Workshops, Classes, and Demos

"Last Lotus" by Richard M. Dziak OPA

"Last Lotus" by Richard M. Dziak OPA

As I’m sure most of you have noticed is that there has been a tremendous increase in workshops just about anywhere you may live. And, I would venture to say that painting in oil workshops may have started to, or already have, overcome the number of those in other media. Classes have always been popular whether they are at a museum or someone’s basements, and demos, are demos…

Which of the three do you think offer the most to the artist in terms of value for your money?

I have taken a couple of workshops, and have given several over the years. I haven’t really taught any classes in oil painting, but I am an experienced teacher. Demos, well, seen many and done many.

With that in mind, let me give you my thoughts, and then you can bombard me with your objections, or, better yet, your support.

Most of the artists I’ve had in my workshops either don’t really need my instruction at all, because they are well on their way, or they would be better off taking classes. What’s the difference? Well, the key difference is “Time”. Workshops generally last anywhere from 1-7 days and in most cases are very intense. They can be expensive, especially if not given nearby. Classes, on the other hand, generally span several weeks, but are limited to 1-3 hours per session, and offered once a week.

The experience I have gotten in giving workshops has been, for the most part positive. Although I did give a workshop “Painting in oils, en plein air”, in which half the class didn’t want to go outside to paint. Then they complained that they didn’t get enough attention because I spent most of the time with those that painted outside the building. But that’s ok. The other workshops were better, but after they were over, I wondered how much good I really did.

Most of the students/artists wanted to paint like I paint. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to paint like anyone else. It’s like why would anyone want to sign their name like anyone else? Later, I would see paintings at local shops and shows that I actually thought I had painted. No, just knock offs of what I do when I paint, done by previous workshop students.

Now, I have to ask, who gains more here? The student that picked up on some techniques and palette use that they may, or may not use in the future, or the instructor, who now has been complimented by copy, and getting his or her name spread around in the art world? I’d say the latter.

I know many of you say that it is of equal exchange, etc. and after 3 or 4 days of intense painting from sun up to sun down did wonders for your work. Of course it did! But what if you had done the same thing on your own? Now, I know we all learn from others, and you can’t beat the camaraderie, but give it some thought. If I were to take another workshop, it would be to go to some exotic place to paint new sites, and get to know other artists. To me, that would be where the value lies, and the most fun. We all know that there are workshop junkies that are looking to find their own way… but through others?

Now what about classes? Well, I like the idea of “Time” being on my side. In a class the subject is more focused, i.e. perspective, figure studies, etc. And, you have time to absorb what was instructed. Then you go on your way and do what is assigned and bring back your efforts the following week. To me, this is a much better scenario, usually less expensive, and we can pick what we want to learn. We also have the social aspect, and it can be fun.

That leaves us with demos. Well, I like demos. Everyone likes demos. Why, because we don’t have to do them. We just watch, and let the demo person do all the work. They are even more appealing if informal, and you can leave when you want without making a stir.

In conclusion, let me say that I wrote this blog because sometimes we as artists shortchange ourselves, and the thing we need the most, may not come from the obvious. We all have to go and find our own way, and a little help along the way is always welcomed. But let us go forth with confidence, cut ourselves some slack, and have some fun with this crazy thing that we seem so desperately NEED to do.

If you’re interested in joining or hosting workshops and classes in your area, visit

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