When The Teacher Is A Tyrant

It can take years to unlearn the lessons of one bad instructor but you should try

Marla Rose
10 min readJan 7, 2022


Credit: John Beske

When I was a child, my first love was drawing. I mean, after my grandparents and stuffed animals and Sesame Street and my best friend next door, it was drawing. As hobbies, reading and drawing were near rivals but drawing was a nudge closer to my heart because when I drew, it was taking something from inside me and pulling it out, like a magic trick.

From my earliest memories, I was trying to capture on paper the images that developed in my mind’s eye like Polaroid shots, sometimes inspired by something I saw, sometimes just out of thin air: imaginary creatures, glamorous ladies, magical lands, animals I loved, future homes, gothic castles (which were also future homes). The visceral memory of sitting at my yellow bedroom desk with pencil shavings and eraser scraps growing into bigger piles lines up with what my mother told me, which is that I would race home from outings with a fresh idea that I was fervent to get onto paper. As with books, drawings were where a version and a vision of a different world could take shape for a dreamy girl who lived very comfortably in her imagination.

Fast forward to eighteen and I was going away to college with the vague but persistent notion of learning the skills to turn my lifelong passion of drawing pictures into a career of some sort or another. I tried to quell the persistent worry about what I would do when I graduated and just focus on learning about the emotional power of line, of how color changes everything, of playing with composition and texture, of art history across the world, of printmaking techniques, of mixed media, of how to build a frame and stretch a canvas. (Never quite mastered that last one.) It was an immersive, heady time being away from home, growing as an art major and an independent young adult. As pretentious as it sounds, I felt the responsibility of the artist, as a social commenter, as a vital contributor to culture and discourse, inside me, buzzing around like a bunch of lively bees. It amazed me that all I needed, besides supplies, were my brain and my two little hands.

I know it’s almost too precious but it’s true: I felt alive with possibility. Yes, there were people in my program who…