How to Learn the Most from a Workshop

Posted April 24 2015

From the Archives:  Posted on: Mar 05, 2012 by: Kelly Powers

Here at Creative Catalyst Productions we make, obviously, instructional DVD workshops, and we put a lot of time into making the best art learning tools on the market. We hope that each and every time you buy a DVD workshop, you watch it so many times that the DVD player groans when it sees it coming. We know that one pass won't do and that with the amount of information these generous teachers share, each DVD is worth repeat viewings.

But besides just making the DVDs, we also want to help you get the most from them. We know that everyone works in a different way, but we wanted to at least offer our own take. It sounds a bit like mixed media Catherine Mein's take on the same subject. In a recent interview when I asked her what she does after a workshop Mein responded, "At first, I directly try aspects of what they are teaching in order to better familiarize myself with their techniques and to make sure that I know I can do it. Then I step back and analyze my own experience with the work, examine my strengths and weaknesses and determine what I want to accomplish with it."

We've heard this sentiment again and again, and we think it's an incredible and important way to get better at our art. If you want to learn from another artist you first have to understand what it is they are teaching and then once you do, incorporate it into your own work.

Step 1:
Watch the DVD, take notes, and practice, practice, practice.
People have this idea that there is some level of mysticism to being a artist. Nope! It's just doing the same thing over and over until it's no longer hard to do. Maybe that's making paper, mixing oil paints, or creating watercolor glazes. Whatever it is, take the pieces an artist is teaching and practice them. Practice them until they are second nature.

Step 2:
Fold the relevant techniques into your own style.
Now that you're comfortable with the different aspects of the teacher's techniques, think about which ones appeal to you most. Are there particular techniques that call louder? Are there some you already do a bit but could do more? Start consciously adding bits of what you've learned into the art you're already creating and see what resonates.

This two-step approach also helps us look past the subject matter an artist is discussing and focus more on the tools and larger artistic lessons she is teaching. Sometimes we can learn more from an artist who focuses on a different subject matter because we have to interpret more of what they're saying instead of just copy and pasting the ideas into our own art.