Media & Techniques

The Importance of Developing a Personal Style

close up of drawing

One of the things I’ve love about teaching the Studio: Drawing course is the wide variety of work I get to see when teachers turn in their final project. Known as “The Teacher Showcase,” the assignment requires students to pursue a series of drawings incorporating techniques learned in the course.

Recently, one of my students created a lot of interest from her peers because of the interesting style of drawing she applied to the assignments. The class was especially delighted when Susanne shared her showcase which contained a whimsical piece called “My Three Worlds.” The piece not only had an interesting subject matter but also incorporated some novel techniques.

The Artist

Susanne headhsotThe piece came from student Susanne Ledingham, a veteran teacher with over 20 years of experience. Susanne currently teaches at the secondary level but has worked with students of all ages in traditional and Montessori settings. Susanne signed up for Studio: Drawing to gain new ideas for her classroom but she ended up gaining much more.

The Idea

For “The Teacher Showcase,” Susanne chose to focus on the theme of enchantment, something she has always been drawn to. She described her work in this way, “For me when one is paying exquisite attention; there is the possibility of being able to slip below the surface of things to perceive the under-glimmer of reality. It is in this magical place that the beauty of ALL things exists. It is the place where transformation and magic exist and where all things are connected and intimately intertwined.”

The Process

Susanne shared that her process was slow and thoughtful. She placed a large piece of paper on her drafting table and worked on areas of the drawing over the course of a week.

Susanne's workspace

Little by little, she experimented with adding images and shapes into three circular areas within the composition. She established the imagery in a yellow underdrawing. Then, Susanne added bold lines and color using pen and colored markers. The final version of the piece morphed into a mixed media piece, integrating watercolor and gouache.

The Final Piece

The final piece showcases Susanne’s whimsical style. By incorporating symbolism and metaphor, there are many ways a viewer could interpret the work.

Susanne's finished piece

Beyond the satisfaction of creating personally meaningful work, Susanne had this to say about the creation process, “I learned many things as I was creating. I learned how much I liked the yellow underdrawings, how challenging it was to be vulnerable, and honest, in one’s work, and how much I enjoyed playing around with the subject of “enchantment.” I also really enjoyed adding watercolors/gouache to my drawings. In the past, I have worked with really bright, often fluorescent, colors and it was nice to work with a more muted palette. I also liked having a large piece of work out on my table (in the living room). I could stop by and work on whenever I had a spare minute.”

The Takeaway

Students like Susanne are what make teaching our Studio courses so enjoyable. Susanne signed up for Studio: Drawing to gain ideas for her classroom. She certainly found plenty.

Susanne’s final piece could serve as an interesting example of how to work with circular compositions. It could also provide a jumping off point for teaching a symbolic self-portrait unit to students of all ages. In addition, Susanne’s interest in metaphor and use of text could connect perfectly to units on narrative art or storytelling. And all of this from just one course assignment!

However, as I mentioned, Susanne also uncovered some important truths about her personal style and discovered a new way to work. Susanne is a stunning example of an art teacher who took a Studio course to gain ideas for the classroom but also found a way to meaningfully focus on her own personal artwork.

How do themes and big ideas inspire your work?

What classroom connections can you envision drawing from Susanne’s finished piece?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Patricia Christiansen

Patricia is an Adjunct Graduate Instructor at The Art of Education. She is passionate about art education, research, and online learning.

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