Is There a Downside to Teaching Your Art? < Deep Thought Thursday

From a reader:

I would LOVE to hear your opinion on the do’s and don’ts of teaching your craft. . . I believe that either you are an artist or a teacher. If you plan on making money on your art teaching others to do it is not going to benefit you in anyway.

What do you think?
I left out some of the details in the summary above, but the gist is: Is it possible to teach your art without having students undermine your market?
When you teach, are you just encouraging copyists?

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

55 thoughts on “Is There a Downside to Teaching Your Art? < Deep Thought Thursday”

  1. Teaching is not for everyone, but I believe that teaching is the best way to learn about what it is you do.
    Sharing our talents is a good, positive thing. Of course students will copy, that’s how they learn. And they’ll find their own style as they grow. If they succeed our talents, we as teachers should be pleased to have set them on their path.
    How can having more artists in the world be anything but good?

  2. For me, technique is only one part of the equation of being an artist. You can learn technique and how to handle materials from another artist. After that it is a person’s creative vision, internal dialogue, life experience and expression that cannot be duplicated. It is up to everyone to find this for themselves.

  3. My thoughts on this as both as teacher and an artist myself, is similar to my thoughts when people copycat your work; They can take the water, but I own the well.
    Like Deb says, technique is only part of it. After that you require the ideas and imagination to create new pieces. I firmly believe that a teacher should always be one step ahead of the students they teach and I apply the same concept to my teaching and artwork. Whatever it is I’m teaching now, I’m already done with and have moved onto something else.
    Like anything else, most students will never catch up to the teacher. A few will excel and surpass the teacher. They are not competition, they are new works of art.

    1. I love what you said: They can take the water, but I own the well. Love that! And I agree with your point… having students is a great motivator to push you out of your comfort zone.

  4. I can see why the reader posed that question, in fact I have thought of it often too. I think their is a division somewhere though where you can do both.
    I currently take art lessons from an artist whom I admire both for her work and determination. Though she gives advice on the techniques and materials applied, I do believe that it simply brings out of you what’s already there and further develops it.
    An artist’s work is like handwriting. It is almost impossible to copy correctly every time. In fact trying to do so would require so much effort and a loss of one’s own direction almost.
    So if the art student has an “art statement or a philosophy” I don’t believe that copying is an issue, however most artists learn by copying to some degree though what they reproduce is their own handwriting with their own expression in the end.
    Now in regards to stealing yoru market/clients, I simply would not expose my students to MY “business of art” that is where the competition remains.

  5. Teaching is a solid part of my income, I would not want to miss it as it also gets me in contact with a lot of people.
    I do not teach all the techniques I master, and when asked, I clearly say that some techniques I teach, others I don’t because they make out some kind of USP. (Same goes for shopping sources, btw)
    My point of view is that if people really want to learn something, they will learn it – if not in your class, then in someone else’s. So I prefer they learn it with me.
    There will always be people that copycat, no matter if they see your art in an exhibition / internet / your class. It can’t be avoided. It’s in the end up to the buyer what she/he will purchase – it’s an illusion to think to have any control over this.
    A few things however I learned from teaching: do not give away everything you know – the temptation is big as your students admire you for being so knowing.
    On the other hand, you might occasionally come across people who’s attitude is only because they paid for a class with you, they can macerate any addtional information from you (“hey, I paid you, so tell me everything you know”). I learned to turn those down in a gentle way.
    One of the most challenging thing however is to give classes but not neglect your art. Preparing good classes, marketing for it and so on is mightily time consuming. I am still in a phase of developing new concepts, but my goal is to set up a few standards so I can re-use teaching- and marketing material every time which should minimize the preparation effort. This also includes setting up to-do- and materials-lists that I can just check off when preparing the class again.

  6. I think my concern would be more to do with sapping creative energy and efforts.
    I believe to teach you must have enthusiasm and put that into your lesson plans. Teaching can be very time demanding. I wonder how anyone who teaches finds the time to create their own work. However where there’s a will…
    Having said that I know artist’s who teach are often inspired by their students as well!
    So, I suppose it really depends how secure the artist is in his/her style!

