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The Art of Teaching and its Importance in our Artistic Legacy

There is always an element of teaching and time under inspired mentorship that necessitates mastery. One does not show up at the canvas with raw talent without any need for the skill to bring creative masterful emotion and expression into being.


In the realm of arts education, the teaching artist specializing in portrait art holds a unique position, imparting not only artistic techniques but also fostering creativity, self-expression, and empathy in students. The importance of portrait artists in education goes beyond the strokes of the brush. Let's explore the significant role these artists play and the transformative impact they have on students' lives.

Adelaide Labille-Guiard, Self Portrait with Two Pupils, 1785

The Role of Teacher:

Portraiture holds a timeless allure, capturing the essence of a human being on canvas with meticulous precision and artistic interpretation. As realist portrait painters, we have dedicated ourselves to honing our skills and studying the works of great masters. However, it is equally important to recognize the immense value of passing down this knowledge to future generations. Teaching portraiture has a profound impact on the preservation of tradition, the fostering of creativity, the development of a lasting artistic legacy, as well as the immense amount of knowledge and growth it brings to the teacher.


Teaching in and of itself is an esteemed art and one that makes us fully aware of the immense challenge we share with the students we engage. We are imparting our whole way of seeing and realization of our art form on canvas. How do we approach a model, how do we manage the materials, how do we paint with precision and still communicate our expectations compassionately and prophetically? This takes duality of mind and action. We become hyper-aware of each step in the painting process, thus becoming a more enlightened artist. It's a balance and somewhat of a dance but one that brings great rewards for the student and, more so, even for the teaching artist.


Preserving Tradition:

Teaching the art of portraiture is not merely about passing on technical skills but also about safeguarding the traditions that have evolved over centuries. By sharing our expertise, we contribute to the preservation and evolution of this esteemed art form. The act of teaching requires a deep engagement with the foundations and principles of portraiture, prompting the teacher to constantly revisit and reassess their techniques. In guiding students, teachers gain a renewed appreciation for the techniques and methods they have developed over the years, allowing them to refine their skills and challenge their creative boundaries. It goes beyond simply transmitting technical skills from one generation to another.


The Act of Teaching:

When teaching portraiture, instructors are required to deeply engage with the foundations and principles of portrait painting. This necessitates constant revisitation and reassessment of their techniques. Teachers must continue to refine their skills and challenge their creative boundaries to effectively guide their students. In this process, teachers gain a renewed appreciation for the techniques and methods they have developed over the years.


The act of teaching itself provides an opportunity for instructors to reflect on their artistic journey and expand their horizons. By sharing their knowledge and experience, teachers impart the nuances that have been developed and refined through generations of artists. This exchange of knowledge ensures that the traditions and techniques of portraiture continue to thrive.


Within the boundaries of the classroom or atelier, teaching portraiture allows teachers to contribute to the evolution of this art form. This constant interaction with budding and/or seasoned artists can lead to fresh insights and innovative methods, helping to push the boundaries of traditional portraiture and keep it relevant in contemporary art.


Through teaching, instructors have an opportunity to foster a sense of community within the world of portraiture. By sharing their expertise, teachers create a space where students can learn and grow, forming a supportive network of individuals dedicated to the preservation and evolution of this art form. This sense of community further strengthens the traditions and ensures their continuity. As studio artists, we tend to work in isolation, and while this isolation helps the artist to focus, it also can give us a narrow view of our creative process. When we broaden out into the world of mentorship, we immediately forge new roads of thought exploration, fresh perspectives and ideas.



Author and teaching artist:

Sharon Ann Smith

@sharonannstudios IG


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