Paint Schoodic

Join us in Acadia National Park in August. Click here for more information.

Friday, March 2, 2018

How to get the most out of a workshop or class

Students make a good workshop great. Here’s how you can help.
Keuka Lake, by Carol L. Douglas. Yes, folks, there's a lot of green out there, not that I'll encourage using it out of a tube.
Study the supply list.

Note that I didn’t say, “run right out and buy everything on it.” Every teacher has a reason for asking for those materials. In my case, it’s that I teach a system of paired primaries. You can’t paint that way without the right starting pigments. Another teacher might have beautiful mark-making. If you don’t buy the brushes he suggests, how are you going to understand his technique?

A tube of cadmium green that I once bought for a workshop and never opened still rankles. I never want to do that to one of my students. When you study with me, I want you to read my supply lists (here for watercolor,acrylics and oils). If something confuses you, or you think you already have a similar item, email me.

Bring the right clothes.
Bring the right clothes.

Its in the 70s in Mobile, Alabama, where I expect to be painting next week. If I take my long underwear, I’ll be pretty uncomfortable. Likewise, if you come north without a hoodie, you will be chilled in the evenings.

I have a packing list for the northeast in the summer. If you’re going on the Age of Sail, Shary will send you a different list, meant for a boat. Follow them, especially in the matter of insect repellent.

Know what you’re getting into.

“How can you stand this? It’s all so green!” an urban painter once said to me after a week in the Adirondacks.

There are no Starbucks in Acadia National Park or on the clear, still waters of Penobscot Bay, so if you’re dependent on your latte macchiato, you may find it uncomfortable at first. (There’s always coffee; I don’t function without it.) I find the seals, dolphins and eagles ample compensation; others may not.

There are no latte macchiatos on Penobscot Bay, but there are consolations.
Be prepared to get down and dirty.

I’m not talking about the outdoors here, I’m talking about change and growth. I am highly competitive myself, so it’s difficult for me to feel like I’m struggling. However, it’s in challenging ourselves that we make progress. Use your teacher’s method while you’re at the workshop, even if you feel like you’ve stepped back ten years in your development. That’s a temporary problem.

You can disregard what you learn when you go home, or incorporate only small pieces into your technique, but you traveled to be challenged, and you can’t do that if you cling to your own solutions.

Listen and take notes.
Connect with your classmates

I know painters from all over the US. I met most of them in plein air events. There’s power in those relationships. Exchange email addresses. Keep in contact. Follow them on Instagram or Twitter.

Take good notes

Listen for new ideas, write down concepts, and above all, ask questions. If your teacher can’t stop and answer them mid-stream, save them for after the demo.

I'm teaching four plein air workshops in the coming year. Message me here for more information, or visit my website.


CWood-Wilson said...

Not a comment about this post (it makes perfect sense) but I just want to comment that I hope you have weathered winter storm Riley safely and without severe damage. (I truly enjoy reading your blog and my morning would be dull without it should anything happen to interrupt it!)

Stay safe Carol.

Carol Douglas said...

We're high and dry. Nothing much more where I am than a wind storm.

Thank you! Off to Alabama tomorrow, so we'll take on a road tone.

Rebecca Gorrell said...

Having been to one whole workshop in my life, I'd add: PAINT LOTS BEFOREHAND. If you're out of practice, you will waste a bunch of valuable time getting back in your swing. AND, if possible, plan to have time to "digest" the workshop before diving back into daily life afterwards. Review notes, add to them, paint a bit. Otherwise, the effects of the workshop can vaporize like a dream in the onslaught of daily details.

Carol Douglas said...

Excellent suggestions!