Saturday, May 10, 2008

Art Workshops in Person or Art Workshops on DVD?

Last fall I attended my first art workshop. To make a long story short, I was greatly disappointed. In fact, I was more inspired by the setting of the workshop rather than anything the teacher imparted.

What was wrong with me? Why wasn’t I enjoying the class I’d paid quite a lot for and taken almost a week’s vacation for? After some thought, I realized I had learned more about myself than any painting technique.

Lesson One: perhaps you don’t need a teacher right now. “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” goes the ancient saying. Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or maybe I already had learned enough techniques to develop my own style. Of course, I love to learn and plan to be a student for life. But for me, painting is a joy and a creative release and this class was making me depressed. I felt like the only participant who wasn’t understanding or enjoying the exercises.

Lesson Two: take a class only in your media. This was advertised as mixed media class, but it greatly favored those using watercolors. I’d decided not to buy tube watercolors and then have to learn how to handle them in only four days. A member of the Yahoo Experimental Acrylic Group kindly recommended fluid acrylics, but they didn’t lend themselves to the brushes or techniques the artist was teaching and I became frustrated with the differences.

Lesson Three: maybe I don’t have the best personality to take workshops. Watercolor Artist magazine ran a humorous, yet accurate, quiz listing different attendee types. (Read the whole article here: Click here ).

Although I’m not giving up ever attending a workshop, I’m being very selective. In the meantime, members of Experimental Acrylics recommended art DVDs at Creative Catalyst and I ordered two about abstract acrylic painting techniques and another about water media collage. I love the two I’ve watched so far since these very different artists each share intuitive painting techniques I gravitate toward.

So, what kind of workshop attendee are you? Tell me about your experiences.


  1. Oh, my, I can surely relate, Gina. I am like you. The only workshops I have ever felt comfortable in were with you and The Chemistry Set! I can learn online, and I like the DVD idea.

  2. Hmmm...I wonder if The Chemistry Set was a workshop itself?!. I hadn't thought of that before but learning to write together, in the safe, small haven of friends--what could be better?

  3. This stirs up memories. I booked for a 3 day workshop at huge expense, a 2 hours drive away from home. My husband decided to come with me and go fishing while I was at the workshop. We booked into a B & B and I was so excited to be there because the artist was highly thought of, her work was gorgeous and the blurb on the advert was so inspiring. 5 Minutes into the workshop I knew I had made a huge mistake. She was as inspiring as a used dishcloth! For some reason I endured 3 days of her reading from a pile of typed pages, her voice barely audible, bland and sleep inducing. Boy did I get it wrong!

  4. I guess we both learned the hard way, Robyn. Isn't it ironic that some of these big names that charge big bucks turn out to be such a big disappointment?