Deviant Login Shop  Join deviantART for FREE Take the Tour

:icontombancroft: More from tombancroft

More from deviantART


Submitted on
December 3, 2013


3,451 (3 today)
79 (who?)

 I've been thinking about how and why we learn to draw for a few years now.  I started self-analazing my own drawing and character design thought process when I began writing my first art instruction book, "Creating Characters with Personality".  It was harder than I thought to verbalize how I've learned and how I process drawing.  This has led me to start looking back at my artistic life and how I learned art.  What made me learn the most?  What drove me to draw and stick with it?  What led to others I knew as a child to stop drawing?  I think I'm ready to present some of those thoughts here on DA and hear what you think.  This is part 2 of three in a series.  I'm not sure where this is leading, but step one is my establishing an online art instruction school called Taught ByA PRO ( that will (in phase one) concentrate on drawing instruction for all forms of media.  Here we go:

I believe there are THREE major problems in the way we learn art instruction in the United States. PROBLEM #1: Well-meaning adults kill a children's joy for drawing (can be read here:…  )

PROBLEM #2:  Artists are not training artists

When I was growing up, I devoured any art instruction book that I could get.  In the years between elementary school and the end of high school, art instruction books were the core element of my artistic education.  This is because the public school art classes were not feeding me artistically.  Because of governmental mandates, public school art instruction must introduce children to every form of art to make them well-rounded in their art appreciation.  A student must learn about every style of art- and try it once- from abstract painting, to silk screen printing, to Old Masters painting, to Japanese wood block printing, to painting with sponges -and so much more- that drawing fundamentals are barely touched upon.  According to the school board system of art instruction, it is up to the student to learn to draw; the schools are just there to introduce you to the wide world called Art.  I believe this is fine when children are young, but when they get to be later elementary or middle school age, a more structured drawing and painting curriculum is needed for those still interested in art.  By high school, many of the kids that liked to draw have stopped.  As a pre-teen, most of the kids that would even consider taking an art class are more serious about art as a career.  This is when art instruction should move into fundamental drawing principles and not mere rendering techniques. 

But that art instruction doesnt come.  Only the children that learn and practice on their own, grow as artists.  Our schools dont progress beyond teaching broad-stroke basics and techniques.  Actual drawing instruction is left for the individual to pursue.   And when the few students that enjoy art and have pushed through the (lack of) education programs through high school leave to go onto an ART SCHOOL?  The better art schools ask to see a portfolio right off the bat, just to be accepted to the school.  Our high schools are training people to be ready for college, but not for art school.  Now the lack of training is being pushed over the art schools.  Yes, you should expect for an art school to teach you art instruction.  That's what you are there for, right?  BUT, they are having to back up to such fundamental artistic training that either 1) the students that are self-taught, understand the basics and have real skill- are bored or 2) the lessons are too complex for those that only have basic high school training and those students are lost.  

At the core of this problem is this fact: artists are not involved enough in the training and curriculum of young artists.  Especially missing in the equation are talented, EXPERIENCED artists.   Many art teachers in public schools have a degree in art but little if any actual experience creating art professionally.  Public school art teachers become facilitators rather than art instructors.  I believe many of them are just not artistically prepared or knowledgeable enough to challenge the children they teach and fall into lessons pre-prepared by school board committees.  Through the years, I have asked my kids art teachers what kind of art they create personally and have not found one that created art outside of the classroom (or within).   By the time kids become college-aged, this problem lessons a bit- but only if they attend a very expensive art institute.  This is the best place to find experienced artists that are teaching good, fundamental art instruction.  Still, even if students DO find those good teachers at these expensive art institutions, they are discovering basic drawing principles MUCH TOO LATE.  By this point in their lives they should be building upon already established fundamentals in order to be able to get that rare, paying art job upon graduation.  I believe this is why we have such a glut of unemployed art school graduates.  Anyone that has seen some of the portfolios coming out of our nations art schools will tell you there is a problem in our art school training!  As I mentioned already, I believe that problem is less in the colleges or art institutes but in our nationally funded elementary to high schools. 


