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Life-Changing Workshops – by Robert Genn

Life-Changing Workshops
 - by Robert Genn

As a young artist just starting out, I took a few workshops--some of which I actually paid for. I just happened to be in Southern Spain and had the opportunity to hang out with a remarkable French painter by the name of Maurice Golleau. Limited in my understanding of French, I had to pay close attention to what the guy actually did. Limited palette, grey scale, grisaille, soft and hard edges, lost and found lines, interlocking gradations, the principles of paucity and adding "mystère" to dull works were all new to me. Golleau added to my impoverished bag of tricks and helped me to look realistically at the path that lay ahead.

The best workshops are conducted by practicing pros who feel the need to share. Often humbled by the demands and foibles of creativity themselves, these pros can offer sincere studenthood and practical, insider understanding.

Scientist and visionary Rupert Sheldrake notes, "Unfortunately, at present, practically no one under thirty goes to workshops. It's a system of education entirely for the middle aged." Sheldrake is mostly right about this--in a recent workshop given by my daughter, Sara, and me, the average age was about 50.

Economics has a lot to do with this perplexing situation. Young people can't always afford the travel and the high-priced help. Fact is, the workshop concept is an offshoot of the old apprenticeship system where a chosen few were mentored and encouraged. Workshops are apprenticeship-lite, and while they offer less commitment than the four years it takes to get a BFA, they can be a shortcut to professionalism.

One stunning, long-shadowed evening on an Andalucían beach, wired with the spirit of Joaquim Sorolla, I watched Golleau trying to make right the light and shade of a brightly coloured fishboat hauled onto the sand. It struck me that all of us who work in refined art, no matter how talented we may be, are regularly and persistently challenged. It was one of my best life lessons.

Golleau and I corresponded off and on before his death in 2001. While sometimes outspoken and frank, he treated me like a confederate. I had his letters translated. He once told me: "Vous seriez tout à fait un bon peintre, si vous avez inclus dans votre mystère peintures."--"You would be quite a good painter if you only included mystery in your paintings."

Best regards,


PS: "When you approach each new work with humility, and try to foresee its unique problems, it will win your love; it will give you joy." (Maurice Golleau, 1922-2001)

Esoterica: Looking over the Painter's Keys Workshop Calendar, I see some valuable workshops coming up. One that stands out for next spring is being given by two top-notch pros: Nancy O'Toole and Gaye Adams. It's taking place in and around the country cortijo El Molino del Conde, near Malaga in Southern Spain. Hosts Mike and Hilary Powell are aficionados of all things Spanish and run a widely celebrated kitchen. Having spent a year in nearby Fuengirola and Mihas, I can attest to the charm, colour and white-painted dazzle of Andalucía. This, and other workshops like it, could be a life changer.

Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to post from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of his artistic insights, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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