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What Makes a Good Art Instructor?

What Makes a Good Art Instructor?

Fine Art Tips | Lori McNee

The optimal art instructor should:

1. Be a working professional artist, not just a teacher.

2. If your work is abstract in orientation, be able to demonstrate that you can paint fruit, trees, and portraits.

• If Degas and Picasso could paint nice portraits in their early years, shouldn’t we? Most likely, your students want to paint representationally, at least for now.

3. Use demonstration to communicate more often than you use words.

• Artists are visual learners.

4. Teach the fundamentals. Teach simply, sequentially, and be able to clearly explain your method.


Young boy at Market by Gary Holland

• I personally believe that without solid technical ability (being able to quickly and accurately paint whatever I see), my ability to create real art (technique + spirit = real art) will not happen.

• Again, technique does not equal art. Art is technique, coupled with passion. It is this pairing that produces the visual expression of your soul. That’s art.

• Without this soulfulness, you are just decorating walls. (Read: high-priced wallpaper)

• Without solid technical skills, your creativity will remain dormant.

5. Learning to focus your instructional technique can serve to elevate the quality of your art.

• Condense your (technical) instruction into a simple 1, 2, 3-style lesson, with quick, clear demonstrations.


My Secret Place by Gary Holland

6. I believe that technique can be taught, however turning technique into art (the infusion and expression of your spirit and technique) is best facilitated, not directed.

• Students need to find their own path to creativity. This is largely intuitive and can’t be taught.

• My goal after teaching solid technique is to offer students direction, then await the evolution of the artist-in-the-making.

• After learning some foundational technique, I try to facilitate their passion by exposing them to my favorite books, prints, galleries, psychological ideas, emotions, symbols and other forms of artistic passion.

7. From this, they slowly create their own path.

Like a butterfly with a broken wing, an art student should be inspired, nurtured and trained, then encouraged to fly away to be the best and most beautiful butterfly in the sky. The teacher moves from “teacher” to “cheerleader” once students begin to fly.

We are all lucky to have Gary share his talent and suggestions with us. I met Gary on Twitter and was very impressed with his paintings. He is an artist with true spirit and I think his paintings are magical like butterflies!

You can see his work here or go to If you want to study with him call for information: (208) 860-0603.

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