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Readers Respond: Do You Let an Art Teacher Change or Work on Your Painting?

Responses: 57


How do you feel about an art teacher or tutor changing something on your painting rather than demonstrating to one side or on another piece of paper? Do you think it should never be done, or it's okay if they ask first? Do you welcome it and get frustrated if an art tutor won't? Do you think it's "cheating" to then say the painting is yours? Share you thoughts and experiences here.

No! No! No!

When I was in high school I had a terrible art teacher who pretty much sat on her #### and did her own thing while we worked on our paintings. She must have had tenure, as one our projects was to paint snow on her personal Christmas cards she was sending out. We all liked her because she was pretty liberal when in came to us chatting or hanging out in the hall way. One day, she and I were discussing an oil painting I was working on as she needed to grade us on something. I had been fascinated with Monet's work and was emulating his use of color. The teacher asked me why I so often used blue tones. I told her that I really like these colors. She started drawing on my painting and told me she would give me an "F" if I didn't do it her way! I was devastated and spent the rest of the day in tears. When I went home I was physically sick from the distress. I wanted to be an artist and was really discouraged.
—Guest Darlene

Allowing a teacher to change your work

When I was teaching, I tried to avoid marking or changing a student's work as a matter of principle, then students began asking me to do so because other instructors had. It seemed like a crutch, fixing a painting was a job for the student, to prove they understood the explanation. But being too precious with class work, can become a problem. Sometimes collaboration is justified, but any criticism of the finished work must be shared between contributors. For the sake of the sanity of the instructor, I prefer to demonstrate when needed on another paper or canvas, or on a chalk board or white board.


Yes, I do, so I can see the character, force and precise touch.
—Guest Ruth Elena Echeverri de arboleda

Hate It!

Yes, I have had it done by a teacher and I absolutely hated it. She could see I was livid and I didn't say anything to the teacher, but my demeanor spoke volumes. But I never showed that picture to the public again as I felt it was more her work then mine. I have had other teacher do it but would rub it out so I could redo the work which I prefer. But I am very cautious who touches the painting.
—Guest laviniazammit

If asked first , to the side,or directly

Only once did a high school art instructor take my brush to guide me out of the muddy morass I'd painted myself into...he did ask, & I benefitted greatly! After all I was a beginner. Later in college, this only happened once, I was taken aback, he didn't ask, but again was very helpful. Some others would demonstrated to the side. As a student we are being instructed in art mostly through being shown how to make marks, how to mix color, etc, verbally, reading, mostly by doing. As students, our class works are suitable for school exhibits. Artist though do remain students of sorts throughout our lives, so we take workshops & courses to learn new techniques, how to use new mediums, etc. But I think we should approach these with a beginner's mind. We are not there to produce a prize winning masterpiece. I have never thought to enter a workshop piece in an exhibit. And many venues disallow it. I consider these works to be exercises & references.

No. Don't touch my work.

I have never taken a structured art class for the simple reason that, to me, art is personal. I have seen too many students become discouraged by teachers demanding that they use "the right blue". Even in kindergarten, when asked to pick two colors to weave my Easter basket - I picked blue and green and was told I had to pick different colors because those didn't go together. I wouldn't change my selections. I stubbornly refused to complete the project asking the teacher whose basket was it, hers or mine? When my mother was called to "set things right" she asked the teacher the same question. Told the teacher not to give choices if she wasn't prepared to let the children choose. Same goes with my paintings. I am willing to hear advise and recommendations when I ask for help, but don't help me when I haven't asked.

Heck yeah!

I want to see examples of what the teacher is trying to teach me and what better place to understand what makes, for example, your painting pop. If you can't seem to get it going and the instructor comes and throws a few strokes up there and bam--it popped when he/she did that. I can not only see what he did and how he applied the paint, but also how it related to not only my composition but to the colors i had already placed on the canvas. You can maybe see a light in the distance to painting better. I've been to three workshops--Chris Morel, John Poon and Ovanes Berberian. All absolutely fabulous painters. i encouraged them to paint on my canvas. I feel I improved a good bit after taking each workshop. I'd really feel that anyone who passes up on the opportunity to let the instructor paint on their canvas is missing a huge opportunity to understand what works and what doesn't and how it is done. I still study these workshop paintings. Boy, if they were free I'd go weekly.
—Guest dan smart


It happened once in a class when I was unprepared to respond. I was shocked. Now my reaction might be militant -- poor teacher.

Only one

Some have tried and I am sure still regret the complete and utter insult they paid me. I am not a violent person, however I am possessive about my creative process and property.
—Guest Donna Morrison


I had a painting I liked until the teacher added his touch which made it out of whack in my mind. It was intended to hang in my home not his so I would have accepted a sideboard demo better.
—Guest GlowGal


I will NOT permit any instructor to actually paint on my canvas he may instruct, explain, make examples off to the side. It is my painting - I paint it all good, bad or indifferent it is to be MINE only. An improvement suggestion off to the side gives me a comparison for future.

Me, Myself, and I

The three of us collaborate on every painting and therefore would be quite comfortable with any teacher involving themselves in the process. "I" always start a painting by quickly swoosh/blabbing around. "I" loves it and considers it done. For "Me", nothing is good enough so more refinement is added. "Myself" is always critical and adds some detail here and there. "We"argue, critique, adjust, change, modify all the time during the process. It makes "Me" mad, and upset with "Myself", but at some point we agree that "I" sign it before somebody gets an ear cut off. If "We" had a teacher that blocked out our finished masterpiece with a dark paint roller it might point to the fact that "I" may be wrong, need to allow "Myself" some outside criticism that may be intended to help "Me" become a better artist. "I" will admit that it makes "Me" crazy when asking "Myself" if the composition is wrong in our masterpiece and then "Somebody" repaints everything.
—Guest Timmy229

Don't Like Teacher Painting on my Canvas

I took a few classes from a friend who was a fine artist but I didn't like it when she'd show you what to do by painting on our canvas instead of telling us how. I would not sign my name to those paintings because they were more hers and not mine.
—Guest papaya


I firmly believe that painting is an art which comes from within. When it is learnt, it becomes a craft. The teacher's style has a very strong influence on the student's art and thus lowering his chances of developing his own unique style. I had joined hobby classes,the earlier teacher made us copy paintings and would correct our work just like a subject teacher..She had very strong likes and dislikes and would make fun of what she did not like. I learnt a lot from her but lost self-confidence. Next teacher was encouraging and would simply point out what needed to be done. By this time I had realised that copying was not art. I started working on my own and occasionally visiting my teachers for interaction and advice.I respect both my teachers and am grateful to them .Teachers are humans with their own artistic temperament so learn from them but keep your own individuality.
—Guest Meera Ahuja

Show But Don'tTtouch!

I think it is wrong for anyone to paint on your canvas or draw on your work. Demonstrate elsewhere, give detailed verbal instruction or show an example of the technique found in another work, but do not touch the student's work. I get annoyed when I'm asked to give up my brush for a demonstration or correction and sometimes wipe it off or paint over it later. In the future, I'll keep a scrap canvas handy for demonstrations.
—Guest beginnerinoil

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