  7. Surely it depends on WHAT you teach and HOW you teach it? If you teach other people how to do what you do, exactly the way you do it (e.g. this is how I paint a landscape/portrait etc) then I imagine it is possible to undermine your own market. On the other hand if you as a teacher equip your students with sound skills which enable them to investigate their chosen art form, experiment and express their own unique voice as artists then there shouldn’t be any problem.
    I think some emulation is always going to happen (and copying to learn is a valid and useful tool) but generally speaking this is part of an artists journey of development, and if they know how to experiment and play they will develop their own voice.

    1. Well put!
      I have had a few people come to my classes because they want to learn to paint like me (they seem to stay just long enough to try to pick up a few secrets, which I don’t keep secret) – but what I really teach my students is to paint like themselves. Learning composition and design, color, brushwork, the works – it’s a much more involved process.
      That said, if I used a specific process for creating something that I invented – something proprietary – teaching it might not be a good way to go.

  8. When I was teaching, it took all my energy, it was 24/7… preparing and then instructing. I did not have time to create for my own pleasure. Now, that I am a full time artist, I do not have time to teach. I think it is one or the other for me. As far as student copying my art, throughout history, aspiring artists have copied art that they love, to learn. It is part of the process of coming into their own style and teachers are probably aware of this. Teaching exposes students to new ideas and new approaches to art, style, mediums.

  9. I think the question the reader asked was aimed mostly at the idea of students who soooo admire the work of the instructor that they do their best to copy the instructor’s style. And there lies the rub, as they say.
    If a teacher is still bringing in income from sales of their own works in a particular style, then they probably should not be teaching it. Because, given enough classes, it’s not a question of whether or not they will be copied. It’s a question of when.
    So this presents a dilemma for the instructor: if they reduce their instructional materials to basic techniques in order to protect their own work, then they are competing with a lot of other instructors who teach basic/beginner level stuff. But if they teach the things for which they have become known – their signature style or whatever – then they would potentially be teaching themselves right out of the market.

  10. The joy in teaching others to develop their inner artist is almost equal to creating myself. Others can enjoy my art, but knowing I’ve given others the ability to create their own work and share, is tremendous! Yes, students have gone on to creating their own art business like I have done and their quality of work is excellent. That pushes me to continue to grow and expand my market. It keeps me on my toes. The Masters shared their skills and I think we should too.

  11. I agree with much of what has already been said by Rhomany, Patty and Deb – technique and tools can not replicate an artist’s history, soul, or message. Even the way our individual bodies move and work influence a final piece of art. All the layers that make up the resulting work are an extension of the artist, and when someone else tries to copy that, the work has an emptiness that leaves it with an essence of inauthenticity – it just doesn’t fly.
    Many years ago I had a “friend” that I casually taught a unique technique I had created for making jewelry (combining roofing felt, colored pencils, beading…). About a week after our lesson, I learned that her version of my jewelry showed up in a shop two doors down from a gallery where my work was being carried and sold. There was no comparison, and her version was replaced by something else in a matter of weeks.
    This experience hurt our friendship, but did not slow my desire to share what I do or how I do it I with other growing artists. I feel the more the merrier! I’d rather see good technique and craftsmanship out there, than poorly done attempts.
    Also, as an artist, I love learning from others and trying new things! I admire and respect artists that are confident enough in their own talents that they are willing to graciously share techniques that will help me expand my artistic knowledge!!

  12. Teaching used to be a significant part of my income, and I loved it. And as an educator I’ve taught many techniques to a huge range of students. But I made a conscious decision to never teach the specific technique that I was currently focusing on.
    I do strongly believe that technique is only one piece of the artistic puzzle — vision, inspiration, design are at the core of every artwork, and simply duplicating a technique will not take you down the same aesthetic path. But the act of teaching what I was currently passionate about took something away. When I work, I want to close the studio door and breathe in the process. I don’t want to explain it or dissect it or write lesson plans about it. Not that teaching is clinical, but you do have to be able to process information and explain it in a different way. I want to explore every aspect of a technique and fully appreciate it before passing it on to others.

  13. How do you think the old masters learned and became great on their own?
    If you don’t have enough self confidence in yourself then you may worry about someone copying you. Isn’t it rather egotistical to worry about copying your art?

