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

Responses: 41


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.

Be Specific

There are Teachers, and then there are Students. EACH has the responsibility to the other to state what is expected. Having been an art instructor for nearly 20 years, I've come to know all kinds of responses to this question. Some students want the help, and want it on their surface. In fact, they'd be thrilled if the instructor did the entire painting! (laughing) Then the next student wants only information shared 'on the side'. This is the preferred method for me as the instructor, as I long to have the student work and struggle a little. This is how we best learn! I show them on a surface similar to what they are working on (canvas paper for canvas, w/c paper for w/c, pastel paper for pastel). I walk them through what they have done, then show them how to proceed from that stage. Asking first if the student *wants* direct painting, is as important as the student saying yes, or no. Mutual respect makes for a great class!
—Guest Jill Paris Rody

Teacher Paints on Plastic Wrap

I'm a teacher and apply plastic film/wrap on the student's canvas. I make the suggested changes and then have the student take that off/apply it to a blank canvas so they can see where the work was done and in which colors. That way their entire painting is in their own hand and they can see the values, temperatures as well as the suggested shapes to apply to their canvas without having to try to remember them, making it totally their own work.
—Guest paintpiddlerdlux

It Just Feels Wrong

In the class that I attend, the teacher frequently takes over the student's work. In this case, it's not to do with competitions, it just feels wrong. I reckon he should be able to describe what needs to be done. I like the idea of a teacher carrying around a mobile work surface! But no hard feelings, he is a very pleasant character so we all enjoy the classes!

Try That in a Creative Writing Class

I can't think of any subject in which doing a student's work for them is good teaching. Naturally the teacher's work will be good or solve your problem - that's not the point. If you are excited that a famous artist has left their mark on your work then congratulations for your autograph but that is not good teaching. If Stephen King wrote a paragraph or two in my creative writing piece I would be excited but I'll bet he never would if he wanted you to learn more than how HE would do it. And I don't think the teacher touching a student's work is a good way to teach how to be critical and edit a work (that is not falling in love with your work and treating it as sacred). Sorry but the classroom is all about the students learning. The Old Masters trained students to paint just as they did which may have been the way ALL teaching was done back then. No one is saying they paint/write/cook better than the teacher just arguing about the teaching method.

Glad She Did

I told my instructor I was glad that she reworked a small portion of a pastel pilgrim girl, after all, practice is great but when one continually does the same mistake over and over, he/she needs a visual change to see! I say be thankful that the instructor chose your work to demonstrate, always with permission though.
—Guest Jeannie

Not on My Canvas

It is my teacher's method to "assist" on students canvasses. By this I mean takes over entire painting. In my last class she spent two hours of a three hour class working on a students' painting rather than demo'ing on her own canvas up front. I can understand a stroke or two, especially in a beginner class... but I see it as a violation at this point (one year out). I learn nothing from her painting my painting for me. I learn everything from watching and doing. On another level it is destructive to the student's spirit. They go home with a painting they know they didn't paint. I know because it's a topic of discussion among the students. I also know when I've gone home after being a victim of excessive assistance that I felt anger at wasting time and money and in other instances feeling violated and angry at changes that utterly changed the feel of the painting. It became "her world" -- not mine. Many students have left. I stay because I admire her talent and she's the best available.
—Guest kc

Mixed Feelings

I have very mixed feelings about this subject. If I find myself stuck at a particular point and the teacher takes the brush and shows me how to tackle the problem then that is good. But I only want him to do a very little bit to get me going. It can help if you are learning a new technique.

Teachers and Students

I would expect students to learn as much from the teacher as possible. Nothing beats learning by fixing the example. Toss the practice piece if you feel it's not your work because a teacher worked on it. It was probably worthless anyway, most "once a week student work" is. You learn by painting on location. I'm not talking non-representational decorative work. That's in a (lower) class by itself. I'm talking about painting what you see and knowing the drawing and color mixing techniques used. If your taking a class to learn to paint better let the teacher show you how to do it. You can't learn to paint from reading a book while laying on a couch. Drawing aerial or lineal perspective has rules. There is just one way and that's following the same rules of nature that nature follows. Be weary of a teacher that says "red, yellow and blue are primary colors. Those colors won't make the real primary colors of magenta and cyan. But.. yellow, magenta and cyan will make the red and blues they would call primary. Most student work needs help in drawing, that's where a teacher can show what needs to be corrected most easily. If you have a teacher willing to correct your drawing, count your blessings and learn.

Personal Choice

Everyone is different. Instructor should ask if it's ok to paint on someone's canvas first. Then, proceed as appropriate. Some people can get pretty upset and we all want peace and a good learning atmosphere.

Depends On ...

I think its okay if the one asks first. Sometimes it better if this is done on a paper. Especially because there are always several ways to do things and it's always pleasant to have a discussion about things. I think there will always come something positive out of it.

For a Piece in Class, Yes

I had a Russian figure drawing teacher who would always draw on his pupils drawings. He would come around be all, "No this goes here, here and here; and more like this." Everybody would tense up when he did it and hated him doing it, but having the correction right there on the paper made all of the issues with our drawing that much clearer and allowed me to recognize my errors and bad habits and to fix them immediately. Not three classes down when it finally clicks. Still I always bristled when he drew on my paper.
—Guest Seabreazy

Didn't Bother Me

My teacher worked on my painting in the beginning. She was Japanese married to an American and even though she spoke good English sometimes it was easier for her to demonstrate rather than try to explain what she meant. I learned so much from her and was not in the least insulted, and, yes, I consider the paintings mine.


I do my artwork mostly for pleasure or to be given away. So, I'm not usually worried about the legal angle. Even so, I would not want the instructor to put one dab of paint or line of pencil on my work. It is mine. I'm open for help and suggestion; that's why I'm in the class. But, don't touch. Show me by example on a spearate paper or work the instructor has done beforehand.
—Guest Winnie

Tutor Making Changes: Absolutely Not

Absolutely not, discuss, demonstrate on another piece of paper but not on the original creation by the artist.

I Just Give the Teacher Credit

I didn't start actually painting until I was 60 a couple of years ago. All my life I thought I might be able to paint and when I finally started lessons I came with the intention of learning everything I can as fast as I can. If I am in trouble and teacher asks to help I allow him to paint on my canvas, or other surface, as he chooses. If he touches my canvas significantly I just give him credit for his help if I show or sell. I do agree however that it does not "feel" like it's fully mine. Most people know I'm learning and don't seem to mind.
—Guest ron

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