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Workshop, Demo, and Conference Etiquette

January 16th, 2015

Workshop, Demo, and Conference Etiquette


I clearly remember the first time my husband introduced me to one of his friends as an artist. I was thrilled! I hadnít considered myself an artist--I simply liked playing with pencils and charcoals, pastels and paints. Never mind that I had sold several paintings, even had a few portrait commissions! But I accepted that title and began to work and play harder at being one. I knew I had much to learn, so I began earnestly to search for those artists/teachers who would teach me something new as well as reinforce what my fabulous teacher had already taught me. In the course of participating as a student in workshops, art demos, and conferences, I became even more aware of participant etiquette--how it (or the lack of it) can make or break the opportunity for every learner. So here are a few points for consideration.


Supplies: Bring the recommended supplies. The teacher has a reason for suggesting certain charcoals, oils, supports, papers. Take her advice! Donít expect to be able to rely on the generosity of your fellow students to share--even if they donít mind.

Time: Be on time. Yes, we all know that family responsibilities or traffic issues can cause delays. However, plan ahead; leave earlier than than the time recommended by your favorite map service or GPS.

Quiet Late Entrance: Despite your best efforts at planning ahead and avoiding traffic delays, If you are late, enter the workshop quietly and unobtrusively. Wait for a break in instruction before setting up your easel and unpacking your supplies--or other noisy activities.

Listening: Listen carefully. Most teachers welcome questions, but repetitive questions are annoying. Of course, follow up questions and clarifying questions are welcomed. Just make certain youíve listened carefully so that the other workshop participants arenít inclined to mutter, ďHe just answered that.Ē

Physical Space: If the workshop organizer or teacher has arranged the physical layout of the space, including easels or chairs, donít rearrange the space. It will be arranged for ease of everyoneís viewing or participating. Perhaps the workshop or demo is being videotaped; respect the videographerís understanding and needs of the physical arrangement.

Invasion of Space: During a demo, donít stand at the teacherís elbow unless she has invited you to come close. You certainly donít want to breathe down her neck or knock over her easel or paints.

Photographs: Ask permission of the artist before taking photographs. If you do take photographs, set your camera, if possible, to silent so that annoying clicks and whirs wonít interfere with the teacherís presentation and the participantsí listening. Additionally, donít use a flash. The camera flash is annoying to the other participants as well as the teacher whose canvas, paper, or panel is being splashed with annoying light. Also, donít block the view of those behind you when you raise your camera.

Food and Drink: Follow the rules of the organizer or the teacher regarding eating or drinking during the presentation. Especially annoying is the rustle of paper as you dig for that last fry or nacho from that carry-out bag, or the crunch of ice or slurp as you savor your last drop of liquid.

Comments: Unless the teacher asks for your input or suggestions, donít offer them. Thereís a reason he used cerulean instead of ultramarine, so donít tell him what you would have used. Thereís a reason she placed the tree to the right of the path instead of left, so donít tell her what you would have done. Donít ask, ďWhat will you do with this now?Ē Perhaps itís complete and for sale. Perhaps itís a study for a more finished piece back at his studio. Listen and learn.

Focus: Donít wander away from the demo or presentation. You paid good money to learn from this artist, so a side conversation or a stroll to look out the window or someone elseís art is a waste of your time and money as well as hers.

Excuses: Don't make 'em. We're not successful with every brush stroke of that portrait, still life, figure, landscape, or abstract. The lighting may not be bad; your paints may not be too dry or too oily; your canvas may not be too slick or too rough. Just take a breath, step away from your work, do some mental problem solving, and give it another go.†

Application: Especially while youíre participating in the workshop, apply the techniques the artist is so generously sharing with you. Whether itís a new brushstroke, paint, or brush, be brave and try it! Thatís why youíre participating. And when you go back to your own studio, corner of the kitchen, back porch--wherever you create your art--apply it again and again. You may decide something you learned is not for you. But at least youíve given it a go. The technique may simmer in the back of your brain for a year or more before youíre ready to try it again.

Be an artist! Make thought-provoking art!

The attached image is a portrait study I completed in a workshop taught by Max Ginsburg.