how to find a good teacher to teach painting for kids
October 16, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

My 10 yr old daughter loves arts. She likes to do all kinds of crafts. She also like to draw and paint. She has been taking drawing lessons. But the problem is that she doesn't like her drawing teacher. She told me that she does not want to spend time learning sketching, drawing still life. She found trying to draw people very frustrating. She said that she wants to just learn painting. She enjoys playing with colors and patterns. So I decide to look around for more suitable teachers. But without much knowledge of on this subject myself, I want to know if there are teachers who would teach kids painting without trying to build basic drawing skills. How to talk to art teachers to see if they can work well with my daughter. Will a better teach be able to motivate her into practicing drawing with less frustration? Thanks
posted by akomom to Education (13 answers total)
The teacher sounds like the problem, and hopefully you can find another one.

The thing is, most artists really do need to know how to draw or sketch before they can paint well, at least at a very basic level. It would be best if your daughter could find someone to work with her so she doesn't feel so frustrated. Maybe this teacher is just not working at her level.
posted by misha at 2:09 PM on October 16, 2011

Yes -- of course there are ways to paint without learning life drawing skills!

I think how you've explained it here is very clear -- I would say just those things in an exploratory email or conversation to an art teacher.

And in my experience with art teachers for my 7-year-old, most have been more of the "colors, patterns, explore things" approach. That shouldn't be too hard to find.

I came to art classes as an adult, without much native drawing talent. I think if I had been sent to life drawing class without being able to play with colors, I would have been frustrated too.

Your daughter sounds great -- good luck!
posted by pantarei70 at 2:10 PM on October 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like she doesn't like the teacher. I'd look around for a new one -- perhaps one who specializes in working with children? Any teacher is likely going to be working on basic skills, and this will be valuable for your daughter. But a good teacher will be able to do it in a way that your daughter enjoys.

Ask other parents, or your daughter's school for recommendations. Talk to a potential teacher before starting lessons and give them an idea of what happened with the last teacher. Just tell them what happened and see how they react.
posted by DoubleLune at 2:11 PM on October 16, 2011

My local public art gallery holds studio classes for children, teens, and adults. While the teen and adult classes tend to be more single-focused (e.g. either drawing, or watercolours, or photography), the children's classes take much more of the "colors, patterns, explore things" approach that pantarei70 referred to. If you have a good-sized public art gallery near you, see if they offer group children's classes--it sounds like your daughter might enjoy that type of class more.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:24 PM on October 16, 2011

The following answer is from a friend of mine:

Hi. I'm an artist and teacher. I mostly teach adults, but in the past few years, I've been teaching middle school-aged students. I agree with the general consensus, and your observation, that your daughter needs a teacher that she likes. You may just need to try different classes with different teachers until she finds one whose lessons resonate with her. There are plenty of community art centers that offer classes, I'd suggest reading the class descriptions with her, and talk to other parents and kids (sometimes just having a friend in a class makes a big difference, too).

Also, don't rule out teachers that teach more traditional drawing, even though your daughter doesn't see it as a strength right now. The thing is to find a teacher that shows her that she CAN do it, in a way that makes sense to her. Also, keep in mind that children your daughter's age are starting to go through some big developmental changes, and her strengths and what she likes right now are subject to lots of changes over the next few years. At that age, I think the most important thing is to find a teacher that encourages her, and helps her keep her options of what she feels she *can* do as open as possible. Barring all of that, just getting her some art supplies and letting her go to town on her own, and letting her feel some personal ownership in her creativity isn't the worst thing, either.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

While she might not like the teacher, if she's at all serious about art--she needs to learn to draw. If she's just looking for fun and some creative time, then I'm not so sure it matters. But the discipline of learning how to draw is very good (not just for kids--I learned as an adult, and was shocked at how hard it was, but I'm always pleased that I stuck with it.) Not every person is born with Picasso's gifts, but there was a time when most students actually learned to draw as a matter of course, and that it was a skill, not some innate genetically linked talent.

If you think she's got some talent in this area, it might be worth either helping her stick it out or looking for a more compatible teacher. But anything worth doing is worth doing well, and I don't think 10 is too young to learn to stick with something. I let my kids try a lot of things, and sometimes I know I let them drop something too easily.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:46 PM on October 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think it's worth both a conversation with her teacher and, perhaps, sticking with it. There may be a middle ground where she's pushing her boundaries (Learning drawing technique requires focus and practice and takes time to get decent results) but then also having a little more exploratory time than the teacher may be providing (Blows off creative steam, results are more immediately satisfying.).

If you don't get anywhere with this teacher consider coming back to drawing skills when she's a little more mature. This reminds me that I'd love to take another life drawing class. It activates my brain in a way nothing else does. Taxing and meditative!
posted by amanda at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2011

I've always loved drawing and painting, but I hated sketching people, and I still avoid it. When I was your daughter's age, I really enjoyed those books that show you how to draw something step by step. Birds, horses, and flowers were my favorites. I think she's old enough to play around with developing those skills on her own. It might be stressful for her to learn a new skill in an environment where she has other people looking at (and judging) her work. Personally, I disliked art class, since I preferred choosing my own projects rather than completing assignments. I don't know what kind of class she is taking, but if they are doing things like drawing still life from a fruit bowl in the middle of the classroom, that might be discouraging and frustrating for her. It's easier to start out by copying other drawings rather than working from real life.

