12 Secrets to Having a Great Painting Workshop Experience

By J.R. Baldini in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Thinking about attending a painting workshop, but don’t know where to begin? Here are 12 things you can do (before, during and after the workshop) that will help ensure a great workshop experience:

1. Pick a location that appeals to you.

Is there someplace you’ve always wanted to go to? Then look for a painting workshop there first. There’s no better way to travel than spending time doing something you love in the company of other artists.

2. Look for a well-organized workshop.

Will your accommodation and transportation be included and scheduled for you, or will you spend precious painting time driving around looking for places to paint? Or worse yet, looking for the class?

Along the same lines, is the class limit reasonable, or will you be vying for attention with 20+ other participants? You may also want to find out if the painting schedule is flexible enough to allow for non-planned activities, like sight-seeing or shopping.

3. Look at the work of the instructor.

Does the work represent a direction you would like to go in? Is it at least something new and exciting to give your work a boost? If not, you may want to look elsewhere.

4. Come to the workshop with an open mind.

A workshop is a place to try new techniques and ideas. If you approach the workshop by doing what you’ve always done, the way you’ve always done it, you defeat the purpose of the new experience, saturated in creativity.

A workshop is not a place to show off your skills, but to learn new ones.

5. Keep a journal.

I ask my students to begin a journal 3-4 days before the workshop and continue journaling for at least that long after they get back home.

The journal should be something you keep for yourself—don’t use it as a textbook; be personal. This will help you relive your workshop experience later on, when you need inspiration or a reminder of what you learned.

6. Bring a camera (and take photos).

Record your travel, your painting locations and any demos your instructor may do. Sometimes it’s the little things that you miss that make a difference, and photographs don’t miss much.

7. Ask questions.

There’s no such thing as a silly question at a workshop. No questions. . . no answers. The person next to you may have the same question too, so it’s always worth asking.

8. Avoid the cookie cutter syndrome.

If your instructor requires that you use (for example) the exact color palette that he or she does, or paint the exact same way, then you’re probably not getting the type of personal, tailored instruction that you need. You’re getting cookie cutter instructions.

An instructor should meet you ”where you are” in terms of your painting knowledge. This is not to say a beginner or someone looking for guidance in buying supplies should not take instructor’s suggestions—but you’ve all seen classes of ‘cookie cutter’ students where you can pick out the instructor by looking at the work the class has done, and that’s what you want to avoid.

9. Network—and be a sponge.

Rarely will you have the opportunity to be in a creatively charged atmosphere where you can eat, sleep and breathe painting. Take the time to learn from AND get to know your fellow students. . . some of the most enduring friendships begin in a workshop.

10. Always buy professional art supplies.

Don’t waste your time struggling with inferior paints and supports. It’s better to buy a few good artist-grade materials rather than an entire store full of cheap supplies.

11. Give yourself time to catch on.

If you’ve never attended a painting workshop before, it may be a little overwhelming. Cut yourself some slack when things don’t go perfectly right from the start.

And finally. . .

12. Don’t necessarily expect finished paintings.

If your goal is to come away with finished paintings, then you’re going to miss out on a lot of other stuff. It’s always tempting, of course, but you’ll learn much more if you focus on accomplishing individual techniques instead.

To learn more about the types of painting workshops available, and what you can expect from a workshop experience, please visit artworkshops.homestead.com.


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