|Storm clouds over Schoodic.|
How many students? This is the first question I’d ask about any workshop. Mine are limited to 12 students, with a monitor or crew supporting me. Any more than that and the teacher will spend most of his or her time demoing, because there’s no way anyone can give personal attention to twenty or thirty students.
Tuscany or Teaneck? There are fine teachers all over America, or you can follow your dreams to Europe or beyond. The great advantage of local classes and workshops is that they’re affordable, and that’s where most of us learn our craft.
However, the travel workshop is immersive, and that brings
out something different in your work. You’ll work, live, talk, eat and think in
the culture of that place. Painting in new places is fun, and you meet new
|Waves, by Carol L. Douglas, oil on canvas|
Are you up to this? Plein air workshops are not physically grueling (for the student) but they do require some physical capacity. I accommodate mobility issues in my land-based workshops, but it would be difficult on American Eagle. Talk clearly with the instructor beforehand about special needs.
Do you like the teacher’s work? Most good teachers can
see through your individual style to the technical questions you face. However,
the things a painter stresses in his or her own work will be the things that
are stressed in instruction. If, for example, you strive to be a Luminist,
you’re unlikely to be happy in a class that stresses modern color theory.
|On shore leave from American Eagle. Photo courtesy of Ellen Trayer.|
Is the instructor a good teacher? This will set the tone for the entire workshop. He or she should be supportive and kind while still giving you practical suggestions to push you forward. There is no reason to put up with bad temper or class management. There are many fine painter/teachers out there who are also very nice, organized people. Ask the instructor what percentage of returning students he or she has. And why not ask for references?
Is the workshop properly permitted and insured? Teaching
in national and state parks requires permits and insurance, and teaching on
private property requires consent. You should ask whether the workshop
organizer has those permissions in place.
|Aboard schooner American Eagle for my annual Age of Sail workshops.|
What are you getting for your money? The per-person rate for my workshops includes room and board (or berth). Some—including my watercolor workshops—even include materials. That’s a great advantage where accommodations are scarce and/or expensive, and it has the advantage of saving lots of time. Know what your fee is covering—is it just instruction, or does it include other things?
My workshops for 2020 include two watercolor
workshops aboard the schooner American Eagle. I’ll also be reprising my
popular Sea & Sky workshop at Schoodic Institute
in August. Both revolve around the incredible landscape and water of the Maine
coast, but are very different experiences.
|Schoodic Peninsula, site of my annual Sea & Sky Workshop.|
On American Eagle, we concentrate on capturing the quickly-changing marine view in watercolor sketchbooks. At Schoodic, we’re at the largest National Park Service Research Learning Centers in the United States, with superlative landscapes right at our fingertips.
I’ll be marketing these through Facebook and Instagram throughout the Christmas season, but the important thing to remember is that if you register before January 1, you get an early-bird discount. That’s an encouragement to give a workshop to yourself or to a loved one for Christmas.