Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Choosing a Painting Workshop

Dogwood at the Art Barn 8x10, oil

As I write this, I'm at the Art Barn School of Art in Valparaiso, Indiana.  Spring has finally come to this part of the world – the woods are filled with a lacy fluttering of green, spring beauties carpet the ground, and the trillium and dogwood are just about to bloom.  It'll be fun to get out this week with the students to paint the "spring greens."

With spring here and summer nigh, many artists are thinking about taking a plein air painting workshop.  What should you look for in a workshop?

First, consider what you want.  This might be:

  • A painting holiday, such as a week in which you can relax, tour and maybe do a little sketching
  • Time for sharpening your outdoor painting skills
  • An adventure in painting a landscape that is unfamiliar to you
  • A week learning new skills or techniques
  • Networking to expand your circle of painting friends

I'm sure there are many more.  Not all of these require an instructor.  You can do a lot on your own.  But if you'd like guidance, a location scout, or instruction, you'll need a teacher.

How do you find a workshop?  Although I teach workshops myself, I take about one a year.  Here's what I look for:

  • Do I like the teacher's paintings?  Are they something I might aspire to?
  • Does he have something to share that will make me a better painter?
  • What do past students have to say about him?  Is he professional?  That is, is he knowledgeable and eager to share?  Is he encouraging yet helpfully critical?

Finally, when I read the description for the workshop, I make sure that I understand it.  I don't want my expectations to be different from what the teacher promises.  If the description isn't clear, then I write or call the teacher for clarification.  For example, for my own workshops, I have a FAQ that students should read, as it clearly lays out what to expect.  Reading this FAQ helps the student have a much more rewarding experience.  (Here is the FAQ for my Sedona plein air painting workshop, and here is the FAQ for my Campobello Island / Downeast Maine plein air painting workshop.)

1 comment:

Theresa Grillo Laird said...

This is a timely post for me. I've never gone to a workshop or had any instruction for that matter.I've been thinking about taking a workshop and have been trying to figure out what I might gain weighed against the costs. Your points are good ones.