It's a good idea to encourage her to practice sketching before focusing on painting, especially if she hasn't developed a good sense of perspective yet. Buy her a big sketchbook and some pencil sets, and a few books like this. If she can follow simple steps and produce a drawing she is proud of, she will have less of an aversion to sketching and may be able to get more out of any future classes you put her in.
posted by lali at 4:35 PM on October 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My almost-ten-year old daughter (in about 6 weeks) sounds like yours. She loves paper, fabric, string/yarn, paint, colored pencils, all kinds of art stuff. She makes tons and tons of things with intricate patterns and amazing color combinations and goes through reams of paper. She is frustrated with realistic drawing and has rejected art classes outside of school. I just get her as many art supplies as I can afford and let her leave it all around the house (and have the paint-stained tables and carpets to show for it). We take her to museums, get art books and generally try to make her world as art-filled as possible. I went to art school (I'm a graphic designer) and know it's best to learn to sketch properly -- the learn-the-rules-before-you-break-them thing. For now, I think she's just exploring and will likely be open to art classes when she's a bit older. More specific to your question: I think art schools can be a source for informal and more free-form teachers. Of course, that's if there are schools like that near you. Good luck!
posted by bluemoonegg at 5:44 PM on October 16, 2011

My initial reaction is to tell you to strap her to a desk and make her do figure and still-life drawing til she loves it. She's only ten, though, so my guess is that it's about finding a balance between making it fun and establishing good representational fundamentals. In my youth, I spent more time learning to draw imaginatively using rules and guidelines (techniques of perspective, scale, shading, colour effects). It was almost all pencil-and-paper work and very little of it involved drawing from life. I enjoyed it immensely because learning the secrets and tricks of representing a 3D world on paper was a little bit like secret magic for me.

Drawing from life can be fun too, but as your daughter may be discovering, when the representation falls short, it's discouraging. For me, life drawing is exercise - it serves a very, very valuable purpose and MUST be done, but you gotta do it over the course of years, because the satisfaction will come from seeing the growth more than it will come from making pretty pictures. (Note: it helps to view the product of life drawing sessions as disposable, valueless non-art and not get attached to it except as a milestone to refer to down the road).

Ehh, so I'd say maybe find a teacher who will let her explore media of her choice, but who will integrate fundamentals like perspective so that A) she'll enjoy her time and want to continue and B) she'll be equipped with a helpful toolkit if she does decide to engage in some rigourous life drawing down the road.
posted by TangoCharlie at 11:42 PM on October 16, 2011

Artist here. If your daughter is serious about pursuing arts (and it sounds like she is), she has to learn how to draw. It's not like a teacher will fail her for being a bad drawer; a good teacher will work with her on her particular style of drawing. She sounds like she edges towards a more gestural, expressionistic attitude in her artistic explorations, so maybe show her some artwork by de Kooning or Pollock (who both have their own style of drawing). It sounds like to me that she's not jiving with the teacher. However, basics are a must for any art program. I myself am not a great drawer, but I had to learn how to do it to pass my courses to move onto the things I was interested in. Drawing IS difficult; but it should be something she could persevere to master if she wants to move onto "the fun stuff".
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:35 AM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to mention Betty Edwards's Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, which talks about the period kids go through when they realize their stick figure drawings don't look like the real world around them and get frustrated with their inability to make art that DOES look "right".

I grew up thinking I couldn't draw very well, but a few hours with the first few exercises in the book made a big difference for me.

I would suggest telling your daughter that you want her to keep enjoying art, and encourage her to keep playing with colors and abstract designs and whatever is fun for her. At the same time, you could tell her that she might ALSO enjoy learning to draw representationally, and encourage her to explore that avenue as well, at her own pace. (I think lali's suggestion for step-by-step books is a good one.)

If you can find "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain"-influenced classes near you, those might be worth a try.

Also, you could use this as an opportunity to show your daughter that learning can be enjoyable as an adult, too. You could get a copy of the "Right Side" book and work through the exercises with her, and give her the example of how adults cope with their own self-criticism and frustration when they're striving toward the satisfaction of mastering a new skill.
posted by kristi at 11:15 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would just like to add that, people, she's 10. And I am an artist too, but I believe it's most important for her to be interested in pursuing the art practice instead of forcing herself to do something that can eventually bring her to stop doing art alltogether out of boredom/frustration. If, later on, she still is serious, then yeah she should do more "basics" or traditionnal stuff, but I think if she's really interested in art at that time, this decision will be a natural process and will come from her.
And maybe she's NOT interested in doing a career or whatever out of it later. In that case, I beleive it's also important that she'll remember doing art as pleasurable or a form of self-expression because it will enable her to appreciate art better later on in life and also to still feel she can do art for her own personal pleasure/therapy/wtv.
posted by kitsuloukos at 8:02 PM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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