Teaching Philosophy


I have been a teacher of studio art for over three decades now, and have been a student of painting and a practicing artist for even longer.  I believe that the Arts are an integral element of a secondary school education.  I believe in teaching studio-based classes, about making and creating art, supplemented with a broad introduction to context with relevant art history, theory, aesthetics, and criticism.  I believe that studio-based classes are important precisely because they are so different and distinct from the methods and demands of other academic disciplines.  My expertise as a teacher runs across the foundations of studio art – drawing, and two-dimensional and three-dimensional design; and while I have taught introductory classes in sculpture, photography, printmaking, and digital media, as well as seminars in Art From Art History and Figure Drawing among others, my primary strengths are instruction in drawing and painting, from the introductory to the advanced level.  I have had the pleasure of teaching the Advanced Placement Studio Art Drawing/Painting curriculum for over 20 years, but I find it equally gratifying to teach students at the introductory level and witness them discover themselves and their abilities as an artist. 

I think that I can teach anyone how to draw, and believe that drawing and visual expression is an essential skill.  I believe that just as anyone can learn the technical basis of math, science, languages, or reading and writing, anyone can learn the basic techniques of art-making – how to “draw” in any medium, and how to truly “see.”  I teach visual literacy, and believe that as we have moved from the epoch of the written word and into the digital age – where we are now inundated with imagery – that it is tremendously important that one has the understanding and tools to discern truth and meaning within our contemporary culture.  It is also my hope as a teacher to foster each individual’s unique personal vision and context.  The open-ended creation, critical-thinking and decision-making that are inherent to the Arts disciplines are a significant aspect of a liberal arts education.  I love that there can be many equally creative and correct “right” answers to the conceptual challenges posed in any given studio assignment – that the ambiguous nature of the arts invite interpretation – and I love the critical discourse that surrounds that discovery, both in the process of making and in the result.  I love that the “test” in the Arts is the portfolio of works created with its inherent evidence of process, development, and improvement; and I love the “exam” of the exhibition – that one does not create art in a vacuum, and that every student’s work should be proudly displayed, to be considered by others and to perpetuate that critical discourse.  And I believe that as a teacher I should be held to the same standard – that of equal importance to my abilities as a teacher is the fact I am a practicing artist who regularly exhibits in professional venues. 

I believe that a strong Gallery program and the inherent Visiting Artist program is also an important element in support of any studio art curriculum – that while it is good to get students out and into museums and galleries, that tends to be a passive pursuit, and it is of equal importance that professional artists be brought to the students, to offer multiple viewpoints, to model their lifelong pursuit, and to teach and conduct workshops around the ideas and techniques essential to their own work.

I believe that the digital age offers compelling opportunities for growth in the studio arts, as this discipline looks ahead at how to incorporate technology as both a primary and a supplementary teaching tool throughout every mode of art-making.

I remain convinced that the teaching of the Arts and the act of making and creating in the studio, with the inherent discovery of self, should be integral part of any high school education.  The inclusion of the Arts in school curriculums will be what makes the best of those schools unique and distinct.  I look forward to carrying that charge ahead.


To learn more see the article "Ian Torney '82, Painter, Poses Problems" (click on the title to select) from the "Classroom" section in the Spring 2013 issue of Milton Academy's MILTON MAGAZINE.