  14. I’ve been teaching mosaic classes on a monthly basis over the last seven years and it has been a major part of my business. It’s a great way to market my work and to create word-of-mouth referrals. My classes brings enthusiastic people to my studio who are always amazed at how much work goes into my mosaics after they’ve experienced the process themselves. The class also acts as marketing for my personal work and I’m able to make connections and build relationships directly with those who admire it! Some of my best work was commissioned by my past students.
    I began offering advanced classes a few years ago and that is where I started to struggle with the question of how much to share. I am very generous with info and often my students compliment this… it is all this unique and exciting info that make my classes successful. I encourage them to use their inspiration in creative and new ways and to always give credit to their source. Each year I raise the prices on my advanced classes and continue to fill them. By creating more income from the class I feel better about sharing my “secrets” (but of course, not all of them- which is tough).
    I’m now a mother in addition to an artist and teacher so time management is a biggie. I’m currently working on creating an instructional dvd so I can slow down classes when I need to and stay on top of commissioned work without loosing income.
    I obviously believe it is possible to teach your art and to be a successful artist.

  15. I taught piano lessons many years ago and found that I learned as much from the students as they did from me. Especially if you are teaching concepts (in that case, music theory), you will better UNDERSTAND them because of having to explain them to others in a clear way.
    Teaching art does the same thing – in explaining and demonstrating to others what to do and why, you better understand it yourself. Win – win in my opinion.

  16. I think the statement is true, except most of the time when it was not.
    As a student I learned so much about just being an artist from the teachers that actually lived what they said. I was exposed to the hard work and determination and absolute need for a love of continued learning that it would take. Now as a workshop instructor and teacher myself, I teach many of the basics as well as the sharing what it takes to move beyond hobbyist. I did not want to teach for a long time, but I’m a very social person and my studio can be lonely.
    Once I heard or read a statement that a good teacher wants the students to be better than them. That freed me, I hold nothing back and I teach without fear. I have no secrets any longer, answering all questions to the best of my abilities. I can not fear my students, as it would be like fearing my child, that she may one day grow to be a better person then me…crazy, that is my wish for her.
    I love teaching I love playing and experimenting. I push the students and in turn they push me.
    Here is a blog written by a past student, and I can think of no better compliment
    Another plus is that at every workshop I have ever taught I have sold work to students and made new friendships.

  17. Hopefully we teach students skills to help them find their own voice as an artist. Painters have generous shared with me their techniques and as I grew in confidence my own style emerged.
    Every artist has something unique to offer, so don’t worry about being copied.

  18. “They can take the water, but I own the well. ”
    I understand the sentiment to this statement, but truthfully, you may have found the well, but I don’t think anyone truly owns it. If that is the case, how can you explain how individuals in different parts of a country or the world can come up with the same concept? Somehow, somewhere there is a fount of ideas that we tap into.
    I think one factor with teaching and if it affects your art and the consequence on your income, is that teaching takes away from the amount of time you can concentrate on your own art, to improve it and to make pieces that you could sell to increase your income.

  19. I think the decision to teach depends on your overall goals. Teaching and creating are two different activities and can lead to two different career tracks.
    After I had a few years of creating under my belt, I taught locally. The activity of doing that was very good in that it forced me to put some words around my process.
    But, for me, I found that, like everything, there are things you sacrifice by teaching.
    My husband is a horse trainer and I am an artist. We often discuss the concept of muscle memory. Muscle memory, which is when we acting in an automatic gear, is the truest work we do as individuals. What we produce during this deep state of focus is the best our “machine” (mind/body) can put out.
    Muscle memory can be effected even when the body is not in motion. For example, deep and specific visualization is the same to the brain as actually doing a task.
    So, if you spend a ton of time carefully watching and analyzing beginners, your quality can go down. That, along with not being able to fully engage in your deep muscle memory type focus in doing your own work a class, you can put out lesser work… which effects your long term results and muscle memory.

  20. Whoops, that’s a full statement there.
    Teaching enriches your art. I’ve always found folks who know way more than I do taking my classes.
    If your work is being copied by your students, you need to take a look at your lesson plan. What are you teaching and how?
    Apprentices spend years learning how to work in the style of a master. For some reason I doubt if a few hours of learning a skill or a technique, that the instructor learned from somewhere, is going to result in “copyists.”

