Yes, I’m an Art Teacher – No, I Won’t Pick Out Paint Colors for Your House

Recently I was asked to make a sign for the 4th of July Parade with one day’s notice. Of course, I said yes. I love being positive, helpful, and useful to my friends and colleagues. Plus, the art teacher in me just can’t help herself!

This got me thinking though: There are some activities that art teachers continually get asked to do over and over again. Sign Making – Check. We’ve all been there… and lets be honest… it can be frustrating!

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Another is picking out paint colors for friends and families homes. I don’t help myself at all by owning one of these puppies (I scored one by being super nice to the contractors who were remodeling our school building.) Of course, they let me keep it.

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Yeah, this paint sample deck has really come in handy a time or two, but I prefer using it for my OWN projects, not for other people’s projects. Picking out paint colors is stressful, even with an art background. Actually, it’s one of my LEAST favorite things to do in my own home. Helping someone else make decisions they must live with (and stare at) for the next 10 years makes me get all clammy.  Oh the agony.

As art teachers there are things that only we are asked to do. We are THE art teacher, the only one (according to the rest of the word) who can perform all creative tasks in our school and home. Sometimes, however, I find the requests to be silly, degrading, and lets face it, a little annoying!


What is something you are constantly being asked to do for other people because you are ‘the art teacher’?

Do you like being asked, or is it usually more of a burden?

Oh, by the way: Can I borrow some paint? Thanks. I’ll bring it right back… I promise….

Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is the Founder and President at AOE. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.


  • Dani

    I was recently asked to paint three murals in our building over the summer! I had never painted a mural before! I recruited two other teachers who had artistic skills/mural experience to collaborate and make it “our” project, not the art teacher’s. I told administration that we could only commit to one this year and the others would come with time. I’m glad I did, because we still aren’t done with the first. I am actually thinking about making at least one of the murals a student collaboration. Any thoughts on that?

    • Lib

      Student collaboration can be simple or complex depending on your time and willingness to supervise through the process. If you have limits on both, working with students to determine a subject matter, combining student drawn images to make one simple composition, cleaning wall, buying materials, projecting the linear image on the wall and having students trace, develop a color map and have students work in small groups with limited color. it isn’t difficult, but it is often time-consuming and a focus on behavior management.

  • Ted Edinger

    Ha ha ha!!! I’ve picked out the colors for one of our teacher’s entire FAMILY! No joke!! The one I enjoy the least is “judging” valentine boxes/book cover designs/and other assorted class room “projects”. Then the kids get ticked off at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I get “Ted, you’re artsy…what do you think about…..” ha ha

    • MissArtyNutMeg

      I refuse to judge. Even if I had an art contest, I’d have the other teachers do it. The only time I’ve judged was when a lot of other teachers did as well.

  • Jodi Youngman

    A former colleague used to say “You wouldn’t ask a music teacher to just ‘compose a song quick,’ why would you think I can come up with a poster quickly?”

    • MissArtyNutMeg

      Oh I don’t know. I bet some music teachers have been asked that.

      • Lib

        Our music teachers have definitely been asked this…or can you think of cross curricular song that helps students remember the parts of a frog. You have to pick and choose

  • Vicky Siegel

    We were just discussing this in our AOE class (which I love!) You wouldn’t ask the math teacher to do your taxes, or the tech. ed. teacher to build your house!!! And besides school, I get asked to do posters for church, for my husband’s work, for the football club, and so on…. :)

    • Vicky, after reading your post, I had to make this! ;)

      • Vonnie

        LOVE IT, LOVE IT!!!!!!

        • Vicky Siegel

          It is perfect!!! Vicky

  • Kiara

    My principal always comes up with these “jobs” for me, but I found out
    that he only even mentions it one time. He will say “Maybe you could
    do….” and I never hear this idea again. If he says it more than twice,
    it must be an important job. He sure is a dreamer! Here are some
    “jobs” the dreamed up that as a first year teacher, I would be
    chomping at the bit to do!

