What to expect from a workshop

It’s a cold and snowy January day here in Indy and before I go back to the studio, I thought I’d share a few thoughts that have been running through my brain the past several days.

First off, the photo is rather random.  It’s a very small illuminated letter that I did in a workshop with Sheila Waters a few years back. Which leads me to one of those random thoughts.  What should you expect from a workshop?  A finished piece that you can frame? New techniques to absorb and use?  A place to meet new friends? Depending on your expectations, you may have a great time or be seriously dissappointed.

I always try approach workshops with an open mind.  After thirty years, there are many that I could teach possibly as well as the instructor.  But there are always new tricks to learn from others, new people to meet, new ideas to share and ultimately something to take back home to your studio and incorporate into your own work. We all learn from each other. And artists are among the most generous folks I know.

But it’s that part about incorporating that everyone should take to heart.  That’s the word to remember, not “copy”, “incorporate”.  The little letter up above taught me a great deal.  I’d never worked on vellum, I’d had little experience with gilding and Sheila is a master teacher. I learned to write smaller than I’d ever imagined possible.  I learned to mix colors from a minimum palette.  I learned to lay matte medium as a base for gold.  But had I come home and simply continued to copy and gild letters from the Book of Kells, I would be just another scribe harkening back to the ninth century.  Instead doing this little project open myriad doors to experiment with color, gold and calfskin.  So, sign up for as many classes as time and finance allows, but when you leave the classroom take the time to experiment rather than recreate. That way it will be your voice we hear when we view your art.


One Reply to “What to expect from a workshop”

  1. Well said, Sandy. It’s so much nicer to see what the student does with what has been learned rather than seeing copies of someone else’s work. It can be hard to make the transition, but experimentation and playing with the information following a workshop is how that happens.

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