Monday, May 25, 2015

Etiquette for Painting Workshop Students

Teaching a workshop in Springfield, Illinois.  Every student was perfect!

Who hasn't been in a painting workshop where one student talks constantly without giving the others a chance to speak?

I think we've all been there.  I've been both student and instructor, and I've experienced workshops from each end.  In my view, students will have a more rewarding experience if they remember a few simple rules of etiquette.  And I'm not talking about just first-time students.  This goes for everyone, even workshop junkies, who should know better.

I will say that most of my workshops have had very well-behaved students, and it has been a pleasure to teach every one of you!  I've made some wonderful friends.  But for a very few, and especially for first-timers, I offer the following:

  • Respect the instructor.  Assume he knows more than you about the workshop topic.  If it turns out he doesn't, then disagree politely.  If the instructor argues with you and you know you're right, let it go.  It's only a workshop, and it'll all be over soon.
  • Follow the curriculum.  You're there to learn from the instructor; going your own way is just treading over old ground.   Make an effort to at least try what the instructor is teaching; if it works for you, great, but if not, you can abandon it after the workshop.
  • Follow the rules.  Instructors will often set ground rules for the workshop, such as what time the workshop begins, distance limits for a plein air workshop, and so on.  The rules were set to maximize your experience and to make for a successful worskshop.
  • Keep your questions relevant.  Especially during painting demonstrations!  Nothing throws the instructor off-track like questions from left field.  Questions such as "Where'd you study?" are out of place when he is showing you how to mix a neutral grey.  Save that question for a coffee break.
  • Respect your fellow students.  Most workshops will have students coming from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels.  If you are more advanced, grit your teeth and bear it; you will still probably learn something.  If you are behind the others, don't be too needy; the others paid as much for attention as you did.
  • Don't grab space.  Sometimes workshops, especially studio ones, can be crowded, so respect the space of others.  Share!
  • Don't gab while others are trying to concentrate during the painting session.
  • Don't ask to put on some music. No one can ever agree on a playlist.  If you must have music during the painting session, bring earbuds.  But make sure you don't mistakenly send an "I'm not available" signal to the instructor when he makes his rounds.
  • Don't monopolize the critiques.  You are paying for the instructor's feedback.  But if he should open the floor to critiques from the group, give others equal time. 
  • Don't criticize the instructor behind his back.  Nothing hurts a workshop like a disgruntled student poisoning the atmosphere.  Either talk to the instructor privately about your problem or keep it to yourself.
Update!  Here are a few more good thoughts added by readers:
  • Don't play with your electronic devices.  And make sure you put them in "workshop" mode.  That is, turn them off or, if you must receive a call or text, set them to "vibrate".
  • Be on time.  It's distracting to show up late and cause a commotion.
  • Read the supply list.  And get what's on it!
  • Ask before photographing or recording.  Most instructors are fine with this, but it's good to ask first.
  • Don't take over the group.  You are student, not teacher.
  • Respect break time for the instructor.  Teaching is very tiring, and we instructors prize our time to recharge.  If you have questions, want a personal critique, etc., try to arrange a suitable time.
  • Don't block the view of other students during demos.  But this can be difficult in a group situation, and not everyone will get a front row seat.  Arrive for the demonstration early to pick your spot.
  • Respect the efforts of workshop volunteers.

If you have others to add, please do so in the comment field below.  I'd love to hear your stories.

I think these are all easy rules to follow.  Most times, bad manners are an accident, with the person at fault simply not paying attention.  Being aware of others is the best way to make sure everyone has a happy workshop experience.

In my next post, I'll offer some rules of etiquette for instructors.  (By the way, I also written on etiquette for plein air painters and for plein air painting festivals.  Read all my posts on etiquette here.)

No comments: