April 14, 2015 | Posted in ART, TRADITIONAL ART AND PAINTING | By

Artist Frank Covino working with a student during a workshop in his Vermont studio.

Artist Frank Covino working with a student during a workshop in his Vermont studio. All photos on this page are by the author, sockii.

Whether you are a novice painter or an aspiring professional artist, an art workshop can be a great way to expand and hone your skills while enjoying a unique vacation. One can travel to a new destination domestically or even internationally while creating great works of art – and enjoying the company of fellow art enthusiasts.

An art workshop can be a great vacation idea for a single traveler who wants to meet others with shared interests, as well as for couples or friends who enjoy a passion for art together. If you like learning and exploring self-improvement as part of your vacation and travel experiences, an art workshop may be an excellent experience for you. Let me share a few basics on what to expect and what a workshop likely entails, based upon my own experience attending quite a few of them.

What is an Art Workshop?

A teaching assistant providing instruction at an art workshop in Florence, Italy.

A teaching assistant providing instruction at an art workshop in Florence, Italy.

An art workshop is an intensive, condensed art course, typically taking place over the course of one to two weeks – or as short as a weekend. Generally the workshop is held daily, Monday through Friday, with weekends off if the course is longer than one week. The intensive nature of the workshop allows attendees to learn new techniques and improve their skills very rapidly. Working directly with highly accomplished teachers with typically no more than 6-12 other students, attendees receive significant one-on-one attention, critique and assistance with their work.

All styles and levels of art creation can be featured in art workshops, from beginning life drawing to classical oil painting techniques. “Plein air” or outdoor landscape painting is a popular subject for workshops in particularly scenic areas, from the coast of Maine to Provence, France. Art workshops can be held in any location, from a school campus to an industrial park to the private home studio of the host instructor.

Students will typically need to arrange for their own food and lodging while attending a workshop, although some offer arrangements with particular hotels, guest houses, or even college dormitories with reduced-price accommodations for attendees.

Workshops are generally open to any and all who are interested in registering, no matter one’s past experience or ability level as an artist. If this is not the case, a workshop description will make it clear what kind of past experience is recommended. At the end of the workshop, one will likely go home with at least one piece of finished artwork, or something that will be easy for the attendee to finish at home if time ran short.

Choosing the Right Workshop for You

Choosing an art workshop can be difficult as one begins to investigate all the possibilities available. Many are advertised in magazines such as International Artist, The Artist’s Magazine, and similar publications. One needs to focus on three important questions in choosing a workshop:

1. Is there a particular instructor with whom you want to work?

You may already admire the work of a particular artist who is giving a workshop, or be familiar with their techniques through instructional videos, books and articles they’ve published. Indeed, if possible I strongly recommend seeking out examples of an instructor’s work and techniques before registering for a workshop with them. Look up feedback about their workshops on-line such as through the WetCanvas forums. Not all workshops nor workshop instructors are created equal, so you want to make sure you won’t be wasting your time, money and vacation on a workshop you won’t enjoy.

2. Is there a particular technique you want to learn?

A workshop can be a great chance to take on a new challenge, such as watercolor painting or pastel if you’ve never tried them before. However, you don’t want to become frustrated or discover you really don’t like a particular technique or medium while stuck working on it intensively for a week or two. That said, I have observed first-hand a woman at a classical oil painting workshop who had never picked up a paint brush before go home with a completed painting and a new-found love for the medium.

3. Is there a particular destination you want to visit?

Many workshops are held in attractive vacation destinations such as the Tuscan region of Italy, but not all are in such desirable locations. You could end up spending a week in a dreary industrial park outside of Philadelphia or Princeton just as easily. So if an art workshop is your vacation for the year, decide if location is as important as what you are setting out to learn. But also keep in mind that the workshop may keep you busy and indoors from 9 or 10 in the morning until 5 or 6 at night – therefore the amount of time you have available to explore a destination location can be limited as well. Plan to arrive at your destination a few days before your workshop begins, or stay a few days after it finishes, so that you have time for any sightseeing or other activities you’d like to be sure not to miss.

Packing for an Art Workshop

Shopping for art supplies when you travel can be a fun learning experience as well. Photo by sockii.

Shopping for art supplies when you travel can be a fun learning experience as well.

Generally once you have registered for an art workshop, you will be sent a list of materials required or recommended for the course. The list can be quite lengthy at times, but do not skimp on certain items such as specific paints and pigments, a variety of brushes, and mediums. Many instructors have techniques to present where not just having the right color paint but the one prepared by a particular manufacturer is vital. Of course, if you simply cannot find something in time, most instructors will have some extra available as necessary, or you can share with other attendees.

If you are traveling to an art workshop out of country or otherwise using air travel, be sure to read airline regulations about what you can and cannot pack. Some solvents and other volatile materials may be banned. You may do better to either ship your supplies to the workshop location directly, or make plans to buy your supplies when you reach your destination.

Budgeting for an Art Workshop

Prices vary on how much an art workshop will cost, but currently one can expect to spend anywhere from $600 – $1,500 per week on such a course depending on the school or individual instructor. That typically does not include materials except a few items which may be supplied by the workshop leader, nor does it include lodging and other travel-related expenses.

Therefore an art workshop is not exactly an inexpensive vacation, but remember that you will likely be traveling home with completed works of art that could have potential sale value equal or more than the cost of your workshop. So consider the money spent an investment in your education or livelihood – it might even be a tax-deductible expense if you are a professional artist.

The “Expo” Alternative

If you are not ready to commit to an intensive, week-long workshop with one instructor, or don’t have the budget for it, consider checking out a weekend event such as one of the annual Learning and Product Expos held throughout the United States. At such events, attendees can register for short courses and demonstrations with various instructors while also submitting work to juried shows and competitions, and checking out new materials from exhibitors and retailers.

A Few Workshop Instructors and Schools I Recommend

Florence, Italy is a wonderful city rich with artistic history - and art workshops.

Florence, Italy is a wonderful city rich with artistic history – and art workshops.

sockii is just your typical Jane-of-All-Trades who never has enough time in her day for all of her projects. She has written for many websites online including Squidoo, Zujava, Yahoo! Contributors Network, HubPages and Wizzley. She has been attending and vending at science fiction and media conventions for over 15 years, and for several years ran an art gallery and jewelry store in Philadelphia. Today she is happy to be living in South Jersey with her partner David and their 6 cats. Sockii is a member of several affiliate sales programs including Amazon Associates and Viglink. Products from these services may be advertised on her posts and pages to generate sales commissions.

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