  21. I agree with Deb – technique is only one part of the equation. And plenty of folks jump in without ever bothering to learn the basics, so I think you’ll have plenty of competition whether you are teaching others or not.
    I guess each artist needs to decide if teaching helps bring in income, and helps you financially do what you want to do for a living.

  22. I make my own art and teach as well. Wouldn’t want to end either highly rewarding experience – but it does get challenging when the number of copycats rises. And yes – I struggle with this issue – what to leave in, what to leave out, what to defend, what to leave as offerings to the art muses, as it were.
    Notice I said ‘copycats’ as opposed to ‘those who copy’ – there is a distinct difference. As someone has already said, the masters all learned by making copies. This is how every human on the planet learns almost ANYTHING. But remember that advanced students of the old masters were not allowed *by law* to put their own names on their copied works – precisely because they were copies and could be mistaken for the work of the master!!!!!!
    The issue is not students who copy to learn mastery – I love them, they should go on with their bad selves!!! I am the first proud ‘Art Mom’ at the gallery when they show!!
    The issue is people (notice I did not say students) who abuse our generosity by treating us as if we were designers for hire to make virtual patterns for their commercial use and then claim original artist/designer status for themselves.
    Simply repeating the ‘Get used to it, everybody does it, you can’t stop it’ rationalization becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
    As an artist, I think to accept that premise is kind of like being a dog who flops over on her back whining and exposing her underbelly – literally begging not to be whipped. It just encourages and excuses more blatant acts from malicious offenders. They laugh all the way to the bank. Sadly, it also gives the impression that this behavior is *acceptable* to newer students – who then become confused and indignant at the seeming contradiction when another artist rightfully objects to the practice.
    Truthfully, copycatting is somewhat rampant in certain circles, and it hurts on several levels. Small wounds usually, but personally, I don’t want to be covered in BandAids, if you know what I mean. I’m generous, but am not applying for martyr status just yet.
    Sorry if the frank mental picture above offended, but I think the absence of frank discussion on this issue *is the problem*. None of us want the time and motivation black hole that this subject represents. We can address it in meaningful ways – education, plain talk about ethics, maybe emphasizing the joy of just making as an important part of the business of art more. People have a tendency to appreciate the valuables of others when they possess something similar and consider just as valuable.
    These things may not stop the practice, but it dang well makes me feel like I did my part in prevention and protection without getting caught in soul-sucking whirlpool of acceptance of obvious disrespect for the rights of others.
    Sorry for the novel – I am passionate about a few things. :^)

  23. Teaching can benefit the student as well as the artist. So far, not one of my students has gone out and become a professional fine art photographer. There’s much more to being an artist than knowledge and technique.

  24. I am echoing a lot that has been said here already. I am a professional potter and also a pottery teacher. I make sure to include in my teaching, especially to my advanced students, about business ethics and respect for other artists’ ideas. I also teach them how to plant and grow their own ideas, which is what gives them the perspective to respect others. I’m confident they would never dream of copying me or anybody else. And like others who have commented here, working with students gives me so much energy and appreciation for my own work, fuel that makes my work and my business better. There is no downside, in my opinion.
    I think the person who asked the original question must be very insecure.

