I have been running watercolour workshops now for about 18 months and have to say I love every minute especially when I see a light bulb moment when someone realises they have just learned something which can help them significantly with their painting... that is a great feeling.
I teach workshops usually in 2 ways and try to vary the content as much as I can especially with the group I run where I cover different topics each session. I either share ways of doing things for example, last session we studied Winter trees where I demonstrated different ways of painting them or we might cover things like colour mixing, tone, negative painting, techniques so in essence we are looking at a particular area of painting and the group then get a chance to have a go themselves. Alternatively I will do a step by step painting where I share the way I might approach something from start to finish and again the group get a chance to have a go stage by stage.
However, though I find the latter sessions are very popular and often get good results I do have reservations about doing them. I used to love (in fact still do) doing step by step sessions run by other artists... especially Joanne but I do recognise that during those sessions I am painting more as that artist and using their interpretation of something... something they have worked out how to do and maybe sweated and toiled over in an effort to get it right and deliverable to a class full of keen, eager students. And I am one of those students, always wanting to improve and learn more....and thankfully there are people in the North West of England art world who like my painting enough to want to come to my workshops and learn a bit about how I paint. So what's wrong with that?
Well during my sessions I obviously try to show people ways of doing things and share as many tips and hints as I can and with a step by step, I am sharing my way of doing a painting from start to finish but what I always want people to understand is that this is my way but not the only way!! I have often done quite a bit of practice working out how I might go about something, working out how best to deliver, what I'm going to say and how I'm going to explain things. That makes it all sounds a bit prescriptive and I don't think my workshops come across like that but am just trying to explain what goes into a session before I present it to a group. What that means is that I have done a lot of the thinking for them, I have worked out the issues as I see them and I am presenting a finished product for them to share. As I run a regular group I am aware that I don't want them to paint as copies of me, I want them to paint as them and try to incorporate the techniques and skills I share into their own work in their own way.
The next session we do in January will be a step by step and I have already started working on the piece, a lovely Winter scene with some Winter trees, lots of snow and a lovely stone building by the roadside. This first go has helped me understand some of the issues... what to include and what not and has helped me create a suitable palette. However I will be doing at least one, probably 2 more examples with maybe different (but still wintery) palettes and during the workshop we will talk about colours and what colours may be fitting for a scene like this and then I will encourage them to try and find their own palettes and the more inventive they are the better!!. We will have a chat about how to simplify, a reminder about the trees we did previously, we will talk about counterchange and what opportunities we have to capitalise on that but I will be always trying to impress upon them that this is their painting and there are no rights or wrongs. What I am hoping to teach them over the next weeks and months are the skills and techniques to start interpreting things for themselves to give them the tools to work independently and maybe give them the motivation to practice a bit more by showing them that it is all achievable if they are prepared to put in the hours!!
Having said all this I am not about to stop doing step by steps... I used to be so delighted with my efforts if they had turned out and they used to give me so much encouragement and make me feel really optimistic about my progress and I do know that some of the students in my workshops have gone on to exhibit some of the work they have done with me and have been absolutely delighted with what they have produced......I totally understand why they feel like that and so I feel paint alongs do have their place as long as I always explain that it is my way and they don't have to do it like that. I do visit some groups very regularly and they are always really positive and pleased to see me and I hope with the way I teach they are getting more confident in themselves to have a go and not be afraid to try something different from how I am doing it, which might mean they use a different palette, they might choose to do a slightly different composition or even a different image on the same theme... I love to see people progress and hope that in the sessions of 2014 I will see lots more light bulbs and I can continue to share things which will make a difference to people and their painting!!
Wishing you all the very best for Christmas and the New Year....