Preparing For a Painting Workshop



The decision to enroll in a workshop, with the investment of time and money it will require,  should be taken seriously. A little preparation can make the difference between happiness and disappointment.

In  my experience students too often take workshops based on what the teachers paintings look like.. This is a mistake. Learning to paint like a teacher is something you and the teacher will not want to pursue. It took the teacher 30 years to develop their style and philosophy of painting, you are not going to emulate their technique in a week.  Your job is to work toward finding your style based on your philosophy.  The best teachers do not teach you how they paint they help you find out how you should paint.

For a workshop to be successful for the student and teacher their purposes have to be the alined . The student who wants to learn how to paint absolute realism and the teacher is teaching artistic freedom through creative exploration will find the journey up hill all the way. No one is wrong the parties are simply at cross purposes. So, before you sign-up for a class take the time to know how and what the teacher is teaching. Believe me no teacher wants to fail you and no student wants to fail. The best teachers will meet you from wherever you are in experience and help with your journey.

I have recently asked students of answer a few questions before arriving at the first class:

What are my strengths and weaknesses in painting?

What goals do I have about technique and design?

What are the goals that will allow me to discover my unique painting methods and style?

What are my true goals in making art?

These questions must be answered honestly to be of value.  If your goals are to meet new people you must declare that.  If you believe you are filled with ideas, but you techniques are weak and do not deliver your ideas effectively you must state it. By answering these questions you help me help you. You would not go to your doctor and when asked, “how can I help you?” respond with “I don’t know I just want to get better”. Well, says the doctor “Do you have any pain?” , “yes, but I can’t tell you where it hurts, can you tell me why? Many years ago I overheard two Mainers talking.  The first said to the second, “where you goin”?  The second replied, “I don’ know”.  The first said,”how you gona know if your got theya”.

I don’t offer any of this as a criticism, but in the true hope that these suggestions will help to make your next workshop experience as meaningful and rewarding as possible.


  • Linda Young

    Feb 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm Reply

    I’ve signed up for your workshop with Pennsylvania Watercolor Society in September, 2012. This blog posting gave an insight for me to organize my goals prior to the first day of the workshop. Thanks for your suggestions.

  • Barbara in Chandler, AZ

    Jun 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm Reply

    Hi Skip, great advice. I’ve taken many workshops over the years and you’re right, don’t judge on the artist’s work. I’ve been dissapointed to learn they didn’t always teach what they currently do. I find I do really crappy at workshops but that’s ok. Later, it sinks in and I use my own concepts to “get it”. I take photos and notes to help remember what I need later.

Leave a Comment & Share

Leave a Comment

Did you like this post? Share it with your friends!