How to Choose the Perfect Art Instructor

Eric Hines and Larry Gluck

There is nothing worse for the excited eager-to-learn art student than walking into a poor learning environment run by a mediocre art instructor.

In short order the student is set up for loss after loss. The fundamentals are either not taught in a simple easy to understand fashion, that the student can grasp, or they may not even be taught at all!

Very often the art student decides that the fine art of drawing and/or painting is just too difficult and gives up. They blame themselves, often with the the self created idea that they may not have enough artistic talent.

Whereas most of the blame usually falls on the shoulders of the student, the true cause falls at the feet of the art instructor and poor instruction.

This is exactly what happened to my wife.

My wife is originally from Canada, she first came to America on a student visa to study art in college. The instruction was terrible.

Both her drawing and oil painting classes were taught entirely on the unworkable method of “if it feels good go with it.”

Unfortunately my wife could not “feel” her way into learning basics such as capturing light and shadow, how to draw in proportion, the use of color and tone, how to sketch in charcoal, differences in working with oil vs. watercolors.

Needless to say she the only thing that she could “feel” good about was changing her major.

With hundreds of colleges and thousands of private art instruction schools across the country how does one go about picking an art instructor that will teach one how to draw and paint properly?

I was lucky enough to be able to ask Larry Gluck what one should look for when choosing an art school and instructor so one achieves their goal in becoming a better artist.

Larry Gluck is the founder of the world’s largest fine art program.

After 33 years employing hundreds of art instructors and teaching over 3,000+ students every week how to draw and paint this is the advice Larry has in regards to choosing an art teacher…

“Here are a few pointers on what to look for in a fine art teacher. I hope they help in your search for a good drawing and painting instructor.

1. Do you like the teachers work?

It’s important to respect what your teacher does. Now matter how objective he is about his work, he’ll teach you what he knows – and what he knows will be reflected in what he does.

On the other hand, don’t judge a teacher only by his work. Teaching is not the same as doing, and some teachers are very good painters but terrible instructors.

Others don’t have enough intention to help students through the rough spots. Although a teacher much have knowledge and talent to merit teaching his subject, the determination to help you and see that you indeed learn should be his top priority.

2. Does your teacher start with the fundamentals?

A gradual approach is necessary to learning. You start with the most basic fundamentals and continue from there. Too many instructors assume that you already know them, or worse, don’t know them well enough to teach them.

Also, some people involved in an art form for a long time use the fundamentals so automatically they’re no longer aware of them. This of course, would be a terrible failure on the part of the teacher – but it does happen.

3. Are you actually improving?

If the instructor teaches you the basic skills step by step, one after the other, making sure you master each one before moving to the next, you should improve.

If not, something is wrong with the instruction, not with you. A good instructor should be able to break the needed skills down into steps simple enough for you to learn successfully.

4. Are you being treated as an individual?

We all have different strengths and weaknesses. A good teacher realizes this and treats each student as an individual. A poor teacher treats everyone the same or has a few favorite students.

5. Are there too many people in your class?

If there are more than ten students with only one instructor, you won’t benefit from what he has to give you.

Because we are all so different in awareness and ability, there must be a way for you to receive some one-on-one instruction.

6. Are you training with people you like?

It helps to learn with people who encourage and support one another, admire each others efforts, and are genuinely pleased to see other’s progress.

It would also help to have friends with whom you can also discuss the art form.

Artistic Companionship causes growth.

7. Are you pitted against others?

Some teachers feel that competition is needed among students is necessary to spur them on. It isn’t.

Perhaps the teacher will be less bored but it does nothing for students, particularly in the arts.

You should only be competing against your present limitations.

8. Is it a safe place in which to learn?

Any learning environment must feel totally safe.

This is especially true when learning an an art form where the stakes are so high and the intimidation factor can be so great.

If you feel intimidated anyway when you go to class, it’s probably the teachers fault, even if the intimidation comes from other students.

A good teacher controls the students and is responsible for how they make one another feel.

Some instructors intimidate students with an overbearing manner.

Some set themselves up as authorities or unattainable examples of talent.

Some favor a few students over others.

If any of this is happening, find a new art teacher.

9. Is there criticism without help?

An overly critical teacher can make you give up.

Criticism without instruction on how to improve is hinderance, not a help.

Rather than continually pointing out what is wrong with what you are doing, a good teacher should give you tasks to do.

A student progresses by winning, not loosing. Ask yourself if you feel better since you started the class – better about yourself, your ability, and what you are doing. If not, change teachers.

10. Are you getting individual help?

Perhaps there’s a piece of knowledge don’t quite get or a technique that you just can’t seem to apply.

Does the teacher take the time to help you? Is he or she prompt with the help but patient with your problem?

Can the teacher get to the root of your difficulty and help sort it out?

If not you are wasting your time and money.

If you aren’t getting better and having fun while doing so, your instruction is falling down on one or more of these points.

Go over this list and find out exactly what is wrong. If it isn’t something you can correct by talking to your teacher, change to another.

All art forms appear difficult to a beginner. A good teacher will show you not only that excellence is attainable, but also how.

Even though you may not feel you can do it, a good teacher knows you can and will see to it that you learn to.”