Dec 28, 2009

How to have a successful and fun art class!




Every year in the fall I returned to my classes and I found that I needed something to hand out to the new students and the returning students to remind them of why there were in class and encourage them. Here is what I would give them the first day.

Guidelines to help you have a great learning, fun experience in my class.

In my class there are no “stupid” questions.
If you don’t understand something I have said don’t be afraid to ask me to explain it further.
Relax…this will be a fun time for you; I have never seen something a student painted that couldn’t be fixed if necessary!
Remember your biggest mistakes will teach you the most.
Work at your own speed; don’t try to keep up with your neighbor.
Do not offer advice to other students.
If a sudden urge comes over you to kick a hole in your canvas, get up and leave the studio for a few minutes.
Be easy on yourself; don’t be so critical of what you are painting.
Work more from your feelings and your heart!
Buy the best brushes and paints you can afford and then be sure to take care of them.
Keep all your negative thoughts to yourself, you can talk to yourself all you want but try to use positive statements!
Remember that one negative remark from you can travel through a positive classroom turning it into a very toxic place.
Your neighbor has paid just as much as you have for my class and they are here to learn not help you so please don ask them for help, that’s my job.
Feel free to have light discussions but refrain from politics, religion and personal problems.
Please arrive a little early so you can get set up and be ready to start.
After you have set up place all your paint boxes under your chair or easel to make it easier for me and other students to move around.
Know that you will all have a bad “art” day…we all do, the best thing you can do is go with the flow. It will be better next time!
Bring all the supplies I have listed on the supply list, please don’t keep borrowing from your neighbors.
Remember that I move around the room stopping at each easel, your turn will come and it is best to be patient and wait your turn, calling out to me when I am with another student is not fair to them or me.

List of “Don’ts’
Feel guilty for taking time for yourself.
Say I can’t do this, you can maybe you just need a little more practice!
Stuff the newsletters and lessons in your paint box never reading them, they may contain important information you need to know.
Set unrealistic goals for yourself, if you have just started to paint don’t try to paint a portrait!
Focus on your past mistakes, they have taught you!
Try to be the teacher, there is only one in my classroom and that is me.
Be afraid to try something different, you may find a new technique you love!
Be stingy with your paint, put enough out to last through the class so you don’t have to keep getting all your paints out.
Don’t critique another’s work.
List of “Do’s”
If you like something you have done, pat yourself on the back!
Try to learn from your mistakes.
Ask questions!
Ask me to “show’ you on your canvas how to do something if you really want me to.
Keep a “can do” attitude!
Be adventuress. Paint something you never have tackled!
If you get tired get up and go get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and take a break.

Know that you are unique and very talented. Paint what you love and it will show!


This little hand-out helped me so much, and it was good for my students to be reminded of this each time they returned to my class.
I did not teach one subject, my students were taught from the first to paint what they chose, what they loved. I had a file of reference photos of “easy’ things to paint and they would start there and I would take them slowly through the basics of color mixing and application. As time went on they also learned about composition and what it took to paint a masterpiece.
The thing about the negative remarks was very important to me, my class was a refuge for my students, a place they could come and let go of their daily problems. In order to keep it this way I had to have these rules and they did work. When I first started teaching I was pretty uneducated in this area, but I did want to have a special place for my students so I had to come up with a plan.
As an example of how things worked in the beginning when there was negativity in the studio was a certain workshop I had one time that I will never forget. It was the turning point for me, when I decided I had to have rules and be in control.
The students all wanted to learn how to paint a certain subject so I had a day long workshop where they all painted what I painted; it was a paint-a-long class that was popular at that time.
After we had finished I had a lot of happy artists, they felt good about what they had accomplished until I asked them to stand up holding up their artwork so I could take a photo of them. One student who was a constant negative complainer stood in the middle and she looked down at her work and said, “Mine looks like!@#@!@, then she looked at the lady on her side and said “and so does yours!”
The ladies face just fell, until then she was happy with her work of art and it was good….it was really good!
Then all of the students started looking at their own work and I could instantly see the positive attitude change to negative. The fun day they all had just experienced ended.
This little lady had been coming to my class for about 5 weeks and during every class would sit and complain about how she didn’t like what she was painting and how she couldn’t do it and blah, blah, blah!
People around her would be upbeat and happy before class and by the end they were just depressed. Negative people bring others down. They ruin the good times for others, they are toxic people and if they are allowed to be negative in your classroom you will find that it is so much harder to teach and you will feel drained at the end of the class and your students will feel resentful. They have just wasted their time and their hard earned money.
So what did I do about this situation? I had to put on my big girl pants,( very hard to do for me!) and talk to the lady and tell her that I felt she had some problems with being negative and that it was not fair to the others for her to keep this up, I was hoping she would quit…...but no she didn’t and my little talk with her did no good at all, some people just don’t seem to get it so I had to tell her that she could no longer attend my class.
It was not a pretty sight believe me and it was very hard to do however,I felt good after I had the strength to stand up to her. From that point on I had a little note on each easel that said, “Positive Talk Only Please”. It was a great help, it didn’t completely reduce the negative remarks but if someone did say something that was negative, often other students would gently remind them to be more positive!
Sharon Teal-Coray

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