My workshops do best for those with the basics in their pockets. I don’t believe in long, drawn-out demos — mine are limited to twenty minutes or so, and only when specific areas need to be covered. Painters paint — two or three paintings a day is commonplace in my workshops. As well as one-on-one technical help and mentoring, we depend on spectacular environments to teach lessons of foreground control, top-half energy, counterpoint, colour and pattern bounce, multi-task creativity, and a pile of other ploys. For those who might need it, we also encourage time-limited and stroke-limited exercises. I think the definition of a good workshop instructor is a professional painter who has made more mistakes than you have. At the same time, I have the audacity to think that I can be of use to any painter, in whatever genre, at whatever stage.
Gaye Adams is instructing the Columbia III trip on the West Coast of B.C. this year. Well versed in The Genn Method, she is a spectacular painter in acrylics, oils and pastels, and a brilliant communicator, as well. This vintage-vessel cruise out of Campbell River, limited to eight artists, takes place May 27th to 30th.
A workshop I’m doing together with my daughter Sara Genn is called “From Plein Air to Abstraction.” It’s at a magnificent garden and seashore retreat called “Hollyhock” on Cortes Island on Canada’s West Coast, August 15th to 19th. Limited to 30 artists, it’s already close to being sold out.
Still another is Heli-painting in the Bugaboos. This event, which takes place on September 4th to 7th is the only one of its kind in the world — a truly magical wonderland of high alpine painting and instruction accessed by helicopter from a luxury mountain lodge. Both Liz Wiltzen and Sara Genn will assist me in this heart-stopping adventure.
If you go to the bottom of this letter you’ll see photos of what you can expect in all three workshops, links to previous twice-weekly letters and a list of websites and contacts where you can get further information. As I don’t do many workshops and they are all limited in size, it’s no problem if you’d like to phone me in my studio at 604 538 9197. I’ll be painting all this week — and I’ll be wearing my multi-tasking headset.
PS: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” (Buddhist proverb)
Esoterica: “The Genn Method” is a manner of working together. I believe our job as instructors is to tune in to the creative direction of individuals and help devise plans and techniques to enhance and build their craft. Getting more than one opinion is valuable, too. Last year at Hollyhock, Sara and I tore back and forth like ferrets between artists who were toiling on location. Joyfully contradicting each other at times, Sara and I deepened their capabilities. Using The Genn Method, our workshops are events where participants are re-energized and re-armed with techniques and systems that take them to a more professional level.
Instruction by example
by Michael Chesley Johnson, AZ, USA / NB, Canada
That’s a good way to teach, Robert. I teach in a similar way, although I break my workshops into two levels — traditional or “all level” workshops, in which I lecture and demonstrate each day on the basics, and then “advanced/mentoring” workshops in which we paint together and I give help where it is needed. In the latter, I try to instruct by example — watch a short demo — and also by friendly suggestion. The method seems to work!
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The value of two instructors
by Pamela Simpson Lussier, Willington, CT, USA
My husband, David Lussier, and I also team-teach some of our workshops. I think this is a wonderful thing for the students. Sometimes we say the same thing in a slightly different way to make the teaching clearer, but most of the time we are concerned with a different aspect of the student’s painting. So the student is getting much more then he/she would from one instructor. It must be fun to teach with your daughter! She must have learned so much from you over the years and then has added her art school and beyond experiences to this. I’m sure you will fill that workshop.
No more long demos
by Arnie Casavant, Chelsea, MA, USA
Your letter on the Genn Method of limited time presentations with more one-on-one time at easelcoaching, hit home for me. I’ve been a plein air presenter for seven years through Northeastern’s U. Institute for Professional Development in Boston. My approach, which developed over the years of taking workshops and thirty years of teaching high school art, mirrors yours. I recently stood through a 3 1/2 hour demo, in freezing temps, which reminded me of my last 3 1/2 hour root canal. I felt guilty feeling bored, walking in place to keep the circulation going and aggravated as my mood went south. I’m still kicking myself for signing up. However, I was delighted to read your email as it clearly stated what I think is the best way to approach being an interesting, thoughtful, passionate, teacher/artist. It’s not about impressing the participants while working magic at one’s easel, it’s about coaching the participants to work magic at their easels.
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Teaching the basics
by Suzanne McDermott, Nashville, TN, USA
I teach the basics. Many artists do not have the basics in their pockets, so many who aspire to expression experience ongoing frustrations.
I start with the foundations of drawing and watercolor in an absolutely safe, fun, encouraging — and challenging — environment. I believe in a sophisticated approach to the fundamentals while allowing for great amounts of imperfection. My intention as a teacher and guide is to help lay a solid foundation in drawing and watercolor (in my book, the next step after drawing) while pointing out the idiosyncrasies that identify each individual’s style. So, from absolute zero, I help students recognize themselves in their marks and exercises while connecting them to their unfolding spiritual practice.
