We all want to strike gold!! Yes Siree! As insignificant as a simple workshop sounds, it is one of the most valuable events you will ever attend and be well worth your investment of time and money – as it could quite simply change your life.
In any profession we all need to get better at what we do. Even Doctors and other professionals attend refresher courses to keep abreast with new information and methods in their fields. This is just as important for artists, as it forms part of our creative development. Artists or painting hobbyists can attend a workshop under the instruction of another artist they admire, to learn new skills and interact with other like-minded people, or they may wish to attend a workshop where they receive instruction on the marketing side of selling their art.
Nobody wants to attend a workshop and half-way through suddenly wonder why they’re there. So before you register, you need to ask yourself why you are interested in this/any workshop and what do you hope to achieve? Even if you decide you only wish to attend the workshop as a motivation to actually get stuck in and do some painting, or if you’re lonely in your studio and want to work alongside other artists. This is absolutely fine too – it often helps people to break out of the “I’m gonna start one day” syndrome and if you aren’t the type to get started, you need a workshop to get you into action.
Reasons to consider making the investment of time and money to take a workshop:
- It helps to be with an inspiring tutor to inspire and motivate your painting skills and development.
- Instruction on new techniques to assist your style, (or help you discover your style,) on aspects such as brushwork or perhaps guidance in how to loosen-up etc.
- Learn a new skill completely such as painting with a palette knife for example.
- Experience a new artistic approach, like painting en plein-air, or instruction in something you have never tried before, e.g. still-life painting.
- To expand your own talents with extra instruction on artistic elements such as composition or colour.
- It’s a great way to expand by starting to experiment with other mediums.
- A chance to perhaps paint different genres – like landscapes or portraits.
- Being with other artists assists you in finding solutions to problems as well as making new contacts for the future.
- A chance to try new equipment – sometimes using something available at a workshop serves as a guide in what you may wish to purchase after it, but with a free-test run so to speak.
- Sometimes you even get the chance to purchase a discounted piece of art from the instructor.
- Attending a workshop can even change the life of a person who has never picked up a brush, because they learn a new skill and develop a new passion – art is also very therapeutic – it’s not only about creating Masterpeices and making money from our work. Who knows where that new-found passion could lead!
How to know if the Instructor/Workshop is a good fit for you?
Obviously you want to attend a class with someone whose art you enjoy, bearing in mind that not all good artists are good teachers though. So, how do you figure out which instructor or workshop is good for you? Well I suggest you evaluate some of the following:
- Does the workshop comply with your individual level in that craft? – Don’t register for an intermediate class if you have a beginner but think you are good – you will not only feel out of your depth, but you will hold the others back, which is not fair.
- Will the instructor do some demos? It’s important that they do, as merely taking notes from his/her spoken word is not only boring (although you should take notes where possible) but one also learns better from the action of visually seeing it being done.
- Is it designed to get you to think about your art? – Some workshops assist you to examine your thought processes and to discover why you create the type of art that you do and then apply what you have learnt to your own work in the future, whilst some are purely instructional on painting like the instructor. What do you want to achieve?.
- Will you be taught something new? Does the advertised workshop offer to teach new skills or the proper use of use new equipment/mediums or a new approach perhaps?
- If you’re a beginner, does the course offer the basics to painting/sculpture or whatever the course is about?
- If you’re an intermediate painter/sculptor etc, does the workshop offer any challenges you could benefit from?
- Is the Instructor willing to share their own secrets? – it’s nice when an artist doesn’t hold back on their own techniques and painting tips, but not all will divulge their methods.
- What’s the typical structure of the day? – For example, is it designed to be all en plein-air? Are you going to be painting from still life/photos? What will the class be painting?
- Will there be Fun Exercises or will the workshop be the creation of one painting over the 2 days/week? Which do you prefer?
- Will the lessons comprise on-the-fly demos or paint along with the tutor? Would you enjoy this?
- Will there be a group critique? These aren’t as harsh as they sound! The instructor’s “input” rather than “critique” can be indispensable in your future development.
- How much “Personal Attention” is promised?
Good instructors combine several aspects into a workshop – i.e. demo time, one-on-one easel time, variety in activities but also enough time to work on each aspect/exercise without putting the participant under too much pressure.
Attend a Workshop with the following Mindset:
- Expect to be taught what was advertised.
- Don’t expect to leave painting exactly like the instructor does, but its important to immerse yourself fully and absorb as much as you can during the time there. Although you don’t want to change your whole painting style to match the tutor– (if you know what that style is,) you need to arrive open-minded and willing to participate in everything on offer to reap the best rewards of the tuition. Once you’re home you can select those aspects from everything taught and apply it to your own work.
- Perhaps you’ll even develop or discover your own style whilst on the workshop. Trust your own personality which defines your personal style.
- Be easy on yourself. You may also find you don’t paint as well on the workshop as you usually do – and you get frustrated and embarrassed, but accept that you’re there to learn and digest what you’re being taught.
- Don’t expect to take a brilliant masterpiece home after the workshop – the techniques, and your understanding of how things usually worked for you before, could be different at a workshop. Sometimes working with new materials or painting in a different way – the way the instructor uses them – could put you under a little pressure and your work is inferior to your usual level. This is normal – you’re there to learn, and it is this that is so valuable in the long run.
How To Be A Good Participant
- Arrive on time for classes, and allow yourself time to set up your workspace so as not to hold up the others.
- Try not to throw up continual objections or challenges and your viewpoints. Whilst the instructor is there to guide and assist everybody, they are not infalliable and don’t know everything. They’re there unselfishly, to impart their knowledge and skills. This type of student behaviour also dampens the spirit in the usually jovial and non-competitve workshop atmosphere.
- Take lots of notes – writing is a proven way to remember the pointers – especially terms specific to the subject.
- Come prepared to learn – embrace the opportunity to learn in a new environment and all new techniques and tips on offer.
- Be brave and not stuck in your ways or too precious about your own work. Only if you’re willing to try to apply new techniques will you experience a breakthrough –
- Accept that it may take a couple of weeks after the workshop to truly have everything you’ve learned kick in – although you may find this frustrating, it is valuable in the long term. It often happens that something you pick up at the workshop doesn’t seem relevant to where you are right now, and then two months later, it pops up and you realize how useful this could be.
- Every exercise you do – every new way of doing something, or trying a new medium, can help you when applying them to your own style – this becomes your signature – your voice. But you first have to be prepared to take the steps to experiment and discover what it is that makes your work sing!
- Maximise the opportunity of being in the presence of other artists and talk to them – you can also learn from the other students as well as from the instructors.