Original Watercolour by Jean Haines
This morning finds me preparing for next weeks workshops. I have ordered materials for each session. Often artists arrive and wish they had brought more paper so I ensure I have an extra supply at hand. I will visit the florists to order beforehand for the floral workshop and I have been on the look out for some exciting subjects to paint from life along with putting together some interesting resource images. Every day is designed to be full of tempting new ways to cover paper with glorious colour. I have also made the bookings for meals for each day. These take place in an Inn next door to where I teach so everyone has a wonderful break mid day. I join the group and get to know everyone without a brush in their hand and this is a special time for me. I listen to funny stories and experiences of workshops that have been attended elsewhere by the artists. Some good, some bad and there is always laughter over the tale swapping! My favourite tale to share is of the so called famous German artist who held a workshop without once picking up a brush.This was in Dubai and to this day we laugh so much about it. We had no instruction at all. We were simply faced with someone stood at the front of the class telling us all how marvellous he was. And we paid handsomely for the privilege of no instruction! I look back and realise how gullible I was then. I would go anywhere for inspiration and often leave feeling disappointed. It is these experiences that have helped my own workshops evolve and become as they are today.
So much planning goes on behind the scenes before each one on my part as my aim is to ensure every single person attending each day gains the most they possibly can from the experience. From years of not only teaching but also attending other artists courses I can put so much into practise when it comes running classes. Often workshop fees will go towards the hire fee of the location, the lunches and other aspects of the organization. Artists often charge depending on their experience and the professional level in their career. It is amazing how these charges can vary and it is sometimes horrifying to find what you are paying for isn't quite what you expected.
So a few tips this morning if you are thinking of booking a workshop with an artist you don't know very well. Think about what you want to achieve by attending their workshop in the first place. A new style, to improve, or simply to be inspired or motivated to pick up your brush.
Who do you choose and how from so many workshops on offer!
1) Firstly look at the artists work beforehand. How experienced are they and have they a style that appeals to you? What level are they at in their art journey and does the course fee reflect that?
2) Check their teaching experience. How often do they teach, how long have they taught for, do they have any qualifications in teaching? If in doubt ask if you can talk to someone who has attended their workshops before. You should receive very confident answers and this in turn should fill you with confidence to book.
3) Facility Details Ask how many artists will be in each class?. If it is a large number ask how big the room is,what are the facilities like? If the number is very small ask how many is normally the maximum number to attend in each class.
4) Gain knowledge about the artist. Find out if they exhibit, write or demonstrate for Art Societies.
5) Be cautious, do not on any account part with large sums of money if you know nothing about an artist! Especially if you cannot see their work beforehand or if they have very little teaching experience. This does not mean that new teachers are not worth visiting by any means. I often find someone new at holding workshops quite often has more enthusiasm than possibly some more experienced and well seasoned artists who have taught for years. Even so realistically the fee should reflect the artists experience.
I remember living in France and seeing an advertisement for a watercolour workshop which was luckily in a nearby village. I eagerly rang to ask if I could visit before I booked a place. The advert showed a gorgeous landscape and I was thrilled to discover the artist was near me. They very reluctantly allowed me to see their location in advance. The studio was filled with very amateur paintings and alarm bells immediately rang. I then asked how many workshops the artist held annually. This was their first and they were charging a £100 a day from people who travelled from abroad, mainly UK for a painting holiday. Once there these innocent people were trapped with no refunds. It is really frightening how many artists run courses without the experience to do so and even more frightening that they charge whatever they wish.
I wonder what stories I will hear over lunch next week, all good ones I hope!
April sees the beginning of my Spring workshops and I am feeling that wonderful heady buzz of knowing the sessions have been looked forward to for months..Artists are coming from South Africa,Italy and France and it is going to be such a special week. Excitement builds as everyone after months of waiting finally knows the day is drawing nearer when we will all be painting together following demonstrations which I hope will inspire long after the session has passed.
I can't wait!