they wait until questions are invited?
  • Do you typically like to paint directly on a student’s canvas to illustrate a point, do you never do so or is it something you allow the students to decide on an individual basis?
  • Should students be prepared to stop working and watch your at-the-easel instructions on their fellows’ work?
  • Will you continuously make rounds of the room for at-the-easel instruction or will you make a pass and then wait a while before doing so again?
  • Are you planning to demonstrate from start to finish of an artwork or will you do a small part and then have the students complete that step before demonstrating again?
  • Do you have any other “rules” that you will invoke for the workshop? Some artists are ok with students listening to music, some want no music, some do not like the students conversing during work time, others love studio-wide interaction. Lay it out.
  • Make sure the students know you are willing to accommodate any special needs and that you welcome one-on-one comments from them.

In other words, the more information the students have about how the class will proceed, the happier they will be.

It’s important to prepare an arsenal of explanations before you teach. Inevitably, there will be students who don’t understand a teacher’s presentation of a technique. A great instructor will already have identified (and practiced) alternative ways to relay the information. Kind, supportive, patient determination on the teacher’s part will inspire confidence and reassure them that the instructor is not going to allow them to fail.

Great instructors don’t hold back. They give of themselves and their experience and their students leave the workshop feeling great about themselves, the teacher and the entire workshop experience. Those students will be your best advertising, possibly become collectors of your work and will want to return to learn from you again in the future.


  1. Terry, excellent, useful tips for teaching art. The sharing of your experiences and knowledge is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  2. Hi Terry Thank you for this. It helps me a lot. I teach college, am an Artist in the Schools, and also do a wine and paint event twice a month. Last night I had a lady who started tearing up in frustration. She came to the class already convinced she would fail. I know this because she announced it ahead of time to everyone.She left early without completing the painting. I gave her individual help and encouragement, but I couldn't reach her. Feeling kind of bad about it. However, I printed out your advice to keep in my teaching folders. Thanks again.


Thanks for commenting on Art Lady Confidential! If you wish to contact me privately, please email