    -Paint all of the bulletin boards in the hallway so they don’t have to use
    paper anymore. I tried one board, and in the next week it became a scratchboard for graffiti.

    -Making nameplates in the hallway for all the teachers- Out of what materials does he think I have?

    -Making murals EVERYWHERE

    -Paint other teacher’s walls for their classroom (I calmly explained that I don’t
    paint walls, but there are other people out there who do that for an hourly

    -Cover the lazy teachers who don’t do their bulletin boards- with art. I did do this

    -Design tee shirts for any occasion (I would happily do this, but it was never
    mentioned again)

    -Make a school flag (I did do this)

    And I am sure there was countless others. I am glad my principal realizes how
    useful I am… but I am not qualified for a lot of the jobs he thinks I can do.

  • MissArtyNutMeg

    I actually love doing this. But not many ask me to. I pick bold and unusual color combinations in my own house (no beige!). I never get sick of them. By the way, have you seen this? Color acuity test. I sscored pretty well. Maybe my next careeer could be a interior designer.

    The worst thing I have been asked to do it help put together a school play from nothing in one week, and very soon after have a number of signs and banners for an exhibition. The signs are no problem, but the play was just because they thought the art teacher has nothing but time.

    • Sara

      Woohoo! That test was fun! I got a 0! That company is located near my home… I always thought that if I this whole art teacher gig didn’t pan out I should go & be a color tester! Unlikely, kids are too cute!

  • Jackie Cassidy

    This is a funny one to me…my undergrad degree is in interior design so I don’t mind being asked design/decorating advice. If it turns into a big job, then I’d like to be compensated…sometimes those little asks have turned into a paying gig.

    The thing that I’m not a fan of isn’t the concept of being asked to do something as a favor to someone when the favor, to them, is thought of as something “quick.” I know it will take me hours to accomplish it, and when I explain the time issue, the person still doesn’t believe that it will take as long as I’m stating. Even though I could throw it together and no one would probably know the difference, the perfectionist, and artist, in me can’t do it.

  • Vonnie

    Ha, Ha, Ha – Jessica! I LOVE your last statement – and I am PREPARED for that one! I have 4 gallons of tempera that were in my classroom back….well, maybe not as far as the dinosaurs but close. When I’m asked, I hand them over. “Well, I need green” – I simply tell them that they can make their own and if they need help, they can get one of their students to assist!
    My usual requests are banners. So I’ve adopted this strategy – if the principal asks – I do it – no questions asked! If the PSTO asked – I do it – because I’m going to be hitting them up for funds. If another teacher asks – I reply “And what shall we barter for?” This has worked really well for me.
    I also have a fifth grade Art Panel that comes in during data meeting times (45″) and I will draw out the mural and have them paint away.
    You get smart after 30 years!LOL

  • Toby

    Too funny?! Yes really… My friend the other art teacher in our building when I first started teaching years ago had to hand paint on basketballs for gifts trophies to the kids with the most… whatever their stats… All their info was on the basketball… I never knew if she got anything for it? Probably not… Then she would need to hand calligraphy all the sports certificate awards. Ugh!

  • Mrs. Jan’s Artsy Kids

    Oh yes, sounds so familiar! The coach called me yesterday and asked me if I could paint a mural on the gym wall before school starts-which is ten days from now! Oh but by the way, the floor won’t be done until the middle of next week, so I could probably start it on Wednesday or Thursday of next week. Which means that I would spend my last four days off at the school painting. Did I mention that my in-laws are coming next week also? Well, I think I’m going to pass this opportunity up. Haha! I actually did get paid one summer to turn our cafeteria into a gigantic aquarium mural. It was lots of fun!

    • Adry

      Did u get paid? V

  • It’s difficult to say no, but it’s a really important skill to learn!

  • Ms. B’s Art room

    Could you please calligraphy these invitations for me by tomorrow and Matt and Frame this before the weekend and we thought we would like a few centerpieces as well. I’ll send you some pictures of the event so you can see how nice it was. Thanks, just leave them in my office when you finish.

