Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"If we go for the easy way, we never change."

In my abstract painting workshops, I aim to teach more than technique. I'm trying to combine head and heart, structure and freedom, teaching the techniques of cold wax medium and oils through the elements of design and composition. Along with structure, I stress the importance of play, working quickly, and intuitively.

The idea is to encourage an artist to see things differently, to open them up to other possibilities, to change the way they design their paintings. It's not an easy thing for them to do. Although many students are looking to grow and learn, which is why they sign up for a workshop, or do art mentoring, many have developed ways of painting that are easy for them to do, that feel good.

I like to challenge students in my workshops. It isn't easy. I encourage students to paint with their heads for a couple of days, learning about structure and design, a shortened version of what artists were required to do in the days of Ateliers. This was the classical way of learning to paint and draw, just as a musician learns scales, and how to read music before they can play. For the remaining days of my workshop, students are invited to play, to work more intuitively, to incorporate head and heart into their work.

I hear good comments about my workshops: how they change the way people work, change the way they see, and even, change their lives. But many of these artists, then, soon after, instead of slogging it out in their studios, finding their own direction, get discouraged at the work involved and go on to another workshop where the focus is different. They work in that style for some time. And they may go on again to another workshop and yet another. Gradually, with all the confusion of different teaching styles, they often end up going back to working the way they did before any of the workshops.

It's difficult to grow and change. There has to be strong commitment behind the intention. The hard work needs to be done in the privacy of your own studio/workspace, where you struggle alone with finding your own voice.

It's also hard to commit to change when the artist posts their older work or unfinished work on Facebook where they get a few 'likes', or they sell a piece of the older work. While that can be rewarding, it also encourages stagnation and the effort required to grow and move forward dies.

"If we go for the easy way, we never change.” – Marina Abramović


  1. Look forward to attend your workshop in Iceland!!

    1. HI Soffia,
      I look forward to seeing you there!

  2. This is great Janice. You are so right, change is by its nature challenging and can be heart and gut wrenching!
    I have had a rolling period of changes in style and palette since returning from my trip to New York and San Francisco last year. I came home to my studio and immediately rushed into a bolder, maybe brasher period of work. Larger, brighter forms and colours, working quickly and expansively. The advantage was the freedom of expression (that is of course what I'd been mostly looking at in SF & NY). The disadvantages included reduced discipline, using up all my walls and storage space and confusing my main gallery in Dublin!
    Since then I've calmed down and am gradually moving into a new phase with a paler, more considered palette and slower, more considered approach to each piece. Oh and I also had a few weeks in between where I launched into some large landscape pieces on unstretched canvas, which were loose and expressive, but had more integrity somehow because they are local.
    And now I have a big solo show coming up in the west, in County Mayo. And wait with some trepidation to see what the gallery owner chooses and what the public response will be.
    Phew! Look what you triggered. Thank you. I needed to look at my own progress or lack of it. Take care. Liz x

    1. Sounds like you were very influenced by SF and NY! Good for you to just go with it and let it happen. And congratulations on your upcoming show!

  3. Loving the 4 Buddhist ways for artists. Loving you too, Janice 💕