After fifteen years of teaching at the community level across the US in a multitude of venues, I have transferred my courses online, and the results are awesome. Here’s the link to my teaching pages. My next course starts March 15th. If your readers mention Robert Genn, I’ll pass along discount codes as a thank you for your ongoing support to us all.
(RG note) Thanks, Suzanne. I’m glad someone is taking care of teaching the basics. You are right, of course, so many painters need to go back to square one. Teaching the basics takes a special kind of art instructor — one with deliberate care, patience, and the deep wisdom not to let the hind legs get ahead of the front ones.
A crisis of confidence
by Sherri Donlon, Diamond Springs, CA, USA
While reading through several of your letters, I realized (shazam!!) what I was really lacking was confidence. I started thinking about the successful artists I know, and how they appear to have a great deal of confidence… In their skill, quality of work, marketing and ability to maintain focus. ‘Sigh’… So, my question to you is, how does one foster a feeling of confidence? Fear of negative comments, fear of just getting out there, fear of “just doing it”… Any tips?
(RG note) Thanks, Sherri. Confidence can be tricky, especially in workshops where people are all mixed in like beans in a pot. I try to determine what special qualities each participant may have, and try to focus on and magnify those qualities. I notice with this approach, together with gently rocking their boats, they rise up and shine within themselves and become even more special than they are. Artists can do this themselves, too, by working alone and noticing their own small gains. Nothing, simply nothing, beats a feeling of personal progress, and our job as instructors and mentors is to try to help make this dream come true.
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by Nader Khaghani, Gilroy, CA, USA
I am, as always, dreaming of color. Talking about color, can you kindly inform me what is your understanding of this word “dissonance” in color. I must warn you, I need more than violet is complementary to yellow, hence in dissonance to blue. What yellow (cool warm) which violet so fourth and so on. Let’s get some impressive color theory going in here. Maybe the blue is not a good choice. Goethe considers yellow and blue complementary. I am open to further discussion.
(RG note) Thanks, Nader. Workshop-givers in particular have to be careful what words they throw around, and they need to know what they mean by them. “Dissonance,” in my books, is a colour choice that is not quite right. In other words, it may not be true to life or correct in relation to the sun/shade aspect, but is used in any case because it adds an element of surprise, mystery, enigma, conflict or incongruity. Think of poetry: Dissonance in poetry is the deliberate avoidance of assonance — that is, patterns of repeated and appealing vowel sounds. Dissonance in poetry is similar to cacophony and the opposite of euphony. “Cognitive dissonance,” which I have also mentioned, is a state of mental conflict. This conversation will be continued. Nader is one of the painters who has signed up for the Plein Air to Abstraction workshop at Hollyhock on Cortes Island this summer.
Last chance cat ranch
by Elizabeth Ginn, Lethbridge, AB, Canada
I am writing you with a request. We are holding a fundraiser for animal rescue groups called ‘Artists for Animals.’ We are a volunteer operated “No Kill Cat Rescue” that works with Pound Rescue from Calgary and NOKA, the No Kill Alliance here in Lethbridge, Alberta. I am hoping that we will have 50 original works of art for auction on May 12th. Would you consider perhaps donating a small piece? I am a former Arts Administrator/Curator and was with several galleries in Alberta in the past, always organizing art auctions for the arts. Now my efforts are to animal rescue. You can read about the “Last Chance Cat Ranch” on Facebook and Petfinder. (RG note) Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, I will. Just send me the address and we’ll mail you something for your fundraiser. I hope other artists may want to support the cats, too. Another good resource is Pet Answers. Elizabeth Ginn is no relation to Robert Genn.
From the Hollyhock garden
by Starr Kolb
I thought I would let you see what one of your students can do from the information learned at your Hollyhock workshop, not to mention appreciate your genuine honesty. I remember the question, “Now Starr, exactly how many paintings have you painted?” Since the workshop I have put my stained glass to rest in order to study and practice painting. I have great trying power! This is from the Hollyhock garden. Your genuine feedback is always welcome. I have many more hours ahead. Is the painting too tight? Kind of feel this way about it.
(RG note) Thanks, Starr. I think it’s fresh and well designed — a good example of an unravelling in that tangled garden. It has a flat quality that is of a style, and rather appealing as is. Just my opinion without seeing it in the flesh, but I’d say keep going in that direction.
Downtown From Fort Amherst
oil painting 36 x 40 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Mary E Martin of Facebook who wrote, “Thank you, Robert. I’m always interested in conversations with artists as I like to write about artists in my novels.”
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