Running an Art Workshop – Podcast #198

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In this mini podcast Dad shares his knowledge of running art workshops and offers advice to those that wish to do the same.

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Stephen Bradley: We thought we’d do a little mini podcast.  Gabriele sent over a really interesting question and it’s occurred to us that actually people may be doing their own workshops now that they’re all very proficient with the pencils. I think we had someone actually maybe a couple years ago that did a workshop certainly a demonstration or they were teaching people in their local art group and that was a really proud moment for us. So Gabriele asked a few questions based on running a workshop because you obviously did that all over the country.

Colin Bradley: Sure sure. And many many many many many times

Stephen Bradley: and also it was quite a long time ago. So I think that’s worth considering when we talk about this because when you did it you were sort of you know you had technology that was available at the time you know and space in all of this kind of thing where I think more nowadays you know people might think slightly differently about running workshops maybe. So questions that Gabriele raises is like which pictures would you use for a workshop?

Colin Bradley: Well certainly it depends on the audience if you’ve got very experienced people and then you can have a more difficult or complex picture but generally speaking this isn’t the case you’re starting from scratch especially if your pastel pencil and people have never seen it before and they’ve come from other mediums. So keeping as simple as possible and there are two areas that I would work in one is the landscape and one is the animal. Now generally speaking the animals are the more popular. I’ve got to say and always were. So you could go in advance of this if you’re doing it or you’re setting up a workshop you could find out what the majority of the people would like. Otherwise if you got a whole load of landscape artists and one animal artist you’re going to be up against it. So that’s the first thing I would say and I would say choose a subject which was pretty easy and we have got lots and lots of examples for beginners on my website so all they’ve got to do is look through that and think Colin thinks that easy so we should do it. Even my starter packs that I’ve got any one of those really is pretty easy to do and I used to draw from them when I did my own workshops the cat was the first one I ever did. 

Stephen Bradley: The Tabby Cat?

Colin Bradley: No not the tabby cat. Cat Portrait yeah that was the first one I ever did Steve. And it was very successful as it has been for a pack. So that’s the sort of thing that I would do and cats and dogs are always popular anyway. So if you’ve got an animal group then I would go for one of them but one of the simple ones keep it simple

Stephen Bradley: Okay, a simple question here is how big was the group that you had?

Colin Bradley: Well now with me as I was doing it professionally I had to make money at it. There was no point in me going you know halfway across the country and then ending up with three or four people. So I always made sure that I had enough. Now I would generally say a dozen – 9 to 12 people is probably good for revenue side because the charge that you make to them can be reasonable. If you got if you got five people saying or six people then the cost is going to reflect their cost. It depends on what you’re doing it for. I mean you should never do it for love. It’s all got to be done you know for some kind of reward for you because it’s your time and effort. So I would generally say between 9 and 12 people would be a good average. That’s if you’re doing it like I was doing it. But if you’re starting out then I would say. I think the first workshop I ever did Steve was 6 people. Right at the very beginning. I had six people which was more than enough for me at that time because I had to go round and you know make sure that everybody was okay and I took over and showed them how to do this and how to do that. So the more people you got the more difficult it is for you

Stephen Bradley: Speaking of the costs and everything. Back in the day you know what each person paid to do a workshop? 

Colin Bradley: Oh gosh if it was one of my workshops then I would charge oh you know I can’t say, it’s impossible I don’t think I can say that now because what I charged then you know 20 years ago it was nothing like it would be today. I think the better way of saying it is you’ve got to cover your costs. If you are a beginner like Gabriele for instance wouldn’t have done this before and the other lady didn’t do it before. So you can’t really charge too much because people who are doing the workshop will expect that kind of return. So I would say keep the price minimum to start with. Keep it low. Only when you get more experience and perhaps more well known as I was at the end then you can charge more money but certainly to begin with you can’t – don’t get greedy. In other words.

Stephen Bradley: The way you did yours, how did you conduct your workshops – you had a screen didn’t you? 