  25. Talk about deep thought Thursday. I have been reading all of your comments as the day has gone on and it has been truly eye opening. This has really become a deep thought Thursday in deed. I am the reader quoted above. However, I have chosen to remain anonymous for reasons regarding the back story that resulted in this comment in the first place. I have gone back and forth all day with is it a good idea, it is a bad idea? I did find one interesting point, comments above that believe it is a good idea to teach your craft, a majority have come from painters. I have to say I totally agree with that outlook. If I were a painter I would love to teach classes and believe it would be an enjoyable experience and would never result in exact replication of my work. However, I am not a painter I am a jeweler.
    I have come to a conclusion that if it is a good idea or bad idea is based on what the product is. I feel like I am partially defending myself because after reading George’s comment I kind of felt like I was being kicked in the stomach. I don’t picture myself as egotistical. I have spent years developing my craft and technique and to hand it off to someone explaining exactly how it is done feels wrong to me. It is like a master chef spending years perfecting a recipe then just writing it out and sharing it with a group of people for a small fee for them to replicate. However, a great chef may teach a class on the basics of cooking and how some flavors go well together so the student can make their own masterpiece. That makes more sense to me.
    So, I have gone back and forth with, I am right or wrong. Now, reading my quote back I feel as though I stand corrected that it CAN be beneficial to teach your craft as many have commented in ways it can be. Depending on the type of product in some cases I believe the benefits would not outweigh the negative effect it could also have.
    My products have been very poorly replicated in my area. I know I have no way of stopping that nor do I try, but I do feel if I were to teach classes I would be encouraging it. Is it wrong and egotistical of me to not want to share my secrets I have worked so hard to develop? My end result is to enjoy making my art while making a living (or at least enough to pay the bills) My end result is not to teach others how to make a living by copying me. Is that wrong? I believe my product is an “in” thing right now and I would love to ride the wave while I can and establish myself as an expert in the medium by spending time developing my own work. Once it becomes the “out” thing maybe I will feel differently. I feel the desire to protect what I have built. Like I said, talk about deep thought Thursday.
    Thanks for all the comments. It really is interesting to hear others opinions on the point.
    Signed, artist/jeweler in deep thought

    1. You are not the only jeweler who thinks about these things. :^)
      And yes, this is a problem in some art venues more than others, in my opinion. There are certain mediums that carry the perception of lending themselves to ‘easy money.’ So it isn’t always a matter of how you present the info – it is a matter of intent on the part of the student.
      Since I have chosen to teach as well as sell, reaping the good and decrying or ignoring the bad – I found great hope, information and practical action items in the writings of Harriete Estel Berman on her blog “Ask Harriete.” Google her, for really frank, in-depth, and thought provoking discussion on this topic and many others from many internationally known artists in several mediums.
      It might make you feel a little less bruised – because this well-known artist does not suffer intellectual property abuse gladly. Conversely, she is the soul of gracious generosity as an artist. She has discussed the topic we are addressing now in very specific terms – and she feels the same way you do on many points.
      Go read. Please. It will do your heart good. Validation from a respected source is a wonderful , uplifting thing. Artists can find ways to teach that have ‘only’ peripheral meaning or nothing to do with their specific art form as a way to experience that satisfaction – We are all reading Alyson’s blog, aren’t we??

    2. Kate Klingensmith

      I am also a jeweler who has taught. I loved your comment about a great chef who teaches a basics class with a few flavor ideas thrown in. My favorite class to teach is the basics. I get to have a ‘beginner’s mind’ again, and help people as they stuggle to learn the basics. I’ve had more than one student tell me that they now really appreciate the skill and craftsmanship that is required, and they are now happy to pay for a well designed and crafted piece. I have also taken a weeklong painting workshop where the teacher did painting demos every day. All of the demos were purchased by students. So I think that teaching can be a source of marketing.
      I wouldn’t feel bad at all for making art that pays the bills and not sharing your secrets. Teaching can take away a lot energy wise, and it makes more sense to do what feels best.

  26. To the artist quoted re your comment:
    I disagree that it has to do with the product. It is much more to do with the artist.
    “It is like a master chef spending years perfecting a recipe then just writing it out and sharing it with a group of people for a small fee for them to replicate.”
    You appear to believe this is true. I doubt Jamie Oliver agrees with you. Worked out on a price-per-piece basis, his recipes cost about 12p each. Doesn’t seem to be harming his market any.
    Again, it comes down to how you teach and what information you give to your students, so perhaps it has more to do with your preconceptions of teaching than your art form itself. If all you’re intending to do is sit and show 30 people exactly how to make that necklace with that look and these materials, then of course you’re going to have 30 students all with the exact same necklace, only differing by standards of quality and maybe colour.
    Painting lends itself more to being able to do your own thing, but if you’re creative enough to make something in the first place, it’s only a very small step to show someone else how to to do the same thing in such a way that it shows them how to design it themselves as well.

  27. Mea- You may be right. I believe we are all somewhat insecure on some level. I think it is a balance as artist we all have to contend with. Artistic work is a very revealing way of putting yourself out there to be openly judged and compared. It takes tough skin to be an artist… thank you for helping me to make my tougher.

