Professional Practice

9 Funny Things Art Teachers Do on Vacation

frida mugs

When summer break arrives, you can finally take a deep breath and relax. You can even go on the trip you’ve been thinking about all school year! However, teaching art is a lifestyle, and you can’t turn it off completely just because you’re on vacation. Even when you try to shut it all out, you find yourself doing silly things related to your job. You may think about your students, collect freebies for your classroom, or save trash to transform into artmaking treasures. Even though family and friends may roll their eyes at your antics, we know the unique way we view the world (even while traveling!) makes us stronger artists and art teachers.

Keep reading to see if any of the funny things you do on vacation made the list below!

1. Judge hotel decor.

Anyone who works in an artistic field has probably walked into a hotel and judged the decor. The design of a space is a vital part of how guests feel. Unfortunately, sometimes the design of a hotel or restaurant misses the mark. Sometimes it’s so off, you want to give the designer a lesson on color theory. Don’t they know diagonal lines create an unsettling feeling? Aren’t they aware it would be much more relaxing if they used cooler colors? Let’s not even get started on the clunky furniture or the disconcerting carpet pattern!

2. Lug home buckets of seashells.

The beach is a top destination in the summer and there’s beauty in natural elements, especially seashells! Their plentiful nature makes it easy to grab some for every single student you have. You may get a workout dragging the buckets back to your car or the shells may make your suitcase too heavy for the return trip home. Either way, it’s worth it! The shells can make beautiful jewelry or still-life additions. Or, they can serve as little gifts to let your students know you were thinking of them on your trip.


3. Arrange gift shop decor by ROYGBIV.

If it’s not in rainbow order, it just doesn’t feel right! Art teachers take it upon themselves to fix color chaos at every opportunity, even on vacation. You quickly rearrange the colorful arrays of mugs and keychains at the gift shops, museums, and airport shops to reflect the correct color order. You feel good because you corrected a color crime and helped the store become more visually appealing.

ROYGBIV shirts

4. Draw on napkins.

Eating new foods at local restaurants is a perk of traveling. If you get the urge to create while you’re waiting for your food, your napkin may transition from a cleanup tool to a work of art. If you don’t have a pen handy, origami is the next go-to! If you finish transforming your napkin into an art piece, you can always steal your family members’ or friends’ napkins. Napkins are a must-have to an art teacher on vacation!

5. Take armfuls of free brochures, maps, and menus.

If you save magazines for collages, the free brochures, maps, and menus you find on vacation certainly need to come home with you too! They have such glossy images of landmarks and local events, making them perfect for student collages. They’re meant for visitors to take and you’re going to use them for educational purposes, so you don’t feel bad about throwing a few extra into your bag. You may even ask your travel companions to take some for you too.

6. Make your family or friends model for reference photos.

Many people take tons of candid and posed photos during a vacation to document fun times and memories. They’ll most likely ask you to be the photographer since you have such a good eye for composition and light. Little do they know you’ll be asking to use those photos in future artwork! You position people just right, adjust the lighting, fix stray hairs, and make sure you follow the rule of thirds. They may think you’re being finicky, but they end up with perfect vacation photos and you get original reference pictures!

rule of thirds photo

7. Buy art supplies.

Art teachers seek out galleries, art fairs, and craft stores, even on vacation. If you find an art store on your travels, you’re walking out with new art supplies. It doesn’t really matter if you can find the same supplies in the craft store by your house. What matters is it’s your vacation and after a hard school year, you deserve to treat yourself!

paint bottles

8. Stock up on art-related accessories.

If there’s an art museum near your destination, you’ll probably make a stop. While you may be able to avoid shopping at the museum gift shops near your home, you don’t want to regret passing something up on a special trip. Plus, there are so many things to buy! You can pick out art decor for your classroom and art accessories to add to your wardrobe. Bonus points if it has an art-related pun on it!

frida mugs

9. Build sand and nature sculptures.

Whether you’re on the beach or camping in the woods, you’re probably tinkering with the nature around you and transforming it into art. If you’re on the beach, you add just enough water to the sand to make it the ideal texture for packing and forming. Then, you create a detailed mermaid or a shark complete with razor-sharp teeth! If you’re in the woods, you find sticks and leaves to build a beautiful little home for the squirrels. Even though you know it’ll get washed away or kicked over, the point is to exercise your creative problem-solving skills and leave your artmaking mark.

Because teaching art is a passion, it’s near impossible to turn art teacher brains off—even on vacation! Art teachers end up judging hotel decor and gift shops for art faux pas. When you’re taking photos, you treat your subjects as models and ensure the composition is strong. The return trip home may have some hiccups because you stuffed your suitcase to the brim with random art materials, brochures, and seashells. Not only will you come back from vacation with stronger muscles from toting heavier luggage, but your creative muscles will be stronger too!

What’s the silliest art teacher thing you do on vacation?

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.


Chelsea Solano

Chelsea Solano, a secondary art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She is passionate about choice-based art education, fiber arts, and amplifying students’ voices in the classroom.

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