Colin Bradley: Well I did but that going to be virtually impossible because you’ve either got to have a television and a camera that links the television then you’ve got to be well up in technology to be able to do all that. And I had a screen which is even more tricky. It worked for me but it may not work for them I wouldn’t start out that way I didn’t. When I first started I didn’t start out with that. What I always did is make sure that the line drawing was already on the paper before I gave it to any of the students. Now the reason for that is if they got to draw the picture out themselves. Can you imagine the mess that they’re going to get into even before they start. More than half your day would be going round trying to get that line drawing right now the reason I did that and mention it to people although they were very appreciative. No one ever said I would want to do this myself. They always said Oh we’re really grateful because now we can just see how the pencil pencil works because that’s what you’re doing you’re actually teaching them how to use the pastel pencil. So that line drawing was always right from the beginning it was always on the paper. I gave them the paper with the line drawing on it. So what they could do is pick up their pencils and start drawing straight away. 

Example of Flatford Mill Pastel Pencil workshop with Colin Bradley

Example of Pastel Pencil workshop with Colin Bradley at Weston-super-Mare

Stephen Bradley: Yeah. How long were your workshops. Gabriele’s asking how many hours she’d run. Did you used to do 1 day workshops? 

Colin Bradley: I did yes I did quite a lot of one day workshops. In fact the majority of them were one day workshops. I did five day workshops, I did three day workshops, I did weekend workshops and it varied enormously and of course depending on the subject if it was the cat portrait for instance or another one that I used to use you know the boats in landscape, that’s again one of our starter packs. That’s a day workshop that will take a day and a day from 10 o’clock in the morning to four o’clock in the afternoon something like that with an hour for lunch. 

Stephen Bradley: Okay I think there’s a lot of good information in there. Is there anything else you want to add to that, any tips for going ahead, I’m sure Gabriele is going to be nervous about it.

Colin Bradley: Well yes this is the thing. This is why I said don’t get too many people to start with because more people you’ve got, it’s like going in front of an audience you know gosh the first time I tried it I was shaking in my shoes as you can imagine. So the six people I had was plenty to start off with. The other thing that you have to do is you got to be prepared to once you start you show them what I would do initially is I would bring them all round the table and do a section of the picture explaining as I went through what I did and how I did it and why I did it and they would then go back to their seats sit down and start and then I used to walk round two or three times while they was doing that. Just checking that they understood and were right and anybody was really frozen. “I don’t know what to do I don’t know where to start” start it for them. You’ve got to be prepared to do that.

Stephen Bradley: Yes good point. 

Colin Bradley: And of course the other thing that I used to do I used to supply the pencils that is quite an undertaking because the more people you’ve got the more pencils you’ve got to do but with the cap portrait there’s only six pencils you see. And the same with the boats in landscape they’re only six pencils. So that’s not quite such an undertaking. But if you don’t give people the pencils and you say no you got to bring your own along some will bring carbothello some will bring Faber some will bring conte some god forbid will bring Derwent and if they did that they’re all going to have different colours. Can you imagine?! I just had a vision, it never happened to me because I used to supply the pencils. It’s different if you’re doing a watercolour workshop because most people have got the colours that you say and you don’t use many colours but pastel pencils is a slightly different matter I don’t envy people starting out. And I did have somebody his name was Tim. He was a student of mine and he came to my workshop.

Artist's and Illustrator's Magazine Pastel Pencil Workshop Advert 1989

My very very first workshop at London Zoo I remember I told you about that well he came to that and he really thought he had cracked it. He really did. And he started workshops it lasted oh a month or two and then packed it up he couldn’t take it anymore. It’s a very very difficult thing to do. I’ve got to say you’ve got to be confident in yourself. If you’re not if you are just beginning yourself then you should be absolutely honest with your audience. I do recommend that – be honest. Don’t try to put yourself out there. I’m an expert when you’re not. Because if you do that they’re going to expect you to be an expert. And when you’re not it shows, see what I mean. That’s a bit brutal but yes I’d rather put it out there now than people come back to me later saying “you said it would be a piece of cake Colin!” because it isn’t. 

Stephen Bradley: I think that’s good that’s honest and that’s the most important thing you can be for people.

Colin Bradley: Oh yeah upfront and honest I’ve always had that persona I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve always let people know as I said to you many times and I’ve said to our audience I don’t consider myself an artist per say I’m an art teacher who happens to be just a little bit better than the people I’m teaching. You have to think like that if you if you think you’re the cat’s whiskers you’re in trouble.

Stephen Bradley: All right thanks dad next and thanks everyone for this little mini podcast I hope that’s helped and we’ll see you soon.

By | 2018-09-14T20:38:41+00:00 September 14th, 2018|Podcasts, Tips & Techniques|0 Comments