I recently spent a challenging and delightful weekend in Valentine, Nebraska sharing a workshop with the Sand Painters Art Guild.
I say "sharing" because this group of dedicated artists already spends hours each month honing their life drawing and plein air skills. It's not like they needed teaching, especially. My job was to simply demonstrate how I start a painting and convey clearly and concisely what I was doing and the why behind that.
Yeah, that makes me laugh too.
Those of you who have tried this exercise know how tricky it can be. Keeping track of shapes and colors while stringing words together in some semblance of language is challenging to say the least.
I think my first sentence was something about ... the thingy... and the delie-o ... whatchamathinger ...gahhhhh...
Once the words started flowing however, some terrific discussions ensued about color and brushstrokes, creating atmosphere and the challenge of values. I had to be on my toes with this group.
It's so easy when leading a workshop to inflict one's own style on everyone else. Do this, then this, then that and ... voila! The entire class ends up with an imitation Scarborough! Trust me, one of me in the world is plenty.
It seems infinitely more useful to share some basic concepts and at the same time, use those ideas so they can be understood in their proper context. Cool colors recede, warm colors appear closer, texture and line can be used to help compose are all simple, yet powerful devices for painters to understand.
Painting while verbalizing the why's and how's put those theories into action.
... their turn.
The challenge for an instructor in my humble opinion is to get out of the way and empower each artist to figure things out for themselves. They'll (hopefully) keep painting long after I've scraped my palette clean and gone home. That's when the hard work begins, and the most exciting potential for discovery occurs.
That is what the instructor's job should be. To honor the potential of each person in their class, and to find ways to encourage each individual's journey of discovery.
Sand Painter's, it was a blast hanging out with you. Thank you for your attention, your bravery and your willingness to step up to a challenge. Now ... go paint something!