Detail - “The Heart of Joy” by Kate Aubrey - Watercolor

I really do. Taking them and giving them. Workshops with good teachers are a sure-fire cure for the creative humdrums.

That means the year has started out beautifully, because I had the opportunity to give a floral workshop in Reno, Nevada -- my old stomping grounds -- during the second weekend of January. It was a wonderful experience.

I don’t know exactly why, but artists are, as a whole, great people. This class was no exception. In fact, it was one of the best workshop groups I’ve had the privilege to teach. I cannot thank them all enough.

One of the joys of teaching is that in some ways I learn as much as my students do. This time I learned never to use industrial spotlights to light floral still lifes, even if that’s all that is available. They burn so hot that they shrivel the flowers within a couple of hours.

What happened next, though, was really exciting. I gave my demo arrangement to the painters whose setup had died, and ran out during lunch to buy some more lilies. The only stargazers they had were white. I bought them.

And painted them as though they were the pink stargazers everyone else was working on. I pointed out what I was looking at on a pink setup, then transferred the pinks and yellows and oranges onto the white lily shape on my paper. As I painted, I used the new white lily for basic value and shape information, melding it all together onto the paper.

As a result, the painting itself started making suggestions that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and I took risks that I normally wouldn’t take in front of students.

Did everything work perfectly? No.

Right there in front of God and everybody, I had to “fix” things that weren’t going to work “on the fly” and think about my painting intuitively, while explaining what I was doing and why. The result was fourteen very excited students with a teacher to match. We all learned a lot.

I love workshops!

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