the workshop experience
In between two Oil and Wax weekend workshops
in the Carolinas, I'm reflecting on what goes on in these classes, and what the experience is like for those who attend. The brief class descriptions and the promotional information put out by various venues where I teach really do not tell the story. The truth is that the workshops tend to be quite intense--for some people even "life-changing" (as I have been told more than once.) Though I can also honestly describe them as "fun" (which everyone seems to recognize as good marketing,) "fun" is really too superficial a description for what goes on. I think most people find fun in the camaraderie of the class, because in every workshop so far the atmosphere has been friendly and warm, with lots of laughter and open exchange of ideas. On the other hand, there tends to be only a limited amount of chit-chat, and long periods of silence in which people work with serious concentration. Everyone seems to recognize that there is serious work to be done and a lot of ground to cover.
I think that "joy" probably applies to most people's experience more than "fun" when it comes to actually working with the cold wax medium. Mixing wax in with oils adds a freedom and expressiveness to the painting experience that many people say they have been seeking, and that can be a deeply satisfying discovery. Although the first day of a workshop can be frustrating, by the end of the class a lot of people say they are hooked on using cold wax. Some leave unsure about how they will carry on with using it in their work, but from emails and posts on my Oil and Wax discussion site
I know that lots of them do figure it out.
I've been listening to what people say about their experience in my workshops, from beginners to very experienced artists. I hear that in the course of the 2 or 3 days, they have experienced frustration, fatigue, and confusion...but also tremendous excitement, a rush of ideas, pride in what they have done, and yes, joy and pleasure. I'm grateful and somewhat amazed that so many are willing to take this sometimes wild ride (although I am sure there are some that did not realize quite what they were in for!) At the core is a desire to grow and push forward, and it is this energy that drives every class and my own pleasure in teaching.
What does it take (besides the obvious investment of time and money)to get the most out of an Oil and Wax Workshop? In my next post I'll have a few thoughts about that, along with a photo or two from the workshop that I just finished teaching in Spartanburg, SC.