It has been an exciting week for me with ups and downs that kept me on the edge of my seat. I had signed up to take a workshop from Beth Verheyden called “Let’s Get E-Motion-Al” and had been wait-listed. I found out Tuesday I got in and was very excited.

Then Thursday, just before I was to leave for my workshop, I found out that two of my paintings sold from the TRAG gallery. Talk about being excited!

With a happy heart I headed south to Brownsville to take the workshop (about a 1.5 hour drive). I drove back and forth each day and there were some great sunsets!

Friday's sunset
Friday’s sunset

On the downside, Friday I found out I didn’t get into the WSO show. I can’t say that I was entirely surprised; it’s a competitive show and both paintings had technical flaws that prevented them from getting in. But I was still disappointed.


Beth’s class was well worth my wait. Thursday evening I drove down to Brownsville and we had a later evening lecture on color theory. My first watercolor teacher, Melissa Gannon, is a vibrant and fearless colorist. She introduced me to the works of Stephen Quiller; his book “Color Choices” is the favorite art book in my collection.

For this class, Beth’s take on color was a little more intellectual. She spent a great deal of time outlining specific colors linking to specific emotions. While Quiller’s focus has been color intensity, Beth urged us to think about the mood we were trying to invoke.

Foggy Saturday morning view.
Foggy Saturday morning view.

Saturday dawned with a quick drive (through sheep country!) to the subject of the day’s drawing: the Crawfordsville Bridge.

Crawfordsville Bridge
Crawfordsville Bridge

From there, we headed back to the Brownsville Art Center to start our paintings.

Beth had a great hand-out card that we filled out for each painting indicating some of the key decisions we were to make about color, line, and direction dominance. A criticism I would make is that while Beth had some great examples of “pushing” line and direction, she was light on the instruction of this part. When she demoed, we again got some good ideas, but this is such a difficult topic I got confused about it.

I am a pretty prolific painter; I also tend to overwork my paintings if working on only one. Because of this started two paintings on Saturday and another two on Sunday. For each, I tried to create a different mood. I think I did well with the mood part, but the execution left a lot to be desired. [Click on the image to see the full painting.]


Taking a workshop is hard work. I suspect most artists are used to “being the best” in childhood art classes; but as an adult in a serious learning environment, I rarely have that experience anymore. I don’t know about anyone else, but the workshops I take, EVERYONE’s painting is always better than mine.

Additionally, I really pushed myself in this workshop, knowing¬† that I wouldn’t get the best results (and thinking I was prepared for it.) Red is a hard color for me, and I generally like peaceful and happy paintings more than angry and sad ones. Also, four paintings might have been too ambitious.

Also, I hate painting bridges/houses/man-made structures. I already knew that, but it’s a good reminder. Still, my resolution for this year is to do more listening in my classes, so I did four (okay, 3.5) paintings of bridges.

Possibly the most challenging aspect, for me, of a workshop is the other humans. As the internet meme goes, “There are no stupid questions, but there are a LOT of inquisitive idiots.” (I’m sure I’m occasionally one of them). Also, there is an undeniably social element to these things that is more than a little confusing for me. We’re there to paint, so why are we talking about your latest surgery/grandchild/trip? I have to constantly tell myself to allow the world to be unorganized.

For me, workshops are a crucible where I feel every artistic and personal flaw. But maybe that’s the point? I need to look at where I need to improve before I can get better. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…

One thought on “Two steps forward, one step back”
  1. I enjoyed reading your story about your workshop. Sounds like you learned many things about yourself and painting. I have been looking for a workshop. As I need a boost with my painting. I am looking at the retreat here in Portland called Art & Soul. All the classes are held at the Red Lion on the Columbia River. Check it out if you havn’t already. The classes are held in April. Congratulations with your sales at the gallery!!

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