Thursday, November 20, 2008


Having just returned from two workshop weekends back to back, one I helped host, the other I took part in, brush to canvas, I am reminded that these things sometimes don't bring out the best in any of us. Me included.

Nerves are high. Tempers flare.  Brushes are flung down along with the art gauntlet. Workshop monitors are screamed at. And even the Master him/herself gets bickered at/challenged occasionally. Lordy Begordy.

So, I was amusing myself today driving on the 101 freeway coming up with a Top 10 (o.k. 12!) list of do's and don'ts at painting workshops based on a few years of me doing them making a lot of the mistakes myself.

1. Don't scream at the workshop monitor at any cost. He/she is not a hired hand. He/she is either really good friends with the workshop teacher, connected somehow to what is going on,  or dating/married/ having an affair with the teacher or a friend of theirs. Word gets back and pillow talk is cheap. 

2. Do take your assigned morning  "placement" painting spot with good grace, no matter what. I have had my fair share of duff calls, my last name beginning with "S", the low end of the spot call-outs. This is just the way the cookie crumbles at these things. A good painter will rise to the challenge or just watch the master teach until the spots are changed to a better one. 

3. Don't move your easel out of it's pre-arranged semi-circle to within 6 inches of the model stand.  They are set up like this for a reason. It's called planning to avoid spats.

4. Don't correct the model's placement or fabric slippage between the breaks. This is what the gracious monitor is there for. This will annoy other people who like the fact the model's head has moved 1o inches south since the sitting first began. I have made this mistake so many times.

5. Don't think people can't hear your headphone music even if you have those posh BOSE ones. 'Nine Inch Nails' is not conducive to being in the Painting Zone for some and Beethoven likewise for others,  even if you think it is. Humming along to ABBA I have done. I admit it. Sorry. But not that sorry.

6. Do accept space is tight. Don't do onions/garlic/borsch soup/wine for lunch. If you stab someone in the back with you palette edge, apologize profusely. Who me? Handle hot drinks carefully. Very.

7.  Don't comment on another workshop artist's work, EVER,  unless he/she asks for it. I have seen this happen. An artist didn't want to paint in one workshop, just wanted to watch, and then suddenly, she was critiquing everyone in the room when the master was out. That is not a good way to make workshop friends. 

8. Don't complain about the instructor EVER. Before, during or after the workshop at the bar. You signed up because he/she had something you were looking for.  If the workshop isn't going to your liking, look within yourself. Work out how you can make the workshop work better for you rather than idle, easy shot,  criticism of the master, how much she/he has ignored you; how he/she is not taking you to the next level. It is all within all of us individually. And it is a privilege to be at any workshop. Remember those rice fields we could be working in? 

9. Do leave your ego at the door. Let go of getting something perfect done. HOW HARD IS THIS???? STOP what you are doing when the master artist comes within a six-easel range of your work. I am stunned at how people carry on painting their own studies when the master is correcting another artist's work near them. We are all making the same mistakes...just at different levels of our journey. Learn from your peers, especially the ones in the workshop room you know are good. I RUN to those critiques.

10. Don't hold up a tube of "FLESH" colored paint and ask the master portraitist how he/she would mix this. That's just plain daft. Ask intelligent questions.  Rehearse.

11. Do bond with you workshop buddies. I have made dear life-long friends through my workshop experiences. Those buddies are a great haven, and give safe feedback, and a friendly hug, when the workshop gets tough and your are teary-eyed, devastated to your core, think you suck, never want to paint again. Boy have I been there. And nothing like a nice glass of wine/soda/appetizer with said trusted buddies afterward shooting the art breeze. THE ABSOLUTE BEST IN THE WORLD.

12. Do wear light comfortable clothing but especially if you are female and over the age of 45. Hot armpit sweats are unattractive in workshops. This I know to be true. As for controlling PMS rages around workshops.... I am going to write a book on that. Still researching, if you know what I mean?


Linda Brandon said...

Johanna, I loved this post! Thanks for a great blog - I'm coming back this weekend to read the rest of it. You are my number one choice of a lady to stand next to during a workshop week. :)

I've studied with Morgan - such a terrific teacher and what a wonderful experience for everybody.

BTW, I love the painting Mr. Kinstler did of you, it's beautiful.

Marian Fortunati said...

Funny... but all too true... Glad you will be doing a demo for our club... We've got a good group.


Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

Thanks y' all. Yes, that portrait of me by Mr. Kinstler is a treasured piece. I will never forget that day!

And Marian,,,thanks for the intro to your club.

Peggi Habets said...

Great post, very funny. I've never actuallly witnessed anyone screaming at an instructor but have had my share of strolling critiquers.

Portrait Painting By Johanna Spinks said...

Thanks Peggi

I think it is more likely the monitors who get rough treatment!

Tina Steele Lindsey Art said...

Thank you for giving me a great big grin tonight while reading this.