I love being an art instructor, it is such a rewarding career. I’m a self-taught artist and thus have invested many, many hours in the trial-and-error process to learn to create my own satisfying works of art. Those hours pale in comparison to the self-satisfaction of creating art, and equally pale in comparison to the joy I experience when I get to bring students along on the art journey. Sharing my knowledge with students and explaining my processes are some of the most rewarding aspects of my life.
Part of the year I live in Kansas and part of the year I live in Florida. Thus, I teach part of the year in Kansas and part of the year in Florida. It’s always bittersweet when I prepare to leave one state to spend time in the other. It’s sweet because I look forward to the new classes I have scheduled in the new location, but bitter because I have to say goodbye to current students. It’s doubly hard when I see a student on the cusp of an artistic breakthrough. I help students through many struggles and having to leave when they’re about to make a breakthrough is hard. As their instructor, my hope is that students diligently practice their art in my absence, forge ahead in their creative path without me, and build their own creative confidence.
Some of my students have come to me for more than 20 years, and since the average time students stay with me is 10 years, I must be doing something right. It’s a joy to watch students succeed and I want my art students to continually achieve new levels.
Over the years, I’ve noticed some barriers students allow to hinder them from reaching their next level of success. I want to get these destructive little habits out in the open so you can avoid doing them. My hope is that if you’re aware of these bad habits, you’ll be able to catch yourself and STOP!
Barrier 1 – Fear of Failure: Being afraid to fail or to make a mistake is normal when you’re learning something new. However, if you don’t try something, you will never learn. What’s the worse that can happen, anyway? You need a new piece of paper? I have thrown away many things, and with each one tossed, I learned valuable lessons. Fear not, just go for it!
Barrier 2 – Waiting to be Told What To Do: This is also normal when you’re a beginner. However, part of learning is trying to figure stuff out on your own. Too many students sit helpless until I get to them, rather than making an attempt. I’m always happy to guide students, but you will become too dependent if you don’t learn to analyze your procedures and work through problems. You must push yourself to work independently.
Barrier 3 – Ye Who Practice Not: Once a student has learned a new technique, they often seem to forget it by the following week. It is essential to practice a “segment drawing notebook” as I call it in my books. I see the benefits when a student actually practices. However, many students don’t want to, so the level of their artistic growth is not as good as it could be.
Barrier 4 – Acting As a Human Copy Machine: I can see it on the student’s face when their art doesn’t turn out exactly as they intended. Many art students get way too caught up in making their art identical to their reference. It’s important to be an artist and own your artistic liberties. After all, if your reference photo is so great, just frame that! Being an artist is about being creative and a reference photo is just that – a reference.
Barrier 5 – Addiction To Learning Without Applying it to Actual Art: I’ve had some students that are chronic question askers. Now, that is a good thing, but some get caught up in the learning process, and do nothing but read about it, ask questions, watch the demos, take copious notes, and do nothing more. What they end up with is a notebook full of wonderful advice and suggestions, but they don’t draw anything. You must apply the knowledge.
Barrier 6 – Not Paying Attention During Demonstrations: Wow, is this a hotspot for me! Admittedly, it’s frustrating to try to guide an art student and not have him/her pay attention. I have been hard at work showing someone how to improve an area in his artwork, only to turn around and find him off talking to someone else two tables down, checking a text message, etc. I love being an art teacher and will always show art students how to do something better, but you must pay attention in order to learn. Always remember that your teacher is sharing thousands of hours of learning with you, to make it easier for you.
Barrier 7 – Allowing Outside Influences and Opinions Stunt Your Growth: One week the art student is elated with her progress, only to return to class the next week telling me, “He thinks this looks funny” or “They said this needs to be done differently.” While I welcome some outside commentary simply due to the fact that art is subjective, it’s frustrating when that opinion matters more than mine. I’ve seen some pieces never finished due to an unkind remark or criticism from an outsider. That is unfortunate. I’ve seen artwork finished with pride, and then placed under the bed because it wasn’t received as well as the student had hoped. I’ve seen commissioned pieces rejected and my students crushed when the client was dissatisfied. It’s all a part of the process, my friends, and you must toughen up. Be proud of your work regardless of outside opinions. If your happiness is hinged on the reaction of others, you will often be hurt. Love what you do and do your best. Please yourself first.
Thank you for allowing me the honor of being your teacher and for helping me fill the world with beautiful art. Together we are an awesome creative team! I hope this blog post explains a few things so we can come together to create a better learning experience. Art students, remember how lucky you are to have a mentor. Keep smiling, and stay creative.
With art, the world is a better place!
Edited by Meghan Norton, eMedia Production Coordinator, ArtistsNetwork.com
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!