The Teaching Philosophy


Alex Adams

Concerning the instruction of visual arts, one could assemble a long list of attributes and skills that would have a positive impact when nurtured in a student. To produce a successful graduate I believe there are five vital areas of student development in which a teacher’s intervention and instruction will be most effective. These areas of development are:


By utilizing a combination of group demonstrations and one-on-one assistance tailored to the needs of the student, self-confidence can be cultivated as each student develops his or her level of proficiency.  Demonstrations of complicated procedures and techniques can often be overwhelming and stressful. I am sensitive to this and often employ methods that break down techniques into multiple steps and use light humor when appropriate. The teaching of techniques and material processes is intrinsically more than an opportunity to pass along skills. A student who has some degree of comfort manipulating material or becomes more proficient in the studio and can execute certain techniques will not only become more confident in their work through the satisfaction of achievement, but will find it easier to build a visual vocabulary in which to express their ideas and concepts.

Observation Skills

Our observations of ourselves, our surrounding environment and our world are what drive our creative process. Therefore, fostering observation skills in students is crucial. As a teacher, my goal is to help each student find new ways of perceiving their world and honing their existing observation skills. Assignments that may require reverse engineering of discarded equipment, photographing familiar surroundings or reading history, current events or literature are ways of challenging students to look to new places for inspiration. Upon completion of an assignment I expect students to discuss or write about what occurred between their observations and the actual creation of the work. This reflection serves to help the student gain insight on how their observations culminate into ideas.


Students should be encouraged to discover what role or roles they will undertake as an artist or other creative professional. I expect these roles to be unique for everyone just as I expect everyone to be unique themselves. In order to help students take a personal inventory of what drives them to create, for whom they create and why, I present contemporary artists and artists from recent history to initiate class discussions about this topic. Allowing students to find their niche or role models will offer them a foundation on which to build their own identity as an artist.

Critical Dialogue

Students should be able to articulate the ideas and concepts behind their art. Likewise, they should also be able to engage their peers in a constructive dialogue about their work. Students should learn early on in their education how these communication skills will benefit them as professionals. By understanding that the critique is not only a way of refining their work but also a way of strengthening peer support, students can bring new enthusiasm to the traditional critique. While an open dialogue in the classroom is always encouraged and effective, small group critiques can simulate real world peer support and I will frequently employ this as a way of fostering critical dialogue.       

Studio Practice

Ultimately, I want my students to develop a studio practice. Whether these students become full-time artists or use their creative skills in some other profession, their success will be directly related to a disciplined method of making or creating.  My role as a teacher is to help students recognize what may be successful or lacking within their creative process and then to create a plan to hone proficiencies or remedy deficiencies. At the completion of larger projects, I expect my students to submit sketches, models, maquettes, photographs and research lists.  These steps help me gain insight on each student’s process, but they also help the student to begin a regimen that can be applied to their studio practice.


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