How to Survive the
by Jenny Hamilton
Art workshops are
conducted all over the world. Most workshops last four to five days. Each
day consists four to six hours of intensive art instruction and one
on one with a professional art instructor. Some workshops are
travel-vacations with artists being given the opportunities to paint on
location while receiving expert advice and tutelage from the host instructors.
I am a monitor at Springmaid Beach Watermedia Workshops. I have
been a monitor since 1983. As a monitor I am expected to provided
assistance to whichever instructor I am assigned to and help in the
running of the class. I make coffee, get extra lights, see to small non instructional
details, hoping to give everyone more time to paint and less time worrying
about inconveniencies common to any group experience.
As an monitor I have been in an unique position to observe the students
and instructors and am passing along what I call the do's and don'ts of
art workshops. Whether you are a raw beginner to art, or very experienced
master or somewhere in-between, these tips are for the first timer to an
What should you hope to gain?
The main purpose of a workshop is to improve your skills and broaden
your art knowledge. A lot of workshops focus on art techniques,
understanding color, composition.
Not all classes teach the same thing. So read carefully about a class
and what is to be taught in that class before you sign up.
One side benefit of attending a workshop is the opportunity to meet
Check List- How to Pack
One word- Light
If you have a long way to travel and you are going to a part of the
country you have never visited before, how do you pack light? Plan on
dressing in layers. That way you should always be prepared for any weather
situation. Pack slacks and tennis shoes of course and read the brochure
for the workshop you are attending. If they have a special
final evening entertainment you may wish to pack one very nice evening
outfit. Take along a few of those coffee singles if you like early
morning coffee. Who knows when or where you will be able to get the first
cup. If you are flying, always have a
carry on with one change of cloths and your necessaries and a few back up
Art Supplies - If the class you are
taking requires an inordinate amount of supplies, consider shipping
your art supplies. Call the workshop headquarters and inquire to
whom you should address the package, then plan on it arriving at least
four days early to ensure it's there when you check in.
Getting a table -Having
enough room to work at a workshop is important. Depending on the size of
the classroom, however, getting as much room as you are used to is just
not going to happen. Unless you are a kitchen table painter you will be
painting on a space considerable smaller than you are used to. The average
workshop workspace is a 3'x6' table with a chair another 3' between you
and the next painters table.
What do you do. Try to get to class as early as you are allowed
and get a table by a wall. This will give you extra space to stack you
portfolio or paint box. If you are late use the space under your table or
if you see an unused wall space ask the artist nearest to that
space if he/she minds if you put your stuff there.
Always make sure you have the right
If you could not find something- or forgot to pack it, you are in
trouble, well kind of anyway. One item often not mentioned but always useful is a roll of
What do you do? If there is an art supply store near by you are
in luck. If not make due with what you have. Look around and ask to
borrow the needed supply. When in a group or at lunch make your
situation known. Don't do it a lot. Or, another idea is
to ask if anyone knows where you might find the needed supply.
Etiquette in the
Rule # 1
Are you a messy painter? Do you splash paint. This can be a problem for
you and for your neighbors. They may say it's alright, but it really
isn't. Tone it down. and save the splashing for home.
Rule # 2
Don't talk loudly to your
neighbor. This may seem like common sense, but it happens all the
time. With a class room of 25 or more students three or four Chatty
can ruin valuable work time. But sometimes you just can't help it.
What do you do? Motion the person you are talking to the follow
you outside for a needed break.
A classmate is very loud
and you can't work.
What do you do? If it's just a few and they are discussing
the lesson, wait a bit, they will probably hush on their own. If they are chatting
and the volume seems to be getting progressively louder, you can try
speaking directly to the group or mention it to the instructor so he/she
can ask for a little quite. If you do not feel
comfortable with this approach you might seek out the room
Rule # 3
Don't Hog the teacher - This is
something I know most don't do, but it's an easy trap to fall into for
some. You may not even know it's you that doing it. How do you tell? On an
average day with 25 students a good instructor should be able to spend at
least 10 to 15 min with each student privately. If the instructor is with
you for 25 or 30 minutes that means he/she cannot see everyone in the class.
This does not apply to a master class where participants sign up for a
personal critique. In this case just be patient, you will get a turn.
Rule # 4
Get your fair share of private
instruction. Now the shoe is on the other foot. You are being
What do you do?. If there is a monitor in the class you might
mention it the him/her. If the instructor has asked that you ask him/her
for help, do it. Even if the question is 'what do you think about this
last little bit I did'. It makes absolutely no sense to suffer in silence.
Take action. During a break, say to the instructor- 'I would like to
discuss my work with you', it works. But remember to use the technique
only when it is you that may not be getting your 10-15 min of
Rule #5 Hair
Using a hair dryer to hasten the drying of a
work seems like a smart and logical way to work. ...and, well it is. In
some cases the use of a hair dryer is recommended by the
instructor. However, in a workshop setting consider the problem of
two to ten hair dryers shrilling away, paining ear drums and hearing
What do you do? Be considerate.
Don't give up the benefit of your hair dryer, just find an outlet away
from the crowd in some cases a place just outside the door can be ideal
for these things. If there is only one outlet outside the classroom
consider gaining brownie points by offering the use of your dryer to
anyone else who might need it provided they leave it outside the
Rule # 6 -
You know what I am going to say don't
you. I shouldn't even have to add this one. But as
everyone has one now, it seems I must. ( I was in a class
recently that had an surprising number of incidents.) Either
don't bring it, or turn it off, or on silent. You paid good
money to be in the class, so did everyone else. The day is
short. If you get a call, because I am assuming it
was a family emergency, or similar, as soon as it starts
vibrating, grab it and head for the door.
Etiquette for Model Classes
Never take photos of the models whether nude or clothed without asking
the model first. Why? Some models hired by workshops are professionals.
Their image is protected under the copyright laws.
Nude model classes have special circumstances. One of which is the
comfort of the models themselves. Always expect a nude model classroom to
be warmer than you feel comfortable. Plan on wearing clothing that is layered.
Remember that the model has to remain in a still position for a period of
time and cannot put a sweater on if he/she is cold. What may seem warm to
a person with a t-shirt/ long sleeve shirt or sweater would be chilly to someone without.
Take a break when the model breaks. Don't go traipsing in an out when
models are posing. Especially if the models are nude.