How a National Art Battle Finalist Teaches Art
How a National Art Battle Finalist Teaches Art

A video series made for Academy of Art University students in an online program sheds light on how visual arts faculty Malisa Suchanya uses her own painting practice, including her competitive painting success, to connect with students.

In a new three-part video series produced by Academy of Art University, Malisa Suchanya explains how she begins each semester by introducing Convent & Stuart Hall students to her personal portfolio. They "navigate towards it," she says, "and get excited about my profession beyond being a teacher."

Malisa's Art Foundations I and II classes for freshmen and sophomores often toggle between developing an understanding of materials and artistic techniques and pushes students outside their comfort zones to face questions about identity, vulnerability and problem solving.

In this area, Malisa has led by example by entering the world of competitive painting, known as Art Battle, in which artists "speed paint" for 20 minutes at a time, with audiences voting to decide the winner. "It really pushes me to work in a way that I am not accustomed," Malisa says. "Since I primarily work with watercolor and gouache and often work small, this is a big step out of my comfort zone."

Malisa, who is from Singapore and graduated from Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in illustration (she later studied art education at Academy of Art University), describes her style as "organic" and "aesthetically pleasing." Art Battle patrons have consistently voted Malisa into the finals of regional competitions, and in November, she was invited to paint in the Art Battle National Championship in Los Angeles.

As one of 10 finalists, Malisa found herself competing against the finest in live painting. "I believe it has given me the opportunity to develop as an artist, make new connections and challenge myself in a completely new environment," she says.

Ultimately, Malisa adds, "art opens the mind and the heart to being authentic to yourself and to others." When it comes to her students, that's what she wants them to achieve.


Part I: Malisa shares advice for students considering art education and a career as an artist.


Part II: The video series alternates between Malisa's experience as a teacher and as an art student.


Part III: Malisa encourages her students to face questions about identity, vulnerability and problem solving.