Today's Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist's Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes "The Artist's Life" blog on American Artists' Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Recently, I've attended a number of artist workshops as a writer or else as a participant. Sometimes I'm the instructor and see the teaching process from that perspective. I'm writing this post because there are always one or two artists in any workshop group who say and do things that irritate the teacher and other students, but they have no idea that their actions may be causing problems for others.
I have been guilty of almost everything I'm about to suggest that artists avoid. When I began teaching workshops and observed these things from an instructor's perspective, I realized just how obnoxious I was being as a former student. The worst thing I remember doing: I actually suggested that the workshop instructor remove a shrub from his painting demonstration. I thought I sounded so intelligent, but in reality I was acting like a bothersome fool, and not giving the workshop instructor the credit and respect he deserved.
When artists pay big money to attend the workshop of a masterful painter, the last thing they want is for any of the other students to spout off what they know, challenge the teacher, or even give the other students unsolicited critiques or instruction. When artists attend group events, workshops or another artist's gallery opening, it's best to leave egos at the door.
Here's a list of behaviors that you might want to eliminate or avoid next time you attend a workshop.
1. It's OK to ask legitimate questions
during teacher demonstrations or lectures, but avoid making statements just to show the rest of the group how much you know. Sure, I know it's fun to impress everyone, but if it's done too often, it usually just irritates the other students. They came to learn from the person they're paying. There's a good chance that the teacher might disagree with what you are about to say, and then that teacher has to take the time to explain why he or she disagrees.
2. Avoid comparing the current teacher's methods to other workshop instructors'.
Artists develop their own approach and method over time, and while some will tell you that their way is "the only way", that just isn't true. It's best to listen and follow the current instructors advice and procedures for the course of the workshop, and then take or leave whatever makes sense for your work.
3. Never give advice or critique to the other students without their expressed permission.
Sure, you might be able to help that person, but giving unsolicited advice makes you appear like you think you know more than your peers. Even if you do know more than the other students, it's best to let them learn on their own and let the instructor be the sole instructor.
Self-proclaimed assistants often give advice that is contrary with what the instructor would teach.
As a side note, because I'm a Putney Painter - and therefore somewhat of a celebrity in Putney, VT, the occasion has come up where a student in another teacher's workshop would ask me for a critique. I did it once, but now I say that it's not right for me to take that position in another teacher's workshop - unless the instructor has explicitly asked me to help the other students.. which in one case recently the instructor asked me to assist him.
4. Don't speak too often.
A couple of times when I was teaching, one student would comment - or add information to every statement I made. Even though it might have been useful information, it slowed me down and got my mind off track. No one wants to hear from any one student very often.
It ends up being disruptive to the educational flow.
5. Avoid arguing with the teacher.
Even if you learned something an entirely different way, or if you think your instructor is mistaken, it's best to stay quiet while in the group. If you must correct the teacher, do it later - one on one.
Essentially, you're there to listen, learn and make art... not to impress anyone
. Sure if you're a great painter, you'll impress the others while painting, but remember that everyone starts out as a beginner- and it's in good taste to respect each participant's level of understanding. If you get a compliment, you only need say "Thank you very much". You don't need to follow it with a dissertation of everything you know that got you there.
Give honor to the instructor at all times. Ask pertinent questions that you really want and need answers to. Take whatever is useful to your work, and if you learn just one thing that you didn't know before you attended, then it is worth the price of admission.