Why to workshop

Landscape workshop WIP
Landscape workshop WIP

Every time I sign up for a painting workshop I go through a phase of being excited about learning new aspects of watercolour (generally). On the day, the tutor seems to create magical images on the paper with just a few sweeps of the brush and it all looks so easy – until I pick up my brush to start working on the assigned image. That’s when I reach the next phase of emotion – frustration with the fact that the work on my page isn’t capturing the scene that way it should.  I have the urge to hide my somewhat sad efforts under my pile of paper.

Then I reach the third stage – the one where other artists in the workshop are also bemoaning the shortcomings of their efforts. And I remember why we’re all here.  We’re here to learn. It’s all about developing as an artist. Every artist works slightly differently. They use different paints, different brushes and different papers. Over the years, they have developed techniques that work for them – their own style of working. And therein lies the value of workshops.

Workshops often feel really uncomfortable because we’re in a group, painting a scene we might not have chosen, in a style that is new to us, trying to master brushstrokes and elements of composition we’ve not done before, with a limited amount of time. But that’s all part of stretching ourselves – and that’s often where the fun lies in painting.

In an ideal world, we’d all have a couple of days to try, and try again. Repetition is the key to mastery.  That’s not always possible. So we bring home practice pieces and a work-in-progress to remind us. Here’s my effort from today’s Society of East Anglian Watercolourists landscape workshop with Roger Jones.

Roger gave us an enormous amount of information during the day. His demonstrations were inspiring and it was great to have the time to ask him questions about the way he works.  The paper he gave us all to use (Bockingford 200lb or Arches 200lb) was lovely to work on. It’s thicker than the paper I’m used to and I’ll definitely scale up to a heavier paper when I buy my next batch.

My thoughts on my work for the day: I think I’ll paint this again to practice the techniques we learned. This is an unfinished piece which doesn’t have any of the finishing touches I would normally put into a painting.  But its a great reminder of the day’s lessons.

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10 thoughts on “Why to workshop

  1. I think this is a beautiful painting. But you’re right – the feeling of being out of sorts in a workshop from trying new things and not having it work out is hard to get past to the learning!

  2. My experience doing workshops is that one can never paint along in the same style or use the same technique as the person giving the class, because we all have different approaches that only work for us. What I have learned is to adapt a technique I may have learned from another artist to suit my style of painting. That makes us all individuals too. I do enjoy workshops though, and find them inspiring.

  3. I have also experienced those feelings …..so excited to start with then reality kicks in and I wonder just how much out of my depth I am, and then maybe after it has finished I reflect on what I have learned and started to put some of it into practice and only then can I really gauge just how successful it was and how much I have learned and hopefully grown!!

  4. Glad to read it’s not just me then. 😉 I’m doing a more detailed one soon so I will feel even more uncomfortable than normal perhaps. I’m not too fussed about whether my piece looks like the artists’s or not. It’s the technique that is important. The hard bit is taking it all onboard without it influencing too much and losing my individuality. Not an easy task I’m finding.

  5. Vandy, I exhibited with Roger when we were both teaching at Marlborough Summer School last year. I love his oil work too. Just plug on through the angst, absorb what you can from the workshop and put it into practise at home.

    1. I would love to do one of Roger’s oils workshops, Maggie. He’s an excellent teacher. He mentioned the Marlborough Summer School – looks great. Are you teaching there again this year?

  6. No, sad to say not this year as I have other commitments….it was sure nice to have been asked back again, though (lol). It’s a hectic three weeks, a lot of hard work tutoring, but very rewarding.

  7. Vandy – I have always wanted to travel and take a workshop…great insight into learning new ways and new techniques. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Thank you all for your comments. I’m looking forward to being able to practice the lessons from the latest workshop when I get some studio time on the weekend. Expect more landscapes some time in the future.

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