Painting Workshop in Rhinebeck, New York

“Beauty in art is the delicious notes of color one against the other.”

—Charles Hawthorne, Hawthorne on Painting

I taught my first group painting workshop on Saturday!! It was so wonderful! It turns out that I can teach people, and also that I truly enjoy teaching!! I had some worries that I might not have “what it takes” to be a teacher, but once I got started, the day flowed easily. The whole weekend was unbelievably magical to me, and I’m truly grateful for the experience.

The location was a gorgeous private residence in Rhinebeck, New York. There was a stunning vista just outside the kitchen door: an expansive green lawn, rolling down gracefully to the tranquil waters of the Hudson River, and distant blue hills far away on the horizon. Really, it was a landscape that could almost paint itself!

There were five students, most of whom did not identify as artists. I believe it was everyone’s first time with oil paints. I wanted to share my love of oil painting, so I started out showing them some of my favorite art books and images of paintings. These included the work of Corot, Bonnard, Susan Jane Walp, Anna Valdez, Ken Kewley, Chris Liberti, Kristen Peyton, and many others. These are painters and paintings that excite me, and more importantly, that inspire me to paint!

I told the students that I had two main goals:

  1. To share my LOVE and PASSION for painting. (It’s fun!!)

  2. To give them an understanding of “color-shapes,” and their relationships.

(Note: Looking back, I feel like I met these goals! Woohoo!)

Me, laying out some of my favorite art books for students to look at.

Me, laying out some of my favorite art books for students to look at.

Students, sketching in a bucolic setting.

Students, sketching in a bucolic setting.

After looking at the art books and going over a couple of basics, we started with a sketching session. I encouraged the students to take a few minutes and make some thumbnail sketches with pencil and paper, investigating some of the many possibilities before them. Then, I did a little painting demonstration on how to get started. I suggested they use their sketches as a guide. One way to start is with a quick line drawing on the canvas using some burnt umber thinned with gamsol. Afterwards, they could have fun making “color shapes” using a fairly limited palette.

Me, doing a painting demo in my new hat.

Me, doing a painting demo in my new hat.

I wouldn’t have had such a successful time teaching if it hadn’t been for the wonderful art teachers and friends I have had over the years. All I had to do was just pass on information that I had already learned from these generous souls. For further reading along these lines, read some of these older blog posts:

Eve, using a picnic basket as an easel.

Eve, using a picnic basket as an easel.

I also believe I also brought my own special insights and wisdom to the students. It was very empowering to realize that people were learning from me and enjoying the process! In fact, I heard one woman mention later that day how she was looking at all the colors around her differently, thinking about how she might paint them. How wonderful that one day of painting could influence a person’s whole way of seeing the world!

People painted quite happily for awhile, and I went around answering questions. Around noon we took a break for lunch, which was not only delicious beyond all measure, but visually as beautiful as a Bonnard painting.

After lunch, we did another session of painting. I did a second brief demonstration, and then everyone took out their brushes and paints and got going! I was so proud to see them working so well, with such enthusiasm and perseverance.

A student painting with a good deal of concentration.

A student painting with a good deal of concentration.

Students proudly holding up their finished paintings.

Students proudly holding up their finished paintings.

We held an informal “critique” session after painting. Each person described what they thought was working best with each painting. Everyone was so engaged and positive, and each person had unique insights. I feel as though I learned as much as they did from doing this!

In short, teaching a painting workshop was a rewarding and uplifting experience. I look forward to to doing more of these in the future!

Me, leading the critique.

Me, leading the critique.

Here’s the “Student Gallery.” Enjoy:

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A few weeks later, I received some wonderful testimonials from two students! Here they are:

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