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Readers Respond: What's Been Your Experience of Art Workshops?

Responses: 12

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How do you feel about art workshops? What's the best ever experience you've had, and the worst? Any tips to share for those thinking of attending and for tutors leading sessions? Help others learn by sharing your thoughts and tips.

Art Spirit Missing

The best of the art community is the generous spirit of fellow artists. After taking a couple of workshops I realized that I wouldn't normally plan a trip anywhere with a bunch of people I don't know well. The workshops were peppered with serial work shoppers and groupies. These were people who knew the leader and were there to keep an eye on everyone else, report back anything negative and ask leading questions to prompt the leader's agenda. It was my experience that the leaders were not driving the boat which made for cliques, tardy attendees who held things up, etc. They brought their entourage and took the best accommodations.In no way was it worth the cost. Whether a leader is renowned or not will not assure a great workshop. Anyone considering such a plan: Buyer Beware! Research and know exactly what you are paying for. One exceptional artist who conducts workshops is David Dunlop. He embodies the true art spirit re: professional, generous, enthusiastic, humorous.
—VitaLee

10 day art workshop or was it art camp?

It was held at a beautiful place. Over all, it was an incredible experience, but the workshop accepted way too many people. Two over lapping workshops were held at once. On the property, I was placed in the main house. It was old, dirty and NOISY. I was given a “single” room, a small dark cell with a bunk bed. I changed to a bigger shared room. My roommate and I got eaten alive by nasty bugs. The kitchen and social area was right below the room. Even the kitchen workers were living in a “newer” modern house on the property because it was too noisy. Some participants brought 'non participating' family members with them. I was shocked to see these ‘non-participating’ family members receiving the "newer" modern lodging houses as well. They also attended art classes, and participated in critiques. I was a bit confused about that. This was unfair to participating artists that paid the full EXPENSIVE tuition price. Some even jokingly called it, “Art Camp”.
—Guest Ann

Mixed bag

I've attended several art workshops with mixed results. The last one was a week in Taos with an artist that I had been studying under. For the whole week, she acted like a drill sergeant and was extremely rude. We went from 8 am to 8 pm every day with no personal time. She dictated where we would eat much to the chagrin of the group. My painting was awful, by the end of the week almost everyone in the workshop was in tears, at some point. To make matters worse, she spent most of her focus on two women who turned out to be patrons of her work which I could not afford. I really left the work shop totally confused and disappointed about painting. All the woman talked about was art theory and herself. I changed instructors and now have a more pratical teacher. My painting improved after one lesson. I would do another workshop, but not a whole week.
—Guest bamboo

The One Who Stands Out

In the past five years, all but one (tiny) workshop had The One Who Stands Out: arrives late (even an hour late!) with a great commotion that requires the instructor to stop everything to review; doesn't bother to read the supply list, so wants to borrow everyone else's stuff; talks a lot (and loudly) about themself, their work, their art; use more than their share of the work space. Above all, they are always oblivious to any of this.
—Guest CBear

Workshops have all been wonderful

I have attended several workshops over the years and I have had a wonderful time at each of them and learned vast amounts of creative knowledge. The majority of people at the workshops were pleasant, friendly and more than willing to share information. They are a wonderful way to learn about art and people.
—Guest Nan1DayX

Workshop Experience

This depends on who is teaching the workshop. I have been to several. This particular one, the teacher, who was a well-known watercolorist, treated everyone as if they were beginners. The first day was a complete waste of time. Too much time was spent on the teacher's demos, not enough on painting. Also, too many corny jokes from the teacher. Most of the workshop was glorifying the teacher's work, and not enough on actually helping or working with the students (participants). While this teacher is a great painter, I would not take another workshop with this one again. A good artist does not always make a good workshop leader.
—Guest Flora

Some bits of more than one

I so enjoyed to read this article! I think it was a lively picture of what can happen in a class like this. Although I took classes decades ago, I know the magic and inspiring effect of seeing others do things you never thought you could do. An hour in the presence of a charismatic teacher can get you further than a year of online or book studies. And with a slight feeling of shame, I found some of my own hidden faults characterized in your report. Very helpful!
—Guest Eva

Disappointment

I was delighted to be able to paint under one of my favorite artists. A heavy person, who sat in a large overstuffed chair, would paint beautifully as we gathered around her each day. She sold each painting to one of us at the end of each session. Other than that, there was little if any walking around the room and giving suggestions or help. The worst part was that she had her "groupies" sitting near her and for the most part we had to listen to them talk about their infirmities, family and friends. There was a critique on last day that was not very helpful to any of us. My impression was that this woman shouldn't be doing workshops in this way. Many were sad, some just felt thrilled to be in her presence. My pet peeve in any workshop is the chit chat that is annoying to anyone trying to concentrate on their work. I had talked a fellow artist to attend with me who was very annoyed as well. This was a very pricey workshop, and we feel cheated of our time and our money!!
—Guest Lee Jirka

I Wasn't in the Clique

The last one I attended there were three women sat opposite me who worked together or knew each other. They were very chatty, but when I joined in they just ignored me. After saying that there was also a woman a the side of me that never shut up. Then there was the man who every week told us he was a widow. The woman that liked the attention of the men. So I suppose we expect that there will be variety. But as long as they are friendly and encouraging we can put up with the rest.
—Pioneergirl1

Admired Artist/Tutor

I really admired the work of the late John Blockley. I tried many time to get a place on one of his courses but even within a few days of his next course being announced, all places had been taken. He died a few years ago so if anyone knows of another artist/tutor who paints in his style and who uses his watercolour techniques please give me details. The worst (but not too bad) art course experience was at a David Bellamy course which was held at an outdoor center in Wales. The very best was at Higham Hall - fair tuition, great food plus evening access to the surrounding area (and pubs). During a visit to the annual Lake Artists Exhibition in Grasmere (Lake District) village hall, I was treated to an impromptu demo of painting water drops by the late Walter Parker. He had on display a painting which he had named 'Not a Day For The Fells' which showed the view through a window with raindrops running down to a rainy outdoors scene.
—Derekgeorge

High Expectations Low Yield

I had located and followed a more fauve plain air painter and though the workshop required traveling and much planning, I wanted so badly to be with other painters who share my style. It may have been the weather (rain, fog ) and too many beginners with other styles that did not make the experience I was hoping for.
—Guest surfdane

jj@gmail.com

I was so nervous the first time I went but by the end of the weekend I didn't want it to be finished! But definitely go with someone cause you love their paintings!!
—Guest Jamie

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