Yaroslav Zabavskiy

Yaroslav Zabavskiy

Head of Arts
Teacher of Visual Arts


  • BA in Studio Arts, Earlham College, USA
  • International Baccalaureate, UWC Atlantic College, Wales

I am a UWC Atlantic College alumnus, where I was inspired to take up photography by my mentor James Mendelssohn. During my studies at Earlham College, I fell in love with ceramics and the Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi.
Here at UWCD, I teach visual arts with an emphasis on ceramics, sculpture as well as darkroom based film photography. My goal is to encourage students to find their own artistic voice through experimentation, research, and constant technical development. In my personal work, I explore various printing processes, including transferring photographs onto the clay. 
Find more at www.yarozabavskiy.com

What is the favourite part of the course you teach?
Hands-on, practical work. I enjoy it when students get away from the computer screens and learn to "think with their hands". I feel that in our age of scrolling and swiping it is ever so important to activate the neural connections between our brains and our hands.

Which teaching method do you prefer and why?
I believe that good learning happens when a teacher is capable of creating such an environment in which everyone can gradually become a teacher and everyone (including a teacher) becomes a learner. Creating such an atmosphere is a slow process, but it gives a tremendous sense of ownership and involvement, which energises all involved in the learning process. This can only be achieved through trust, passion, honesty, listening, compassion, flexibility, humility, empathy, patience and encouragement. A teacher must have deep and up-to-date knowledge about the subject and be able to help maintain students' fire of motivation from the initial spark of curiosity. It is an art in itself.

What advice would you give to a student of your subject?

  • Learn to embrace failures, success will follow.
  • Have a sense of courage about staying vulnerable. 
  • Pursue the things that you love. 
  • Look at as many artworks as you can. But also activate your other sensory senses, you cannot rely on only one.
  • I was taught to either do something very well or not do it at all. I strongly disagree.
  • Approach your whole life as a work of art.
  • Make friends and then make art with your friends.
  • Talent is overrated, work hard.
  • People giving you the most critical feedback often are the most helpful.

Who is your role model or mentor or who inspires you?
I was fortunate to have amazing teachers and I have been inspired by a lot of people from different walks of life. As far as education is concerned, Sir Ken Robinson, who has recently passed away, was and still is a huge influence.

What is your life motto?
Make your life itself a creative work of art.

What are the three things you can't imagine your life without?
Love, humour, beauty.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Listening to music, cooking, having fun with family and friends.