This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
So you’ve always wanted to learn how to oil paint. Or you’ve dabbled in watercolors for years and there’s a two-day workshop coming to town.
Before you put down your money and buy supplies, make sure that this is the right workshop for you, and that you will get the most out of it that you can.
Here are five questions to ask either yourself, or the workshop instructor, before proceeding:
1) Are there pre-requisites for this class? The terms Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced are subjective, and they mean different things to different people. Find out if there are any specific skills – like the ability to fundamentally draw – that you need to have mastered or possess a basic background in. If there are skills that the instructor expects and you don’t have them, both you and the instructor will be dissatisfied.
2) Do you like the instructor’s painting style? While the goal isn’t to learn how to paint just like the instructor, if he or she paints in a manner that is pleasing to you, you will pick up more from the lecture, demonstration, and hands on instruction. If you’re an abstract painter and the instructor is representational, you are approaching the medium from two wildly divergent camps.
3) Can you use materials you have on hand, or do you need to buy everything on the instructor’s list? Some workshops are built around a particular technique of the instructor’s that is dependent upon a certain brand and colors of paint, or specific brush styles and sizes, and if you do not have these, then you will miss out on crucial elements of the teaching. Conversely, other instructors less concerned about everyone having the exact same supplies, and substitution is permissible.
4) Do you like the instructor’s teaching style? Is the class going to be largely lecture format, in an auditorium with a significant number of students and little or no personal interaction with the instructor, or is it smaller, more intimate, with more one on one time, or something in between? If you do not learn well in a particular situation, then either do not put yourself in it, or recognize that the situation is out of your comfort zone and you will need to approach it with a different attitude.
5) Will you be able to attend the entire class, for the full duration each day and for the number of days that it runs? It is unreasonable to expect the instructor to give you a discount for time missed, or to take time outside of class to bring you up to speed. If this workshop is something that you really want to take, then make it a priority and be there for the full thing.
Workshops can be exhilarating, fun experiences – and the likelihood of that increases when you do your homework before the experience begins.