I’ve been both a workshop participant and an instructor. I love teaching and I’ve loved being a student of another artist. Taking a workshop is a gift to yourself. Here are a few tips on how to get the most from your workshop experience.

Remember – If you always do what you always do, you’ll always get what you always get!

Dos and Don’ts

  • Do come prepared. You’ll have the best chance of taking something valuable away from the workshop if you have the opportunity to try most of the approaches or techniques. You’ll be disappointed if you don’t have the materials.
  • Do test-drive any new equipment. You’ll be wasting valuable time for yourself and maybe the instructor if you are struggling with your set-up.
  • Don’t decide that the materials list is just a suggestion – If you have any questions or concerns, give the instructor or school an email or call. They might have suggestions about substitutions or perhaps you already have some materials that you’d like to use that are different from those on the list. Just give a call and find out whether this would be acceptable.
  • Do be on time – It’s disruptive to the instructor and the other students if you’re trying to get set up when everyone else is ready to go. If you know you’ll be late, call ahead and let the instructor or coordinator know.
  • Do the work – Try the exercises and suggestions that the instructor makes. You can do your own thing on your own. Do what the teacher says!!
  • Don’t be that person that comes with all the stuff, but doesn’t put pastel to paper.

  • Bring up any issues or concerns right away. The instructor can’t read your mind! The instructor wants you to have an excellent experience, so just communicate.
  • Don’t ask the instructor to use his/her materials. Likely they’ve traveled far and tried to keep their materials light. They’ll make it clear if they have materials they are providing or that are to share. If you absolutely must, ask another student if you can share something or purchase materials from them if they have extra.
  • Don’t get frustrated – you are being given new information that will take some time to assimilate into your own working method.
  • Don’t have expectations of making a huge leap during the workshop – More than likely the leaps will come after you’ve had a bit of time to keep the kernels you need and leave behind those you don’t.
  • Do be happy – Nothing brings a group down faster than a “Debbie Downer” and you don’t want to be that person.
  • Do introduce yourself to the other students and get to know them – They probably have lots of information and experiences to share and much to add to the workshop. Being part of the group dynamic will deepen the experience for you.
  • Don’t be the outsider – This is a quick way to say, “I’m a better artist than the rest of you” and makes it harder for you to join in later. Try to relax and realize everyone is in the same boat and most likely a little nervous at the start.

  • Don’t be too chatty either! Remember that people want to get into a “flow” which takes time and concentration.
  • Do be responsible for yourself – This means be prepared and ready. If you are driving to locations, get clear directions from either the instructor or coordinator, then be able to follow through with a GPS, if you’re not good with driving directions.
  • Do take care of yourself – Some workshops can be physically and mentally taxing. Be sure to eat, drink and don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Don’t overdo it – If you have physical limitations be sure to let the instructor and or coordinator know.
  • Don’t make others in the group responsible for you – If you are carpooling for instance, be on time to the agreed meeting location. Exchange cell phone numbers etc.
  • Do Give you instructor some idea of where you are as an artist by telling them both where you’ve come from and where you’d like to see yourself go – Bring a few samples of your work in case your instructor asks to see some or the appropriate moment presents itself.
  • Don’t haul out a whole portfolio of dozens of pieces that likely are unnecessary for him or her to see to get the gist of who you are as an artist – Keep it simple. Remember your instructor has many other people who are important too.
  • Do ask questions – Lots of questions help to energize the whole group. Write questions down that you think of if it’s not the right time to ask or you’re not near to the instructor to ask. No question is stupid and yours is probably something other folks want the answer to also.

  • Don’t repeatedly challenge answers an instructor has given – If you really need something clarified, re-frame the question or ask it again when you are one on one with the instructor. Nobody knows everything, but likely your instructor is experienced in his or her area.
  • Don’t make it clear to the class all the things that you know about pastel – It’s wonderful to share information and part of a workshop is the sharing of ideas and information, but don’t be the know- it –all either.
  • Do watch the demos – If he or she wants the demo to be optional, they’ll make it clear. Part of doing a workshop is having the chance to watch someone whose work you admire, paint. Remember, this is a rare opportunity and sort of a private peak into the working method of another artist. Watch.
  • Do come for the right reasons; to learn from another artist whose work you admire, to take a workshop with a friend, to experience something new or simply to take a painting vacation – It’s great to let your instructor know what your intentions are from the get-go.
  • Don’t come to let all the other students know what an accomplished artist you are even if you are. – Be humble, but honest about your experience
  • Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you are a beginner – Everyone has his or her starting place on the continuum that is making art. If you are too insecure about others seeing your work, then perhaps you’re not ready for a workshop, but most workshops are safe and nurturing places to put your foot in the water.
  • Do be a courteous and polite neighbor – Even in a plein air setting, you can be in close proximity to folks who you don’t know very well. Be polite and thoughtful of how you set up you gear and where. If you are in doubt, ask if you are in the way.

  • Don’t play your own music out loud or too loud in your headphones for your neighbors to hear – Everyone has different musical tastes and so may not welcome yours even if it’s classical or soft.
  • Do take some chances and explore the new techniques presented – This is your chance to stretch!
  • Don’t have the expectation of completing a number of finished pieces for an upcoming show or completing gifts – Leave this for after you’ve had the chance to incorporate what you’ve learned at the workshop into your own working method.
  • Do come with a positive attitude and an open mind.
  • Do be a supportive and courteous neighbor and an open minded thoughtful artist and you will get the most out of your workshop experience!
  • Most of all enjoy the process of being engaged in art making

With Warmest Regards,

Painting Minilessons
with Marla Baggetta

My free online minilessons in art are a fantastic way to learn more about your craft, regardless of your skill level. There are lessons available on everything from basic drawing techniques to complex painting methods, and no matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you. Whether you’re a beginner who’s just starting out, or a seasoned artist who wants to brush up on your skills, these minilessons are a great resource. These lessons are available anytime, anywhere. So whether you’re looking for a quick refresher or want to explore something new, be sure to check out some of my minilessons at Painting Lessons with Marla.

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