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Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Often Should You Take an Art Workshop

'Friday Afternoon Bouquet'          8x10         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
Is there such a thing as taking too many art workshops? 
 I have had this discussion often with my artists friends. And I have given it much thought especially this year as I am scheduled to attend 3 workshops plus the IAPS convention. That is a lot of workshops in one year and more than I usually take but they just fit so nicely into my travel plans that I couldn't resist.  But I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing.  It all depends on your mindset and where you are in your art journey.

New to painting or to a medium?  Workshops can jumpstart your knowledge base and introduce you to new techniques. Here are some thoughts on how to make them helpful:

  • Choose workshops taught by artists whose work you admire. If you don't ever want to paint in the instructors style it is counter productive to learn the style when you are in the early stages of learning how to paint. 
  • Try to limit the number of workshops you take in a year to one or two. At the very least be sure to leave time in between them so you have a chance to digest the information and put it into practice. If you take too many too soon you risk getting confused. Time in between to just paint on your own helps you gain confidence.
  • Don't hesitate about taking a workshop because you don't feel ready or 'good enough' . I believe that no matter what your level is you can always learn something that you are ready for.....even if it is basic advice and information on things like supplies. AND the bonus is that as you paint more and grow in skill and knowledge you will look back and some of the things you learned will finally make sense.
My Heilman Box....Souvenir of an Early Workshop
Allow me to share a personal story.  Seven years ago I began painting with pastels. I had been painting for about 5 months when I found out that Albert Handell would be teaching a 5 day workshop in my area. I admired his work. I had studied his book. But was I ready to be in a workshop with 20 other much more experienced artists? Would I be overwhelmed and out of my league? Would it be too advanced?  

I am not easily intimidated though so I went to the workshop. And yes, it was too advanced and I was surrounded by artists with more experience than I had. But I wasn't overwhelmed because I took in only what I was ready to learn at the time. A lot of what Albert talked about was way over my head but I dutifully took notes and pictures and paid attention.  And over the last 7 years bits and pieces of his teaching and advice have come back and given me AHA moments.....when I was ready for them. 

I find now that with 100's of paintings  under my belt and more study and reading and other workshops I am now able to *get* what he was talking about. In fact even this week I had another AHA moment and something from that workshop now makes better sense.  But at the time I only processed what I needed then....like how to organize my pastels (I bought my Heilman box at the workshop and it was one of the best investments I have made) I learned what colors I needed (though I didn't understand why at the time) I met artists who have now become good friends. All good things!

Tomorrow I will share my thoughts on experienced artists and workshops. 

Links of interest:


Julie Ford Oliver said...

Great painting. The colors are fabulous!
Great post. Art is lifelong learning so I agree with everything you wrote. I do think that sometimes when the class is too large, (over 18 and especially over 20) it hampers growth. I always find out how many will be taking the class, first.

Karen said...

Thanks Julie. Great point about class size. I agree completely!