Ask the Art Prof: What Makes a Student Artist Stand out From Their Peers?

Final Crit

“What makes a student artist stand out from their peers? What’s something that can set them apart from everyone else?”

I’m lucky that I’ve worked with a number of extraordinary students over the past few years. Most of the students I teach are already quite strong to begin with, so in my opinion it really takes a lot for a student to stand out from everyone else in my class. I look for a number of qualities when evaluating my students, and the ones who distinguish themselves take matters into their own hands, soar to new heights, surpass expectations, and surprise me with their accomplishments. Below is a list of qualities that I look for in my students:

1) Enthusiasm
I’ve had students in the past who were literally an engine for their classes, they motivated other students with their sheer presence in the classroom. Students who exude positive energy at all times are important to the success of a class.  When I see a student’s passion and excitement in their work, this truly distinguishes the student.

2) Consistency
Out of all of these qualities, consistency is in some ways the most difficult one to achieve. I’ve had many students in the past who were outstanding, but only sporadically.  It’s hard enough to be exemplary, and even harder to demonstrate this caliber of work week to week.

Organic Form Project

3) Fearlessness & Tenacity
When situations get rough, many students will opt for the safer, easier option. I’m looking for the student who will confront immense challenges head on, with determination and persistence. Any student who can conquer their fears and deal directly with tough circumstances is going to be notable.

4) Dedication
Students who are out to simply fulfill the minimum course requirements are never impressive.  Instead, I look for students who view their work in the course as being one major part of the larger picture of their career. They don’t treat homework like homework, rather every assignment is treated as an opportunity to be ambitious and push boundaries.

5) Work Ethic
I have a deep respect for any student who is willing to invest intensive labor and time into their work. I’ve seen students assign themselves seemingly impossible tasks and actually pull them off in very short periods of time because of their incredible work ethic.

Self-Portrait Collage Assignment

6) Professionalism
To me, once aspect of being a professional is being able to show up on time all the time, get the job done, and not whine about it.  I’ve frequently amazed by students who seem to make tremendously difficult tasks seem effortless and easy.  I’ve seen students take on monstrous challenges that I know for a fact required an incredible amount of work, and yet they don’t complain for a minute about how challenging it was.

7) Communication
The top students in the class are not only excellent listeners, but are strong at verbally articulating their thoughts on their process and goals to both the teacher and their peers. Communication  is vital to the success of the class and instigates an open dialogue for everyone to participate in.


ART PROF is a free, online educational platform for visual arts for people of all ages and means. artprof.org features video courses, art critiques, an encyclopedia of art supplies, and more.

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PORTFOLIO VIDEO CRITIQUES
Prof Lieu offers video critiques on portfolios for students applying to art school and working artists. More info.


ART DARES
Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories!  More info.


ASK THE ART PROF was a written column in the Huffington Post from about art related topics. Visit our Pro Development page.


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