I'm writing this along the way home from my two teaching gigs in the Carolinas, feeling tired but pleased with the whole experience. (I'm also really eager to get back home to my own studio, but that will happen soon enough.) With every class, I learn more about how to teach, and how to handle the business end of giving workshops. And because everyone is experimenting, making discoveries and sharing the results during class time, each group of students adds to the growing pool of information and techniques. The workshops are definitely "works in progress" because each one results in an accumulation of notes, ideas and revisions.
I've also noticed over time that certain issues come up over and over, as students encounter new information and ways of working, and sometimes find themselves far out of their comfort zones. I experienced some of these issues myself when I took a couple of encaustic workshops earlier this year--I found out what it's like to be in a room of strangers trying my hand at something unfamiliar and difficult. Kind of humbling!! I have put together a few tips to keep in mind for getting the most out of one of my workshops:
**Have patience with yourself--it takes a long time to learn to learn use cold wax in a way that fits your own style and expressive purposes. I've been at it for about 7 years, and only on the last few have I felt a real sense of mastery with the medium.
**Let go of expectations, including that of having finished paintings at the end of the workshop. Although some people will end up with a few they are happy with, it's fine to come away with just a start. The short class length means that you're working with panels that are only semi-dry, and although there are plenty of ways to work with these, more options will open up once you're back in your own studio.
**The techniques that I teach will lead to some beautiful and seductive passages, and these can occur early on. But please don't stop too soon, just enjoy the passing scenery. Allow those happy accidents to happen--that's how you explore possibilities--and then move on. Once there's a good base of color and texture built up, you can start to select areas to develop and retain. Nothing is really lost, because the more layers underneath the richer the final result will be.
**Don't worry if you create a muddy mess. We all do it. One of the beauties of using cold wax medium is that you can change the surface very quickly and very radically by applying another layer of paint.
**Although working in a group can be difficult when you're used to your own studio can be hard, having all those studio mates also means lots of brains to pick. It's good to be generous and open--new ideas for using wax, technical information, new brands of paint and colors to try, titles of books and names of artists, gallery leads and art biz resources are all commonly shared and discussed in the group setting.
**Sometimes people are very eager to know about a particular technique or aspect of using cold wax, and you're always free to experiment and move ahead at your own pace. However, my demos and explanations follow what I think of as a logical progression, so please be patient and I will get to everything I can by the end of the class. There are no rules for a particular sequence to follow, but at least for the duration of the class it is helpful to follow along as the information is presented.
**The process is one that balances intuition with intention. Avoid preconceived ideas, and allow the paint to lead you through the initial stages of the work. Evolved areas generally have the most beauty and mystery. As you enter the final stages of the work, be a ruthless editor and you will end up with a more coherent painting.