    1. I hope that didn’t sound too blunt. But here’s another way to look at it … did you become the artist who can make your unique work in the span of a few classes? Why don’t you believe that your breadth of knowledge is far greater than that?
      I’ve been copied before. I was really mad, but in both cases the copier didn’t get very far. I realize now that copied work lacks a genuine quality. Talk about revealing oneself and being judged, copiers reveals themselves as fakes. So I don’t worry about it anymore.
      Having said that, as a potter I am happy to teach technique all day long, but I don’t share my glaze recipes.

    2. I too have been copied, and it was clear who was the innovator and who the imitator. There have been times when I was too busy to accept commissions so I referred clients to my advanced students! Very few of my students have pursued art professionally, and when they do, it is rather thrilling to have another colleague with whom to share ideas, struggles, and even booths at shows!

  28. After reading the comments, I found a bit of truth in each. Though I have done some teaching, it has been with youth groups/teens and I found it to be very satisfying. (I have not taught adults) I do agree with Sarah and Rhomany. Being self taught in mosaics I know that where there’s a will there’s a way and the information is all out there to research. When people ask about my techniques, materials etc. I do share 90%. The rest they can work to learn as I did.
    And as Sarah and others have pointed out, I own the well – my work is always going to be original and I only hope that artists using my techniques will find their own creative voices. I really encourage my students to find their own unique, creative ‘fingerprints’. It’s o.k. to copy at first, that’s how everything is learned. But to really stand out and be happy with your work, make it your own.
    This was a great question to put out there. Most artists I know do a lot of teaching and I enjoyed reading/listening to all the perspectives – thanks for contributing!

  29. I have been teaching private drawing lessons since 1994. My classes consist of 4 people at a time, each student working on his own project at his own speed for 1 hour per week. The only downside is that time teaching is time not spent making art. The benefits are legion! 1. Relationships 2. Steady income 3. Explaining techniques cements and clarifies them for me. 4. The students push me to learn new techniques (mine “forced” me into colored pencil) 5. They want to draw subjects I would never choose and it has caused me to find ways to do things that I would have never learned. 6. It provides a regular time and place for others to work on their art. 7. Increased sales because they often want to buy my work. 8. They help me with my own work because I ask them to practice critiquing on my drawings (I actually say “Tear me a new one – hold nothing back!”) 9. It prevents me from being a recluse. I love my students and I love sharing what I know with them!

  30. Quite the weigh in here and as an artist/educator, a painter and writer not a jewler, I have loved reading through all of these posts.
    I have so enjoyed the activism role of inspiring my charges, no matter the age or background, to do the work of the arts…delve, explore, create, construct so that your own voice is coming forward, it’s always about discovering your own unique, never to be seen or heard again voice.
    I’ve not chosen to teach my approach or technique of painting instead I choose to share how the masters before us approached their craft…and most if not all do/did copy the work of others…having just visited the magnificent and huge exhibition of Picasso’s work at VMFA this week I can attest to the ‘borrowing’ factor.
    Oddly, a friend recently asked if I’d Googled myself lately. I said no. She said you may want to do that, there is an auction house listing a painting as “attributed to (my name)”…not mine…but clearly a knock off of my style.
    I once went all the way to the threshold of Federal Court because a piece of my public art was “improved”/defaced by a ‘John Doe’ so that the “owners” of the art wouldn’t have to pay me to make the site changes they wanted.
    Hot topic with many branches here.

  31. *here is an artist named Aaron Kramer…I came across this link yesterday on Twitter…(ironically from John T. Unger’s stream- who has also been copied)…When I visited Aaron’s website, it lead me to his Flickr stream where I could see the driftwood bowl he made & how he did it… It was ingenious, how he got the thing to hold together… I have to admit, the idea was so smart that I am going to have to sit on my thumbs not to try it myself… (not for profit just for joy)…Maybe there should be an informal etiquette system where you could send the artist/teacher some money via PayPal if you want to try one of his or her ideas?

  32. If as the reader states that you have to be one or the other, then why do Universities have accomplished artists on staff in their art departments as Professors. Apparently Universities feel you can be both an artist and a teacher.

