How to Get the Most Out of Your Next Painting Workshop

Choosing the Art Workshop that’s Right for You

Plein Air Painting in Kevin McCain's painting workshop

When I was a student in college, I took two very different workshops. Both were taught by established, talented artists and I learned something from both instructors. One of the workshops, however, stood out from the other. The artist conducting this workshop was not only a professional painter but an amazing teacher. He connected with us as students; it wasn’t just about him. He lectured, of course, but more importantly he gave personalized instruction, along with plenty of demonstrations about the techniques or painting approaches we were studying. I learned then, not all workshops are created equal.The right workshop can give a huge boost to an artist’s skill level. Now after twenty years as a painter and instructor, I know what to look for in a workshop. Soon you will too.

Do some research on the artist teaching the workshop. Find out how they run a workshop. While it can be great to watch a master painter create a painting, you don’t learn as much unless you’re painting yourself and getting feedback from a more experienced artist. Try to find artists who interact with their students as well as demonstrate techniques. You will learn a lot in those workshops.

Know what you want out of a painting workshop. If you want to go for a few hours and copy the painting and color mixes of an instructor, with everyone else in the class doing the same thing, then don’t get into a workshop where you paint on you own from life or photos. That would be very discouraging for you as an artist. Likewise, if you want to learn techniques you can apply in your own work in the future, a paint-by-numbers workshop will only frustrate you. If you want to learn to paint portraits, find a class that teaches it. If you want to paint from long poses don’t enroll in a workshop comprised mostly of gesture painting. You get the idea. Know what you want to learn, whether it be composition, color theory, landscape painting, or color mixing, then find a workshop geared toward your goals.

Be willing to get out of your painting comfort zone. Take a workshop about a style or technique you’ve wanted to learn. While you are in the workshop, try hard to follow the instructor’s guidelines on painting, using his particular approach. Once the workshop is over, see what you might incorporate into your established way of painting. It’s amazing how much you can learn this way. It will open new doors to your way of thinking and strengthen your ability to create a successful painting.
Read the fine print. This seems like a no brainer but I remember spending my last dollar on a workshop only to discover I needed to purchase another $200.00 to $300.00 in materials. Being the broke college student I was, I had to make do with what I had. As a result, I couldn’t recreate many of the techniques in the class because I didn’t have the right supplies.

Workshops are a fantastic way to challenge yourself artistically, improve your abilities, and push your artwork to greater heights. Participate in a workshop that’s right for you and it will help you become the artist you want to be.

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