Gallery: Art Connections Gallery 123 N. Main Street on the Square in La Grange, Texas.
979-206-2222 http://www.artconnectionsgallery.com/

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Monday, September 30, 2013

How I Choose a Workshop, Part One of my Review of Tom Christopher's Workshop

Lou (Bag Blog w/link to her post) and I attended a great workshop with Tom Christopher  at ESSA,  Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in mid September.  Tom is a well informed teacher and had some interesting techniques and ideas to share.  I hope to share some of the information with you by starting with:

Part One:
“How I Choose a Workshop”

Artists should always have a goal or reason for going to a workshop so a bit of research is in order.  Several goals might be:

  • To learn new techniques
  • To refresh your skills
  • To travel
  • To meet and socialize with other artists with similar interests
  • To be inspired
My reason was all of the above.  The most important for me this time was to be inspired and start painting regularly again. Learning new techniques is very important as well.  At a workshop you should always try what the instructor is doing, even if you don’t care to implement all of it in your work.  Use what you like to improve your work.  You shoud try the new ideas and discard what doesn’t work for you.  I see artists that go to a workshop and then do their own thing.  Why go to a workshop?  Paint at home or with a group if you need company!

When you look for a workshop, you should consider:

  1. Instructor
  2. Medium
  3. Style and technique of the artist
  4. Cost
  5. Location
  6. Lodging
  7. Duration
1.  Instructor - not all instructors are equal.  Some artists are such good artists but do not have the ability to share with other artists.  They know what to do, but do not have the personality or knowledge of how to present their ideas. 
I knew about Tom from wetcanvas.com and following his blog for several years.  He is very sharing and knowledgeable on wetcanvas.com and had many comments about his work and workshops. 
2.  Medium - I work mainly in pastels so I wanted to go to a comfortable workshop where I would not be learning a new medium as well as technique.  The general painting information will apply to any medium and some of the techniques of pastels applies to oil painting. 
3. Style and technique of the artist - It wouldn’t make sense for me to take an abstract painting class as I am not interested.  Tom works in an impressionistic style which is looser (less detail) than I use.  I wanted to try his style. I don’t plan on working with very little detail, but I did learn that I should leave more to the imagination of the viewer. It is easier for me to paint desert scenes so I wanted to learn more about working with trees which Tom does very well. 
4.  Cost - The cost of this workshop was very reasonable.  Sometimes cost prevents us from attending, so another reason to research the teacher.  You want to get the most you can for your dollars. 
5.  Location - The location probably depends on cost and type of workshop.  If I were attending a plein air (working outside) workshop, I would not pick a city.  I like landscape painting.  You remember I went to a plein air workshop in Montana last year to paint mountains and trees.  This workshop was indoors so the location was picked more for convenience.  When I chose Arkansas, I thought we would be on our way back from Kentucky and Canada and save the cost of driving there and back.  Well, we came home first.  That added a bit to the cost, but we saved by not staying away from home so long in Canada.  It balanced out. 
6.  Lodging - a few workshops include lodging.  Travel workshops out of the USA for example.  The plein air workshop in Montana was held at a resort, so the lodging and meals were included.  If no lodging is included you might look for an extended stay type motel/hotel, Bed and Breakfast, or vacation rental.  We chose a vacation rental so we could have a deck, kitchen and a place to relax.  It was actually cost less than a hotel.  A good place to start searching for vacation rental is HomeAway.com or Vacation Rentals by Owner (vrbo.com).  Also just looking for “vacation rentals” on Google will sometimes give you Chamber of Commerce information.  Silver City, New Mexico, for example, has many rentals on the Chamber page. 
7.  Duration - I have taken 1 to 7 day workshops.  I think that 3 day workshops seem to be the best for me.  I work hard, learn and am not too tired.  5 day workshops can be tough especially if you are doing plein air work and need to walk and carry your equipment.  Think about convenience and your comfort level.  
In Arkansas we worked inside at ESSA (Eureka Springs School of the Arts) http://essa-art.org/ We were able to set up our easels and/or their easels and leave our equipment in the rooms overnight.  That is so much easier than packing up at the end of every day.  Nice.  They have a huge variety of workshops there at reasonable cost.  It is a beautiful area, too.  
To get the most out of a workshop you need to practice, practice, practice.

My son, David, says we always find places to stay out in the boondocks.  It is your choice and I recommend  you go for your comfort level.  I always learn more and do better paintings when I am comfortable, relaxed and with people that are there to learn, too.  For the Montana workshop with Wanda Mumm and this workshop with Tom Christopher, Gene was able to go with me and that is a big plus for us.  We usually incorporate art into our vacation time.

You might be able to find a workshop nearby and attend from home.  Bastrop is having classes now at the Bastrop Fine Arts Guild with some very good instructors, including Enid Wood, pastelist, http://enidwood.com/.

Tomorrow, I will continue with more details about the Tom Christopher workshop.  

A few of the artists I have taken workshops with besides Tom Christopher and Wanda Mumm:

Bob Rohm  http://bobrohm.com/  oils and pastels - excellent instructor for plein air and landscapes
Desmond O'Hagan, http://www.desmondohagan.com/  oils and pastels.  Desmond is more abstract in his work, so I hesitated to take his workshop.  I am so glad I did, he is a great teacher and I love the way he works in pastels.  I have not seen his oil paintings in person.
Liz Haywood-Sullivan http://www.haywood-sullivan.com/   landscapes, pastels - very energetic, more laid back in teaching style.
Kathleen Cook http://www.kathleencook.com/  pastels, still life - very good and precise teacher and style.
Richard McKinley  http://mckinleystudio.com/  pastels and oils - I have only seen demos by Richard.  He does a blog for the Pastel Journal, has CDs and is super knowledgeable about pastels.  I have learned a lot from Richard.

Now I need to just paint, paint, paint........

Why do you take workshops and which artists have you studied with?


Bag Blog said...

I thought Tom Christopher did a great job of demonstrating his technique and then helping individually as we all attempted his style. ESSA was a great organization and place to have a workshop. It was similar to the Russell Farm Art Center south of Ft. Worth where I took a watercolor workshop with Janet Rogers. A few years later, I took another watercolor workshop in Plano at a great place called The Artist Showplace - they had a neat gallery and workshop area.

Jo Castillo said...

Hi Bag Blog. I sure enjoyed Tom's workshop, I will finish the review soon. Thanks for the info about Ft. Worth, maybe we can take a workshop there sometime. :)

Joanna said...

Glad y'all enjoyed the workshop!

Jo Castillo said...

Joanna, thanks. It was a good workshop and excellent company!

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Bastrop, Texas, United States
I Grew up in a small town , Magdalena, New Mexico. I enjoy art and the pleasure other people get from my work. I always donate some of my sales and art to charities, especially for children. That started in Bolivia with Para los Niños. (Link on sidebar) "I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns." -- Winston Churchill


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