To Draw or Not to Draw…On Student Art

I’ve encountered all kinds of art teachers in my life as both student and educator.  Some would never dare to demonstrate by drawing or painting on student work.  Others perhaps do not see the harm in ‘showing’ students how to correct or further develop their art.

While in high school, I was able to take a life drawing class at the local Art Center.  During one of our sessions, to the melodies of Tom Waits, the Artist in Residence used her charcoal on my paper to explain how to improve my line work.  I remember feeling disappointed and that somehow it wasn’t my own work anymore.

During my student teaching experience, the high school Art teacher I worked with frequently corrected student ‘mistakes’ and showed students ‘how to do it’ by taking his pencil to their art.  I wondered what students thought of his master and apprentice style of teaching.

I choose not draw on student work for several reasons.

I see student work as a record of personal and creative growth.

When a work of art is created, there is more that goes into it than just paint or charcoal.  Self expression, emotion, memories and personal experiences enter the work, let alone the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to get it done.  Art should be truly owned by students.  My hands would only take away that ownership.

Lastly, I see myself as a facilitator; I lead and guide students through the artistic process, but ultimately it is the student who must find a way to reach their goal.

How do you feel about making your mark on student work?  Can it benefit students?  What other ways do you explicitly demonstrate to students?


Posted on June 21, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I agree! I for the most part keep my hands off of student art. Sometimes, the best way to show them is to literally show them with a light line, dashed line or put some dots to show them where maybe they should start and finish. I never feel too badly about this but consciously avoid it if possible. I am also a good finger air drawer on their paper to give them the idea without actually doing it or grab some scrap paper and demo next to their art.

    In High School, It made me SO MAD when my HS art teacher would take the pencil and start shading for me. It made me feel like I learned nothing because now it was BOTH of our art and not just mine. I didn’t mind a little, but sometimes he would get carried away. But that is only the start of the HS Art Teacher story. Great post!

    • Jessica-
      I’m also an “air drawer” – at the elementary level it’s hard for some kids to visualize. I’ve also used the light lines but have consciously made an effort to move away from that. It’s difficult when you are in a classroom with 30 students who all need your help at the same time! The easiest and least time consuming solution is to give them a quick fix!
      It sounds like we all have a story about the art teachers we never want to become! In some ways it has shown us how to be a better teacher but I always wonder how I would be different if they’d pushed me more to solve my own problems.

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