I was asked months ago to do a workshop today for Phoenix Art Group (near Swadlincote, South Derbyshire) and I was more than happy to go along and teach them about acrylics doing a seascape being their subject of choice of subject matter.
There were 13 in the group today when I went along, and only about 4 of them had used acrylics before, and most counted themselves as amateurs. Of course before I got there I had no idea what abilities or ages they would be. So the workshop had to cater for all abilities and all speeds. I had decided on Lands End in Cornwall as my subject matter since it is an area I love and found a suitable photo to work from, drawing out the image on A4 paper for them to work from it they wanted to.
I explained about using acrylics like watercolours, getting a quick wash on of the sky, letting them copy that, then the sea, letting them copy that, then the grass of the cliff tops, letting them copy that, then the almost black shadows of the cliffs, and letting them copy that. Now, I hate workshops where the pupils work step by step because everyone goes home with the exact same painting and for me it means that although the pupils have learnt the tricks and tips, they haven’t been creative themselves, putting their own slant on the picture, the textures, the mark making.
So then I said they could build up the colours and textures using plastic knives as palette knives, since using that technique meant that they hadn’t had the expense if they didn’t get on with the knives, and could go out and buy palette knives if they wanted to at some future time. Of course since none of them had done that effect before I didn’t expect them to find it easy or do fabulous paintings, but I always say with acrylics that if you don’t like what you’ve done, you can keep painting over it, to add texture and give more life to the painting.
I finished my first demo painting within one and a half hours of getting there. Then, whilst they had their tea break, I did a second one of Cornwalls rugged coast line but with rolling waves and froth and foam, whilst they watched, and showed them how quickly I got paint on the paper and then used a plastic knife again to add texture, and an old toothbrush to add splatter and life to the painting. That painting took less than half an hour to do and show them the technique. Because after that, it was up to them how they wanted to add texture, and colours, and movement within the painting with the tools they had.
I was only with them for three hours teaching, which isn’t long to do anything really. But they all said they had enjoyed it, thanked me for showing them something they hadn’t done before, a few of them said that they would try the techniques themselves, and liked acrylics now when they hadn’t particularly before, and liked the challenges I had set them… the woman who only used light colours having to use black in her painting, another woman who had never been able to do splatter before with any success…the woman who only felt comfortable with watercolours putting paint on thicker than she normally would… and all the other complimentary comments I got at the end as they thanked me for the workshop certainly made the time I spent with them very enjoyable.