Do you mind if I share a pet peeve of mine? I really object to artists who hang out their shingles as art instructors when they still have so much to learn themselves. I'm not sure why some artists who have barely passed out of the amateur stage think they have the skills or abilities or right to teach, but I've seen it happen time and again. Since there's nothing we can do to stop them, it's up to the would-be art student to determine who is really a good teacher.
So how do you find a good teacher, someone with real credentials to teach? How can you tell when you yourself know relatively little about art, which is why you're seeking lessons in the first place? I think you should ask the prospective teacher a lot of questions before you sign on for private lessons. Here are some of the things to look for:
- A formal education is no guarantee that he or she has mastered the craft of painting, but I'd like the teacher to be able to say that he or she has pursued a lot of instruction with other master artists through schools, private lessons, and/or workshops.
- A lengthy track record of exhibitions, awards, and sales. This shows that peers and other experts have acknowledged that this teacher is a good artist.
- High quality in other students' work. Have any of this teacher's current or former students gone on to become professionals? How does their work look to you? Case in point: My teacher, Tina Tammaro, has trained so many of us local artists who have become professionals that we were invited to have a huge group show in a gallery. (Even more impressive was that none of our works looked like hers because she helped each of us find our personal voices!)
- And finally, a true teacher is going to talk about training you in the fundamentals. I would steer clear of any teacher who talks about step-by-step projects, formulas, or anything that sounds like the teacher is trying to make it easy. Learning to paint is not easy, and any teacher who says he or she has found a way to make it so is not really teaching you to paint. Ditto for teachers who focus on helping you to "express yourself."
What else? Do any of you have further thoughts on selecting a worthwhile teacher? Let me hear from you.