Art Classes/Courses

5 Traits of Bad Art Teachers

I wrote a post called ‘The Best Advice I’ve had from Art Teachers’ so I thought I would write a blog about the ‘worst advice’ I’ve had.  Now as someone who studied art for many years I feel I have had both good and bad art teachers.  Generally I don’t feel I’ve had any real bad advice from my art teachers but there are some things perhaps to be aware of that could be potentially damaging or limiting to your success in art.  It is important to be aware of these traits as if you have only had one or two art teachers you may think this is the norm.   Here are my thoughts on the topic…

Telling You That One Style is Better Than Another

I always loved art and naturally had a very detailed way of working.  My high school art teacher was forever trying to get me to work in a more ‘gutsy’ way.  The art teacher concerned seemed to only like and admire one style of art so at this  impressionable age I was made to feel that my style of art just didn’t have a place in the art world.

I’ve always had a highly detailed illustrative style of drawing.

Now not that there was anything wrong with having a favourite set of artists or styles but the world of art is extensive and a good art teacher will communicate this. Fortunately another art teacher took over at the same school who really appreciated my talent and style.  It is important to recognise your own strengths and have confidence in your own style, even when others don’t.  I sometimes wonder if I would have continued with art if it wasn’t for this particular teacher.

Not Allowing Certain Tools in the Art Room

I’ve always been a big fan of the automatic pencil, being someone who enjoyed detail and precision.  All good art teachers will encourage you to use and experiment with a range of different media however I’m not sure if teachers should ‘ban’ certain tools.  I have heard of art teachers banning erasers, rulers and automatic pencils.  I think that these tools have their place in the art room and that no tool should be banned.  There are creative ways of using these tools, particularly since the eraser can be used to create smudges and lift off pigment, you can even draw with erasers.

The automatic pencil

The Inactive Teacher 

All art teachers have moments when they may need to be sat at a desk but I do believe that the best teachers and tutors are active and move around the room.

I know that as a tutor I love to see learners’ work developing and can sense when some learners may be hitting a tricky point and need some feedback.

A good teacher will be aware of what learners are doing and will intervene if needed.  Many learners won’t ask for help or advice by approaching a tutor. There are mixed views on this topic but my belief is that that classroom is not the place for me to be doing my own artwork. If a teacher is busy doing their own art they can’t be doing the full role as a teacher or tutor in my view.

Samey Lessons 

I believe good teachers and tutors change their lessons and like to try out new subjects and media.  If you find that every term you are drawing the same things or using the same media then you are not being enabled to experiment. So much of art teaching is about experimenting and learning about materials so you should be doing this in your art education.


Sometimes an art teacher isn’t confident in a media for example watercolours so the class never does watercolour! What if the learner really wants to do watercolour? It isn’t fair on the learner.  On my beginners courses we explore a range of media, some of which I’m not overconfident in, I like to be honest with the learners and tell them, but I’d rather they learnt something rather than nothing about my less preferred media. The same applies to new media, some older teachers aren’t confident with digital methods of image making and so learners miss out.

Adjusting Your Work

I’ve met art teachers who draw and paint on your work, this is something that I don’t like to do with my learners. A teacher or tutor can demonstrate how to draw something by using their finger or a scrap piece of paper.  They should always ask permission before they take the pencil or paintbrush out of your hand.   Drawing and painting on someone’s work is like saying ‘not like that… like this‘ it is not very confidence building for the learner.

What did they say?

Non Inclusive Vocabulary

There are lots of art terms that as a beginner you may not have heard of.  Good teachers and tutors will explain these terms and not assume that everyone knows.

When I did Art A-Level the fine art teacher never explained terms and I felt that I should know them so didn’t ask!  It took several years for me to discover what ‘gesso‘, ‘tempera‘ and ‘gum arabic‘ were!

A good teacher/tutor will also not make you feel silly for asking questions, this goes for any subject.



Have you had any less than helpful advice from art teachers?  Do share…

2 thoughts on “5 Traits of Bad Art Teachers

  1. My son has an art teacher. He complains that she does not show them or explain to them how to do for example shading , if he does not do it well she says you had it last you should know , even when I talked to her she repeated the same words, she give them work to to be marked but never teaches, she said I have to follow the curriculum. She is helping at all and I don’t know how to talk to her. Please could you help me. I’m my opinion a grade 10 art class should be all about positivity, creativity and happiness.

    1. Oh dear, as soon as someone learning art associates the subject with struggle and negativity they can be put off. How about encouraging your son to draw at home, keeping a sketchpad and drawing things he wants to? There are lots YouTube channels on how to shade. The skills often aren’t taught in schools currently, it tend to just be project work.

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