Aside from all the earlier posts we have made that should convince you of the value of an art workshop vacation, when I read this description in the newsletter of master aqua media painter and renown workshop instructor Sterling Edwards, I was compelled to repeat it here. Hearing from an experienced, seasoned professional artist-instructor on the subject of his own experience is of great value and Sterling was kind enough to allow us to reproduce his writing here for you.

Sterling Edwards and Bob Masla in the Mt. town of El Tuito after Sterlings plein air watercolor demo

Sterling Edwards and Bob Masla in the Mt. town of El Tuito after Sterlings plein air watercolor demo

Why take a workshop?There are a lot of very good reasons to take a workshop regardless of your experience or medium. When I was first trying my hand at watercolors

I read magazine articles and purchased a few books to help me understand more about the medium and materials. This was time well spent but I was still having a lot of difficulty controlling the paint and achieving any kind of satisfactory results. I was doing exactly what the book or article said to do but the results were far from satisfactory. After about a year of trial and error, not to mention a lot of paper ruined and expensive paper, I decided to invest in a watercolor workshop. An artist named Zoltan Szabo, whose book I had been reading, was coming to Asheville, NC to teach a five day watercolor workshop. Economically this was a real stretch for me because I had a young family and all of the bills that came with them. It took a lot of saving and rescheduling but I took the plunge and registered for the workshop. To say that I was a little insecure about all of this is an understatement. I was going to spend five days studying with a world class artist not to mention all of the other artists from around the country.

The first morning of the workshop there were twenty-five of us setting up our materials in a meeting room while introducing ourselves to each other. It was a great group of people and I learned that many of them were relatively new to watercolors and experiencing the same problems that I was experiencing. At the front of the room was an overhead mirror on a stand with lights attached on each side angled at the surface of an eight foot table. On the table were an array of paint brushes, tissues, a watercolor palette, and a piece of paper taped onto a mounting board. In walked the master himself, Zoltan Szabo. An announcement was made for everyone to come to the front of the room and have a seat in rows of chairs that were sitting in front of the mirror. After a few introductions Zoltan began working on a full sheet watercolor painting. My first thought was that he would spend all week working on that one painting, especially considering that it was so large. I had never attempted anything larger than a quarter sheet painting and even those took days to paint. To my surprise, and total disbelief, he completed the painting in a little over two hours. The end result was a glowing and expressive watercolor painting that looked as though it should be hanging in a major museum.

This was pure magic! Once I picked my lower jaw off of the floor it occurred to me that I had learned so much watching him paint this masterpiece. I was able to see just how wet his paper and paint were at various stages of the painting. The fine balance between wet paper, wet paint, and wet brushes had always been a source of aggravation and confusion for me. Now I had a much better understanding of what to do and when to do it. I was also very surprised to see all of the different ways that he manipulated his brush while painting. All of this, plus his detailed explanations of color mixing and building a strong composition made that first day of the workshop worth every cent that I had paid for the entire week. I learned more in one day than I had learned in the last year. Each day it made more and more sense and I left at the end of the week with a totally new understanding of where I was going with my art and how to get there. I also made several new friends who were very willing to share their ideas and experiences.

I spent the next twenty years going to at least one workshop a year and occasionally two depending on my budget and work schedule. I left every workshop with new friends, more insight about watercolors , and inspiration to keep developing my existing skills and continue to learn even more. Workshops are an investment in time and money but the rewards can be substantial. There are a lot of very good workshop instructors from which to choose. It’s always a good idea to research the instructor that you’re considering and see if they paint in a way that is both desirable and challenging in lieu of your experience and the style and medium that you wish to learn. I have taken workshops with several artists and have never taken a workshop where I did not learn new and exciting tools that have helped my painting evolve to where it is today.

Click this link to read more and see videos of Sterling at the Casa

To read more about Sterling, buy his book, brushes, DVD’s, etc., visit his website: