William L.

Houston, TX


Digital Design & Art | Reading,Writing, Speaking & Listening

In-person lessons
Background check passed as of 6/14/14

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Harvard College, Cambridge MA
Fine Art Visual Stud
Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge MA
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Graduate Coursework


Harvard College, Cambridge MA (Fine Art Visual Stud)

Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge MA (Master's)

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX (Graduate Coursework)

About William

I am an experienced teacher (15+ years at the Art Institute of Houston), and a lifelong learner. I have been blessed with exceptional educational experiences, and my principal interest is to provide meaningful instruction to others. One of my talents is the ability to bring out the best in others.

My technical areas of specialization are in the arts: art, architecture, and design. I am concerned with the four communication skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing, and spend as much time teaching those skills to my students as I do their technical skills. I employ questions to identify gaps, and know diligence, practice, and persistence count for much more that raw talent.

I won't invoice a lesson where a student is dissatisfied. I'm flexible regarding times, and location, and have a 24-hour cancellation policy. Make-up classes can be scheduled. I look forward to assisting you in achieving your educational goals, and hope to have an opportunity to continue this conversation in the near future. Best wishes for now.
I am an experienced teacher (15+ years at the Art Institute of Houston), and a lifelong learner. I have been blessed with exceptional educational experiences, and my principal interest is to provide meaningful instruction to others. One of my talents is the ability to bring out the best in Read more

24 hours notice required
Travel Radius
Travels within 20 miles of Houston, TX 77024
Background Check: Passed
In-person lessons
Elementary Education:
Study Skills,
Microsoft Word
Test Preparation:
SAT Reading,
SAT Writing
Corporate Training:
Microsoft Word

Approved subjects are in bold.

Approved subjects

In most cases, tutors gain approval in a subject by passing a proficiency exam. For some subject areas, like music and art, tutors submit written requests to demonstrate their proficiency to potential students. If a tutor is interested but not yet approved in a subject, the subject will appear in non-bold font. Tutors need to be approved in a subject prior to beginning lessons.

Adobe Illustrator

I've been teaching Adobe Illustrator at The Art Institute of Houston since 1998, when it was version 3.0. I use it in a variety of different ways: page layout (single page documents); typographic design; and information graphics. Students who practice make good progress and invariably wind up surprising themselves with what they've learned how to do.

Illustrator is a vector graphics program, which is to say it deals with lines (paths, in the program's argot), and anchor points (singular locations in an imaginary XYZ coordinate space). It can create anything from simple 2D shapes, colored or not, to complex photo-real renderings, all of which come under the heading of technical illustration.

Illustrator is a companion program to Photoshop - both are owned and developed by the same company - and are often used together. Recently, some Photoshop functionality has been incorporated into Illustrator and vice versa. Sooner or later, everyone who learns Illustrator learns Photoshop.

The best way to teach a program like this is through lecture (introduction and explanation), demonstration, and guided practice. The practice part typically involves graduated exercises where the student completes an illustration, graph, or layout using the software, with increasing complexity.

Adobe InDesign

I've been teaching graphic design and page layout at The Art Institute of Houston since 1998, first as an adjunct (Adobe Illustrator and PageMaker, later InDesign) - anywhere from four to seven classes per quarter.

InDesign is the industry standard page layout application, and students can create both simple and complex documents with it. The program incorporates a number of features from Adobe Illustrator (a companion program made by the same company), and Adobe Page Maker (a predecessor program), as well as more sophisticated document creation features such as editorial styles, interactivity, and templates.

Teaching InDesign is best done through publication-based exercises. A student is given an example of a common document type (brochure, poster, newsletter, etc.) and then taken through the steps required to create it. Normally, the editorial components (text, graphics, images) are given, and the learning comes through the assembly process.

Adobe Photoshop

My first learning experience at The Art Institute was Adobe Photoshop 3.0. Up to that point, my only experience with digital computing was spreadsheets and word processing, and the program opened an entirely new universe of possibilities for me. Imagine my surprise.

Photoshop is a bitmap, or digital image, editing program, and is the standard image editor in every artist and designer's tool box. I've taught and used Photoshop for eighteen years, ever since PS 3.0, and I always begin by explaining the program's mental model, which is paint-by-numbers. Thomas Knoll, who first developed the program, analogized it as a wet-processing photographic darkroom. Either way, it has become the universal image editor for our time.

Because the program is so versatile, it's best to begin with a limited range of competencies, and then gradually broaden the program's reach as students progress. The seductive qualities of the program's capabilities guarantee many hours on task, and the instructor's role is to keep the student focused on key skills long enough for them to learn them. Nobody doesn't like Photoshop.


Architecture came to me through a love of buildings. I lived in several great cities as a child and young man, and it was their buildings that fascinated me, to the exclusion of just about everything else. This was an innate love, I didn't acquire it; and I looked upon each building as a unique citizen of its city, a representative of its culture and a demonstration of its character.

The practice of architecture has always been, and continues to be even more so today, a process of systems integration: enclosure systems, environmental control systems, decorative systems, all made to work together to achieve an aesthetic and functional result. The public sees the finished product, but the architect sees through the walls.

My graduate degree from Harvard was in Architecture (MARCH '77), and I was a registered architect in the State of Texas between 1979 and 2009. I took 18 graduate hours in architectural history at Texas A&M, College Station (GPA: 4.0), and have been an instructor and department chair of an interior design bachelor degree program for 11 years, during which time we've been successfully accredited twice by The Council for Interior Design Accreditation (CIDA).

The understanding of architecture occurs in several places: the design studio, the classroom, the job site, and on the streets of cities. Architects must know how to plan, design, and build, three quite different activities, and each has its own instructional ideology. The best teacher is someone who has had experience in all three.

Art History

My first year at Harvard was spent in the lecture halls of the Fogg Art Museum and the Bush-Reisinger Museum, listening to the Great Men of Art History deliver brilliant lectures on the Great Men of Art. One of the best and most influential years of my life. I've never stopped delving into the past practices and personalities of High Art, and count it as one of my most rewarding life interests.

Art history covers a lot of territory - there are a lot of ways people have chosen to express themselves in all the different countries and cultures since antiquity, so it's essential to focus. Art objects are always more complicated than their visible presence, as they come freighted with social, political, religious, and demographic weight. A complete understanding of a given work involves all these factors, so art history often engages broader themes and concerns.

Art history is not a quick or easy subject to master - there's lots of looking, reading, writing, memorizing, and evaluating that goes on. And that would include visits to the very fine museums Houston is blessed with. It's hugely rewarding, however, when one can walk into a room, encounter a work of art, and be able to express one's response to it in clear and simple terms.

Art Theory

"Art is what you can get away with." Andy Warhol famously said. Given the babel of art discourse and opinion that seems never to abate, it's as reasonable a formulation as many. While this may seem to trivialize the whole business of making art, it is generally agreed that there are fundamental principles and ideas that govern the production of art; some are innate (such as the Gestalt set of human perceptual preferences), and others culturally driven (the association of certain colors with mood and status). Knowing about these provides a basis for an opinion, which can then be elevated to theory.

Because there are as many theories about art as there are people, one must edit. And this is where familiarity with the literature is important. To teach art theory one should have read a good deal of art theory, and hopefully looked at a considerable amount of original art. Growing up in a large city certainly helps in this regard.

In the end, what's important is to develop an individual sensibility and level of taste - preferably one based on the best ideas one came upon while reading other people's ideas of art and good taste.

Graphic Design

My college and graduate school work involved the organization of various elements in both 2-D and 3-D space - this was pre-digital visualization. My subsequent work as an architect involved the design and production of technical documents whose goal was the effective communication of relevant information to co-professionals.

When I began teaching in 1998, and since that time, I've been continuously engaged as an instructor with the way students communicate their results and findings, whether as poster boards, slideshows, videos, websites, animations, or publications. I speak of contrast, repetition, proximity, and alignment; critique their page layout strategies; and remind them of their color contrasts and the Rule of Thirds.

Throughout all of this, I've had a core concern: the effective communication of technical information in an artful manner. Now, graphic design isn't always technical - it often transcends the practical, employing symbols, metaphors, visual puns, and graphic puzzles. These comprise the stuff of high concept, and it has been in this area that I have toiled.


I've been using and teaching architectural drafting for 40-odd years - my all caps printing is excellent. I employ gridded paper and two simple shapes: a straight line and a half circle. With practice, anyone can learn this, though most feel it's the special province of architects.

I learned cursive writing in the traditional way, copying shapes on lined paper, then assembling them into words. Cursive writing isn't difficult, but sometimes be tedious due to the repetitions.

One's handwriting is one's personal signature, and has significance in the same way that one's hairstyle, apparel, vocabulary does. In the 19th Century the phrase "He writes a good hand" meant the difference between having a job or not.

Today, handwriting is still important, it contributes to the impression others have of us. And that is important, especially in a world where one depends on others to advance in life.


Like many, when first exposed to the obscure grammar of computer programming, I was aghast. How could this incomprehensible jumble of letters, numerals and symbols be mastered? But, being someone not immune to ignorance, I assumed that with reasonable diligence, patience on the part of my instructor, and some degree of divine intervention, I would prevail. In due course, I did.

Computer programming consists of a a primary structure and small pieces of code that interact to produce a defined result. The difficulty arises when unforeseen consequences appear, and then programming becomes complicated, due to the need to prevent the unexpected and unwanted. It isn't accidental that the word 'logic' recurs so often when discussing programming.

HTML, the brilliant work-around developed by Tim Berners-Lee in the 1990s, is the workhorse of the internet. Other technologies: Javascript, UNIX, and PHP, have extended the functionality of the web, but HTML is its foundational technology. Basic HTML is surprisingly easy to learn, even in its present configuration, and one takes very small steps to achieve a very big result.

Microsoft Word

I use this program every day - I am an administrator in a college, and that should tell one all they need to know about how much text and paper I go through in a given week. I've taken more tours through the program's feature set than I'd care to count.

MS Word is part of the Microsoft Office suite of business products - it is a word processor, which means it creates, edits, and formats text-based documents, even those containing other forms of media. It integrates with Excel (spreadsheets), and PowerPoint (electric slide presentations), two products favored by students and professionals alike.

Like all software, learning a word processing program is an exercise in memorization - knowing which button to push, when to push it, and how to produce a given outcome. But, like hitting a tennis ball, it doesn't take long to learn.


Reading, one of the principal ways people communicate, has come in for considerable re-evaluation since the advent of the Digital Age. People don't read as much as they used to, even though employers say it's one of the keys for professional success. It's been said that reading generates more brain activity than simply watching a screen.

I was raised in a house full of books, and both parents read voraciously. I began reading at an early age, and tend to read more than one book at a time. My parents both read to me for as long as I can remember, and helped select books for me to read well into my middle school years.

There are so many choices, the student will require help navigating the often daunting landscape of literature and professional writing. The home is the primary learning environment, and both parents and teachers must be available to answer questions. The teacher does best with short excerpts from larger books, and readings a student will enjoy. Reading is the binary twin of writing, and those who write well read well.

SAT Reading

The SAT reading test tests attention to detail coupled with expositional comprehension. It's essential to read every sentence, every clause, and every word - rapid scanning (common among over-stressed exam takers) is a prescription for disaster. The test designers sprinkle false clues throughout the essays to invite wrong answers. There are areas where haste matters in taking the SATs, but this isn't one of them.

An excellent approach is the first-last sentence method - teach the student to read the first and last sentence of a paragraph to get an overview. Then read the whole - it's in the middle where the contradicting and qualifying passages are placed, and these commonly form the basis of several of the questions.

It is best to teach the student to consider the test as a puzzle to be solved, and not a description of their intelligence. Relieve them of the stress and fear associated with a personal assessment, and you're three-quarters of the way to a positive result.

SAT Writing

The writing portion of the SAT (not including the writing sample itself) consists of assessing good and bad writing, and drawing a distinction between them. You're provided samples, and must decide which work best. It tests writing in the sense you can recognize good writing, which in turn suggests you've read good writing.

Reading and writing are two halves of the same coin - the best way to approach good writing is to read it; and, through a process of intellectual osmosis, absorb its traits, style, and form into one's own. This 'style borrowing' is common among grade school students exposed to different authors - one can usually tell the first time a student reads Thomas Wolfe, for example.

The teaching of writing will always be paired with reading - book reviews are the most familiar form, but journaling, précis writing, and analytical essays work as well. It's best to use as many techniques as possible, to induce intellectual agility and an imaginative critical response.


English is an irregular language - there are lots of exceptions and few rules cover everything - variations in spelling and usage are common. I wonder how someone explains the word series "drought, though, tough, and through to an ESL student. Because of its miscegenated origins, English is a bushel basket of idioms, foreign borrowings, and neologisms that defy rational analysis. This is also why English remains the magnificent vehicle of modern speech and thought that it is.

Spelling, therefore, must be learned, often word by word. No guides exist to let one know where the next syllable of every word had its origins, or how it should be construed. This is why we love spelling bees, by the way.

The surest way to correct a person's spelling is through exposure to words in their written form. In other words, they must read. Preferably books, because it's probably impossible to teach correct spelling to someone who obtains the majority of their information through an electronic screen. They simply won't see enough words. And then they must write them, in context, with meaning and understanding.

Study Skills

Perhaps the most useful thing you learn at college is to become an auto-didact - to be able to teach yourself. It certainly was where I went to school, and it's something I stress to students in my present capacity, as both a department head and an instructor.

Sadly, many of my students arrive at college lacking effective study skills - 'school skills' I call them: active listening, note-taking, the ability to ask a question, managing the assigned reading, their choice of seating.

I advise them to dedicate a specific location at home for study, one free of distractions (phone, tablet, TV, siblings, etc.), and to schedule a set time for their homework. The study area must be clear of everything save the immediate matter (subject) under consideration, and the student must remain at it for the allotted time regardless of mood, motivation, or results (this is what successful professionals in many creative fields do).

I instruct them to have all relevant materials and supplies readily available, and focus on the subject material. When unanswerable questions arise, write them down for the next class period and go over them with the instructor or peer classmates. Make use of reference material, preferably printed before electronic (the tendency to become hostage to the seemingly limitless resources of the internet is common - it's best to minimize that).

The home is the primary learning environment, and they should engage both parents and siblings in a larger learning community. I tell them to be curious and don't be afraid to ask questions (to seem dumb), to parents, friends, teachers, relatives, anyone who can provide an informative and relevant answer. Also they should always follow a 'what' question with a 'why' and 'how' question.


I love words. Not sure why, but I've always loved words, and the unique and uniquely unorthodox way people choose to use them. English, I tell my students, is a gift. It's the largest, and most irregular of languages, which provides great, gaping holes for new words to flow in, which occurs constantly.

Words are basis of thought; and thought gives rise to ideas - more words, more thought. More thought, more ideas. Words are also the currency of speech, the most effective communication tool humans possess. We judge a person as much by the words they use as we do by their actions; often even more so. History is replete with fast-talking scoundrels who manage to escape their just fates over and over again.

The most effective way to learn new words is to encounter them in the normal course of one's life: from the things one reads, through the conversations with one's family and friends, and through the need to frame a thought in one's writing. Words can only be learned in context - memorizing lists prior to the SAT is a waste of time. My best long-term advice to students who want to improve their vocabulary: hang around with people who are smarter than you are.


Writing is one of the great attainments of homo sapiens - no chimpanzee has yet been found to master it. Just behind speech, it is the surest way to produce and distribute information and ideas, and it is essential for professional advancement. The fact that some people become multi-millionaires simply by writing should be sufficient evidence of its value.

Writing goes hand-in-hand with reading as a foundational communication skill. It is informed by seeing what others have written, and it is improved through one's own. Nothing advances writing skills more than writing. One might say the same thing about table tennis.

The best approach for young writers to have them write about writing - let them first read, and then discuss, good writing. Once exposed to sound prose, the elements of style, composition, and poetic construction can be considered. It's imperative to identify topics of interest to the student - essays on fly fishing won't mean much to young aspirants eager to go into investment banking.

Harvard College, Cambridge MA
Fine Art Visual Stud
Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge MA
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Graduate Coursework


Harvard College, Cambridge MA (Fine Art Visual Stud)

Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge MA (Master's)

Texas A&M University, College Station, TX (Graduate Coursework)

Hourly fee

Standard Hourly Fee: $65.00

Cancellation: 24 hours notice required

Travel policy

William will travel within 20 miles of Houston, TX 77024.

Background Check Status for William L.

William L. passed a background check on 6/14/14. The check was ordered by William through First Advantage. For more information, please review the background check information page.

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