Wednesday, September 11, 2019

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.  I know it's a lot of "don'ts," but in your mind, you can easily translate that to a lot of "dos."
  • Be on time.  It's distracting to show up late and cause a commotion.
  • Bring what's on the supply list.  If I am teaching a wet underpainting technique in pastel and ask you to bring a certain kind of paper, bring it.  If you don't, you won't be able to practice the technique.
  • 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 workshop.
  • 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. Stay on-topic.
  • 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. 
  • Here are some corollaries to this last rule.  Don't block the view of another student during a demo.  Don't grab space.  Sometimes workshops, especially studio ones, can be crowded, so respect the space of others.  Share!  Also, don't gab while others are trying to concentrate during the painting session.  Don't play with your electronic devices.  Turn them off or, if you must receive a call or text, set them to "vibrate".  Go outside the classroom if you need to check your email or stock prices.  And finally, if in the studio, 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.  Everyone, like you, is paying paying for the instructor's feedback, not yours.  Ask questions that are relevant to the topic at hand.
  • Don't critique other student's work during critique sessions unless the instructor has invited you to do so.  Conflicting or additional comments may confuse the student whose work is being critiqued.  (This happens a lot, because those offering critiques think they are being helpful; unfortunately, they aren't.)
  • Ask before photographing or recording.  Most instructors are fine with this, but it's good to ask first.
  • Respect break time for the instructor.  Teaching is very tiring, and we instructors prize our time to recharge.  If you have more questions that the class period permits, try to arrange a suitable time. 
  • Don't ask for a critique on work you didn't do during the workshop, unless the instructor has asked you specifically to do that.  "I brought a dozen paintings I did this past year--can you take a look at them and tell me what you think?"  The instructor can't take class time out to do this, and chances are, cutting into the instructor's personal time outside of class...well, read the above tip about respecting break time.
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.