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Workshop Survival Guide
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Workshop Survival Guide

Getting there
How to pack
Taking Art Supplies

Unwritten rules 
of Workshops 

How to get a good Table
The right supplies

Workshop Etiquette 
Rule #1

Rule #2
Rule #3
Rule #4
Rule #5

Rule #6

Etiquette for 
Model Classes 
Rule #1

Rule #2
Rule #3




How to Survive the Workshop Experience:
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 art workshop.

 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 other artists.

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.

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.

 Unwritten rules of Workshops  

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 supplies:

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 masking tape.

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 Classroom

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 Kathies 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 monitor . 

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 ignored.

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 private instruction. 

Rule #5  Hair Dryers

 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 aids.  

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 classroom.


Rule # 6 - Cell phones.

  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 

Rule #1

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.

Rule #2

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.

Rule #3

Take a break when the model breaks. Don't go traipsing in an out when models are posing. Especially if the models are nude.