Saturday, February 13, 2016

Worshops #1- Take them!

After my initial series of painting classes I decided to try a workshop.  In contrast to classes which typically are weekly or biweekly sessions with a group, workshops are all day sessions that run 2-7 consecutive days (sometimes even longer).  They may focus on anything from a genre, e.g. still life or figurative, to a specific goal.  Examples of the latter might be plein air painting, putting more light into your paintings, color harmony, etc.

Artists of all skill levels take workshops, including some of the top contemporary painters.  There are more to chose from than ever in every part of the US as well as internationally.  Beginning painters may be reluctant to try one out of fear of the unknown, but I highly encourage them to do so.

Choosing the right workshop can be daunting so I will make some recommendations.  If you have friends in the local art community talk to them and find out what is going on in your area.  If you are on Facebook or other social media start following artists that paint the way you want to paint and see where they are teaching workshops.  Find artists you like on the internet.  Join their mailing lists and review their websites regularly.  Check with local galleries that carry art that you admire to find out if their artists give workshops.    Word of mouth is the best way to find out who are the best instructors! An artist who promotes himself/herself the most is not necessarily the best teacher.

Most importantly, don't be afraid.  After my first one I was hooked.  I take about 4 per year which gives me time to practice what I have learned before taking the next one.  Even one per year can make a big difference and may be about right for many painters.

Try to paint as much as you can before every workshop so you won't be rusty.  Make sure you have all the recommended supplies and that everything is in working order.  If you are bringing a new easel make sure you can set it up so you aren't frustrated before you even start painting.  Many artists include a manual with the supply list and/or recommended reading.  Study these ahead of time.  Take notes and refer to them afterwards.  And, most importantly, keep painting and working on whatever you have learned.  Save your studies, at least for a while, to remind you of the lessons learned.  Don't let painting a masterpiece be your goal.  Nobody does their best work in a workshop because they are stretching themselves.

I have jokingly referred to myself as a "workshop junkie", but I am really a workshop enthusiast.  Junkies are painters who go from workshop to workshop without practicing in between.  I think that for some this is a social outlet, and while the associations and friendships that result are an added bonus, the goal should be to grow as a painter.

I save something of my own from each workshop as a benchmark.  Below is a detail of a painting I did in a still life workshop a couple of years ago.  I never could have painted this without good instruction and it hangs where I can pass by it every day- a lesson on the wall.  (I show the detail because the rest of the painting wasn't so great....)

Thanks for reading!

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