"Lighthouse Rocks" 6x9 pastel - contact Michael
What's the best way to fast-track your painting skills? Some seem to think that taking lots of workshops is the way. But no, that only makes you more educated, not more skilled. Especially if that's the only time you paint.
The best way to improve your skills is to practice outside of a workshop. A cellist doesn't get better at playing Bach's solo cello suites by reading textbooks and listening to recordings; he gets better by playing. Sure, the cellist needs feedback, and that's why he works with a cello teacher. But every cellist knows that the cello lesson isn't the only time you practice!
It's the same with painting. You can watch all the videos, read all the books and take all the workshops - and get a virtual MFA in the process - but it's not going to make you a better painter unless you practice on your own.
There's a type of student we painting instructors call "workshop junkies." These are students who take workshop after workshop and build up a formidable warehouse of painting knowledge, but who rarely paint outside a workshop. They don't have time, because they are busy travelling and taking workshops. These students have so many different ideas about how to paint that they've picked up from so many different instructors that they don't know which end is up.
Here's what I recommend. Treat yourself to one real workshop a year, just one. Pick a painter whose work you like. Check around to see if he's a good teacher. (Some pretty good painters aren't.) Read through his material - his book, a magazine article he wrote or his teaching philosophy on his website - and see if he's on a path you want to go down.
Then, take the workshop. Be humble, and listen. Ask lots of questions. Take notes. Listen some more. During the workshop, try to incorporate what you've learned as you paint. Finally, don't take another workshop for a year. Just go out and paint, and remember what the teacher said. If you found it valuable, use it; if not, discard it - but don't stop painting.