Add a Comment:
Tom-Addo Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I must admit I was lucky to get a real artist for my high school teacher.
mtman318 Featured By Owner Jan 29, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Same with my middle school teacher.  I just wish I remembered more from that time than I actually do.
Savoto Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I agree so much with everything you wrote. I went to a public highschool that sadly had the art teachers chained down by the curriculum and even further chained down by students who were okay with just being able to make muddy black and whites. Both of them saw my desire to be better and tried to push me but focusing on one student means the rest of the class will be going buck-wild and crazy. Of course I cheated my self by not being serious about improving at that time but I also felt saddened by the fact that all their knowledge wasn't going to be used by 99% of the classroom anyway.

I don't think everyone teaching art needs to be a working professional. Teaching is a demanding job and I just want an art teacher who will teach/instruct me. I care more about working professionals in college where I'm supposed to be working hard on my own because my professors aren't holding anyone's hand and are gone doing exhibitions frequently. 

But I really think the biggest problem in public highschool art programs is a lack of funding. I remember when I learned the fact that my two art teachers were the only art teachers, at a highschool level, in the area! So nobody with an interest in art where I'm from would be prepared for art school ever. So when they feel the pressure of "everyone MUST go to college" they better kiss getting into any respectable art school goodbye. 

The arts just aren't respected and considered a legit way of making money. Therefore all art programs in public highschools(I've heard of some private highschools that sound like heaven when its comes to the variety of art courses available) are just doomed from the start. Everyone involved is just set up to fail.
Hamiltoons Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2013  Professional Artist
Luckily (and unluckily) I had an art teacher for junior and senior year or high school who WAS an artist and was VERY helpful
DarkSaber13 Featured By Owner Dec 6, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Art lessons at school are boring…
We only get to do easy stuff
They even tell us to trace pictures -.-
legrosclown Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013  Student Filmographer
EXACTLY! I couldn't said it better! I've told many people about this problem but most of them don't understand...
RedRodent Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013   Digital Artist
My faculty is always hopping around their own art shows. Sadly the curriculum of the art department is predetermined, and yes... There's only one class dedicated to the basics of drawing, and only one class for design. It's highly frustrating. I'm basically going to my institution to get a piece of paper that says I completed assignments, and took some fun introductory dips in different forms of art. Everything I do to improve myself happens outside of class. I barely know anything about color theory. Even figure drawing is all about "having fun drawing" and not improving. "It's okay that you draw like a child, random student number thirteen, it adds a primitive and accessible element to your work."

When I asked for hard constructive criticism my teacher told me she wasn't good at that, and then said I'd have to go to her office for an actual critique. The critiques in class were all hand-holding and childish. All anyone ever discussed was how nice everyone's work was. Makes me sick. I'm trying to learn! Give me someedicine with that sugar, yaknow?!
bj0yful Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
I was fortunate enough that this was NOT true for me. My teachers were all artists in the field. I remember turning in an assignment in high school and the teacher said, "You're beyond that. Stop playing it safe and make art." 
As artists, I think we have a responsibility to encourage and mentor young artists who cross our paths.
We cannot rely on the schools to provide adequate instruction. Some students will get lucky like I did - most will fall through the cracks. 

STUDENTS- If you want to be an artist then SEEK OUT artists in your community and ask them to help. Most artists I know are very willing to guide young artists who are SERIOUS about learning. Mastering the fundamentals is key to ANY type of art you do. Even a 3D character modeler cannot make models in a computer that function well without first mastering the concepts of perspective and proportion. 
TijonWolfsMajestys Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Very true. I learned Very little in the ONE art class offered at my high school. I relied on art books till college.

Seeing great artists like you standing up and voicing concerns like this (pretty much what we are all thinking) brings such great joy. I know many a fellow artist who wish they could be taught by their favorite artist in the industry. And being able to see the age when these artists Are getting together and teaching classes (online even, so that EVERYONE gets a chance to experience it) is a dream come true.

The government isn't going to put the funding in the art program of schools like we want them to so even if a teacher really wanted to help you they couldn't :(. We just don't have anyone in office that cares about something like that.
emilyonthehunt Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2013
So true. I learned squat about drawing in high school art class. The teacher basically left us to our own devices and it was very DIY. No one told me the importance of drawing EVERY DAY, and I was discouraged by the common belief that great drawing skills were a natural talent that you had to be born with. I'm going to art college now and applying for animation at age 22, while there are graduates my age that are already employed in animation. Our education system definitely needs some adjusting.
Add a Comment: