Vignettes of Terrible Art Teachers

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By Zed A. Shaw

Vignettes of Terrible Art Teachers

I sit down in the class and start setting up my gear. Brushes, paint, palette, all pulled out from my bag. I forgot to bring brushes on the trip from San Francisco to New York so I ran to a Blick the day before and bought the cheapest ones I could use for the class. Some simple synthetic brushes that would work. The teacher walks over, picks a brush up, and goes, "Oooooooh look at your fancy brushes." I have literally met the man for an hour and he's already insulting my gear. I laugh and say they're just cheap ones from Blick and he scrutinizes them, eyes scrunched up, like I'm lying, before putting them down.

He instructs us to make a grisaille of our still life setup, copying from a photo we found online. I copy it, matching the values and he observes me do this the entire time. I used alkyd paints so they would be dry the next day. The next day he comes in and he gives everyone a long lecture on how we have to make our underpainting a lot lighter or else his method won't work. I look around the room. I'm the only one with a dark grisaille. Why didn't he tell me that before the paint dried?

The second day I talk to a student from the school that's hosting us and show her my funky Bob Ross paintings as a joke. She immediately points to the middle of the painting and say, "What?! You can't do that!" I say something like they're just a joke but I can kind of do whatever I want. "I'm going to tell your teacher. He needs to talk to you about this." She storms away angry. I'm dumbfounded anyone would have this reaction at an art school, but shrug it off thinking, "Nah she's not going to do anything."

The next day she takes the teacher to lunch. The day after that, he takes me to lunch. He spends the entire lunch trying to convince me to not attend this school or study their methods because of my Bob Ross paintings. He said I wouldn't fit in at that school, and that my views on art are different from everyone else's. I just flat out told him, "You're right. This place is a damn cult. There's no way I'd study here if people react this way to a joke Bob Ross painting."

It took him an hour to gradually crush my aspirations to be an artist, and it almost worked. Thankfully, I have a high dose of "Fuck You" in my blood to counteract people like that. I shrugged it off a week later and went back to studying anyway. But, I can't imagine how someone else would have taken it. That kind of interaction would have derailed many students permanently.

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