  33. This has never been a problem when I have taught. I teach young children, and that could be why. But also never teach anyone how to necessarily make some of the work I make, but moreso the techniques I know how to use. Often a demonstration I show is mimiced, but I never feel the need to show them exactly what my style is while teaching. I also disagree about being one or the other. Almost all of my art professors at UArts were well respected artists in their field but also worked teaching.

  34. Erin Richardson

    It depends on whether you are a good teacher. I teach my students classically – how to use their materials, how to draw – perspective, tone, texture, etc – how to paint. I do not ever venture into teaching them to paint like me. I believe a strong foundation in material & techniques is the only way to develop your own style. There are teachers that have never moved from making PAINTINGS to making ART – those teachers also can only teach students to be like them. There are teachers that do not know how to paint or draw, their lessons are designed to teach others to make “art” like them.

  35. I have been painting with encaustic since 2004 and teaching it via workshops since 2005. I chose to teach what I do and have never had any regrets. It’s a wonderful medium and if I wasn’t teaching it there are plenty of other places to get the info. It’s remarkable to see a class of 10-15 students go off in 10-15 unique directions. Of the students I know that have continued on with encaustic I have seen only one imitator (she’s a teacher too, which was interesting….) but it won’t stop me from teaching! I’ve structured my time so my studio hours far outweigh my time as educator and never question if I should be one or the other.

  36. Any time you put your work out there for others to see, *especially* on the internet, you risk copyists. I am all too aware of this fact since my work erupted in what David Meerman Scott calls a ‘world wide rave’, reaching literally millions worldwide by way of their inboxes.
    Teaching doesn’t risk your work any more than simple exposure does. People who like your work will *always* try to do what you do. In teaching, you do put yourself forward as an authority on your technique. Don’t teach everything, teach the basics. It’s taken you a long time to develop what you do , so very few, if any, will be able to duplicate what you do, but people will very much enjoy learning from you.
    I have recently begun teaching feather-painting workshops, and I love doing it. The classes have been filling up and opportunities to teach in the UK have popped up. I have not yet seen copies in the local market. It may happen, who knows? But I do enjoy teaching – kids and adults alike. 🙂

    1. I think if your teaching and worrying or feel threatened about someone “stealing” your technique, style, or whatever, you have just told yourself that you feel that you are creatively limited in your ability to create or conceptualize. If someone steals your idea, get another. Then steals that one—come up with another. Then create another. Unless someone blatantly plagiarizes your work for a significant commercial profit, chances are the work is really only similiar but different. We’ve all seen 10,000 paintings of bunny rabbits and they don’t look the same.
      If you have a fear that a student or another artist will take your “art” and run with it creating some great stuff, then somehow you must feel that your potential is limited. Perhaps you may also feel that there is a limited market and your being pushed out. Seeing yourself in terms of lack and limitation rather than potential and possibilities sets yourself up for failure.
      The person who blatantly copies at a professional and mature level is also insecure since they probably do not trust their own visual voice. People like this rarely have staying power or make a big impact creatively.
      Focus on your art. If you feel drawn to teach, do it because you want to benefit other people. If your doing it to make money, build credentials, etc. rather than considering people, it will not last. People can be difficult to deal with at times. If you really only care about your art, this endeavor can become potentially draining leaving you with little energy for your own art.

  37. Cynthia Clinton

    In my experience, the people I have to worry about are not the people who take my classes, but the people who don’t take them – though, there have been exceptions over the years. My students, generally, have enough respect for me and what they have learned that they wouldn’t try to tread on me. The ones who steal are usually savvy enough to copy and those are the ones that will try to undersell me. As others have said better, the ones who steal generally can’t keep enough wood in the stove, design-wise to get ahead of me.
    I think you learn as much teaching as you do being taught and I think if you can do it, then you should. I don’t think teaching lessens your income as a jewelry maker at all. Generally, the people who take my classes are not my target market for retail jewelry sales. It’s not like they’d buy the bracelet if they didn’t take the class.

