Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Workshop Pressures

When people sign up for a workshop, they are very excited and hope to learn something. But sometimes they put unrealistic pressures on themselves by expecting to produce something worthy of the experience.

I teach workshops and see all kinds of responses to the event. Some students come with questions about materials, or paint preferences. Others take extensive notes while others think they will remember what at the time seems obvious. And many think that once they have watched the instructor paint what seems to be an effortless painting that, having seen how it is done, they should be able to reproduce the same result. (Who ever went to a piano concert at Carnegie Hall and thought just because they had seen a masterful performance that would enable them to play as well?)

The first two week workshop I ever took, I did what most students do: I watched the paper and the painting developing there. I asked questions about paint combinations. And then was surprised that I couldn't get the same results as the instructor.

The second summer, instead of watching the painting, I mostly watched the palette and the water container. I learned more by watching the amount of water that was needed and when it was applied; how much paint and water it required to mix a middle value wash; and saw that there was no magic color because palette grays were being incorporated in each consecutive mixture.

So my advice for workshop participants is:
l. Watch where the brush goes before it hits the paper.
2. Observe the brushwork.

3. Hit the middle values the first time.

4. Don't just listen. Take notes. Writing things down will solidify concepts and reinforce your concentration.

It's your money, but if you want the most from a workshop, be an intense observer, not just a casual looker. And take the pressure off....You're learning about the process, not producing that award winner.

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