  • Toby

    Forgot to mention… The parents think the coaches are so great for doing all of this too!
    No mention of the art teacher of course!

  • Carrie

    I got a call on February 8 (a Friday afternoon) asking if my Art Club would be able to paint 100 Valentine’s Day boxes for a party that this group was having for veterans. They wanted them done by Tuesday afternoon (the 12th). Needless to day, I had to decline.

  • d.mac

    I learned early on to delegate jobs to the students! I teach middle school so the outcomes are good, but not usually the professional look many are asking for. “Do you have time to calligraphy 50 of my kid’s graduation announcements?” “I have a student who has been working hard to learn calligraphy. It would be such a motivating thing if he did them.” :) Backdrops needed for the school play…art club assignment! My backup response was always that it isn’t really my thing- my specialty is ceramics. If you want a coffee mug I’m your girl, I usually sell a mug for $10. :) Now we have a 2nd art teacher in the building and he gets hit up for projects all the time- he hasn’t learned to say no! I would much rather hand over supplies than complete something for someone else. I find when I do this they usually have the kids complete it anyway!

    • Adry

      Well my elementary kids did last year so many project but it wasn’t “professional stuff”

  • Emily

    PBIS committee asked me (because I’m new and the art teacher and am “low-man on the totem pole” she said) to paint a cafeteria table and cover it with contact paper to make a special place for good behavior students to sit. I explained that my old paint sometimes stains and the custodian wouldn’t be too happy. So they wanted a long banner instead that could be laminated. So I spent 3 hours making it. Then the principal never took it to be laminated, so it never got used. Grrrr. That school is closed now and I learned my lesson last year. Hopefully I can get off on a better foot at my new school and say “no” sometimes.

  • Shari

    I have painted murals on walls, painted playground games, decorated lost and found box, made signs throughout the building, posters/signs for teachers, and made garden stepping stones for the outside of our building. My least favorite requests: could you mat and frame these certificates for me every year? Could you cut these papers to the correct size-I don’t have a cutter large enough…or we need to make shower invites and want….could you make a template and then trace and cut them?
    If I have time, I try to help, but it is frustrating when you are busy with art show prep that no one seems to have time to help. That’s just where I say NO…unless they help when I need some favors.

    • Adry

      Agree absolutely

  • Teresa D. Euken

    And does anybody else have a supply closet they have locked, but the custodian unlocks it so another teacher can just grab a little bit of paper? Or the are in “desperate need” of a few pipe cleaners because “well the school paid for all of it anyway”. Then, when you go to grab something, they have neglected to tell you that it’s all gone. Grrrrrrrr

  • Anne Pisarik

    One word: PROM!!!

  • Lisa

    This made my day! It is so true how many of the classroom teachers come in and ask for these things without realizing how much time and effort it does take to complete these “quick” favors. And if we politely decline we’re not team players. (Sigh) As a new teacher this is really hard for me because I constantly feel overwhelmed with my own issues. I agree…..Grrrrrrr! On the other hand, I LOVE being an art teacher more than anything making it so much easer to look past these kinds of things (most of the time). :)

  • Alecia Eggers

    I had a lady come up to me at Home Depot and ask me which of the 15 shades of beige she had in her hand looked “most beige”…of course she didn’t know I was an art teacher…maybe people sense it on us!

    And amen to the loaning paint comment! I got a tip from another art teacher…loan paint in yogurt cups! There’s less waste and you’re not giving away your whole bottle. I’m also switching to gallon pumps, we’ll see how that works!

    • Great tip on loaning out paint! It puts a limit on the teacher allowing a student to squeeze out the whole bottle!

  • Adry

    So true, now I ask to get paid. But wait no with $$$, instead I ask for materials according to the project they have in mind, example $25 in tempera or crayons or paper…guess what nobody wants to do that…but I still some people keep nagging bout some free art

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