  38. To Artist Quoted: My art is comparable to yours, though not jewelry but another handicraft that I put to an artistic level. This is why I teach some skills (most basic ones, that is) and others not.
    I do not agree with George’s point of view at all: at the time the old masters were living, zeitgeist was not that way that everyone strived self-fulfillment by developing their “inner artist” and then selling it on etsy. Not that I want to criticize that it is like that nowadays – but times were very different back then in Baroque, Renaissance era and alike. Way less people were living on the world, there was no etsy and artist’s material were not easily purchased just around the corner.
    Your trade (resp. art), dear Artist Quoted, would have been highly protected by guilds and chambers back then, and only few people at a time would have been allowed to become taught at all by the masters of the trade.
    With regard to newer “Old Masters” – what do we know about Picasso, Monet or Turner and them giving classes?
    In my country, really renowned and established artist painters give so called “master classes” to which only a *few* students are admitted at a time, but only when they prove to be highly skilled and talented. It’s a matter of honour that these students do not copy their master.
    So not giving away everything you know (and what you have worked hard for to gain it) on the level we (I suppose) are teaching simply is sound self protection.

  39. While I hear peoples’ concerns, I find teaching and demonstrating – sharing my craft, if you will – invigorating! It gets me out of the house and studio/workshop to meet, interact and be inspired by others. In short: I love it! That I also get paid for it is icing on the cake (not to mention helps pay the bills!)
    While I hear peoples’ concerns, I’m flattered if a student tries to copy my work. To me, it’s free publicity. You can always find copies – but what does that say about the original?
    Moreover, I believe our greatest gift is what we pass on to the next generation – and that what we give away inevitably comes back to reward us. I know: that sounds a bit Biblical and I suppose it is, but in my 62 years on this orb, I’ve found it to be true.

  40. Given: An artist creates.
    Given: An artist’s view/perspective/product is unique (else it’s not quite art but something else)
    Given: No creation arises from nothing; there has to be some kind of foundation from which to launch inspiration.
    Given: Appreciation comes from understanding.
    Ergo, to teach one’s art form is to help others appreciate what one does, as well as help other artists further their own vision.
    Traditionally, painters did copy their masters in order to learn technique. Then they went on to mold the technique into their own particular tool. In all art forms, technique is teachable but vision is personal.
    I don’t often teach, but when I do I find the students gain that much better an appreciation for what I do.

  41. TEACHING art is amazing!!! If you are not confident enough to draw the best from students, you shouldn’t be teaching anyway. I love guiding kids and adults through techniques and tools. I love directing their thinking up to a point and then watching them attack the project. I love matching the lesson to their interests. I love bringing in history, geography, social studies, math, poetry and practical life skills. Artists who copy shouldn’t be teaching students to copy. There are so many ways to enter those creative explosions.

  42. My Ten Commandments of Teaching::
    1) DO – Give as much as yourself as humanly possible to your students.
    2) DO – Encourage skill-building in every form.
    3) DO – Share all the secrets that you have.
    4) DO – Notice what your students notice and ask for feedback constantly on your teaching methods and techniques. You will learn.
    5) DO – Be confident in your voice as an instructor and guide your students to find their own voice.
    6) DO – Assume positive intent.
    7) DON’T – Consider teaching related to your marketing your works. (They are completely separate, and you owe it to the profession of “artist” to pass along what you know to those who do not. We are all the better for it.)
    8) DON’T – Ever propose just “one” way of doing things to your students. Be open to all the possibilities.
    9) DON’T – EVER knock another artist or teacher. Guide gently.
    10) DO remember that in the past, ateliers were the method by which we learned our craft, passing it down from artist to artist in an apprenticeship form. Instill this in others.
    I would never have learned what I have if it were not for the generosity of artists that took me under their wings and into their studios, taught me their techniques, concept, insight and ultimately how to find my own voice.

  43. I realize this is an old blog, but I just found it and read everyone’s comments… What a fountain of knowledge and experience to draw from!
    In my experience, the only “downside” to teaching is the energy that goes into it subtracts from the time and energy I have to expend on my own art. However, the inspiration I gain from it may very well make up for the energy expenditure. I don’t know how many times a student’s questions or ideas have sparked new ones that have lead me down a path of creativity I might have never otherwise explored.
    Teaching also provides impetus I need to think hard about my process and techniques that go into creating my art. Knowing my nature, this thinking would probably go “unthought”, if I weren’t having to explain it to others.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms