Category Archives: motivation

Workshops are Worth It!

Giving a demonstration in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Hi Gang! I know it’s been a long time. But I’m BAA-aaaaack! Today I want to talk about the value of taking workshops when there are so many great tutorials out there (DVDs, Youtube, etc…).

So… why invest hundreds of dollars and many hours to attend a live workshop when you can simply pick up the latest tutorial DVD by your favorite artist/teacher at a fraction of the cost? Hey, I get it. For many of us it’s just not possible to attend a class for many reasons: scheduling conflicts and lack of expendable income are probably the two most common reasons why people cannot make the investment. And for you, this is why I made my tutorial DVD with Bella Muse Productions. But I want to give some reasons why you should still consider signing up for a workshop. This is not an exhaustive list:

Students hard at work in Bruges, Belgium at Flemish Classical Atelier.

The Live Experience — There’s nothing like being in the same room with people of your same stripe working toward a common goal. Being in a new place with new people has a way of heightening our senses. We are able to consume the learning process in a special way that deepens the experience and makes it more meaningful. The energy is palpable. We undergo the adventure together. We find we are not alone in our frustrations and victories, and how lovely is that?

Interfacing with your Instructor — I can almost guarantee you that you will be surprised by your teacher. How nice they are. How mean they are. How they breakdown and present the material. You will no doubt go to the class with certain misconceptions about who this person is and how they will operate. Be open minded. Even well-known artists are only human and we have our weaknesses and foibles (Well, not me, of course. I’m speaking of the other guys. Wink.). We also have our unique strengths. We have a lot to teach you just by the attentive way in which we approach our subject, how we manage our materials, and simply our posture while making our art.

A full class at Los Angeles Academy of Figurative Art.

Personal Attention — In a DVD you don’t get the personal attention. You don’t get the critiques. Also, you don’t get to hear the teacher critiquing other students. These indirect comments may very well apply to your work, too. In my classes I strive to give each person equal attention. I don’t play favorites and my goal is to help you learn and improve. If you aren’t able to make a “fix” I will literally take your brush in hand and make it (or part of it) for you. In many, many cases my students are surprised by the way I am able to redeem a seemingly hopeless situation. This is a very important service you will never receive from a DVD tutorial. I love to demonstrate to my students that once you acquire the proper tools, nothing is impossible.

Making Friends — I have made most of my very best friends in the line of teaching. My worldview has greatly expanded and I’ve met such wonderful people who have added beautifully to the quality of my life. Of course you may not meet your “bosom pal” at class, but you just never know.

Lots of smiles at the end of a great workshop in Brattleboro, Vermont.

So think about it and don’t set your default button at “I can’t afford it”, or “I’m waiting until I win the lottery”. Take the first step and start calculating costs. Save up if you need to and make a plan. Just do it! I’ll be waiting for you. You won’t be disappointed.

My 2018 workshop schedule can be found HERE. We also have some space open for my portrait class in Seattle coming VERY soon, January 22-25. Details can be found on my workshop schedule.

Happy Art Making!


photo group 3





Being Consistent


You just got back from a great workshop. You learned a LOT and had a great time with the other students. You got inspired. You vow to find more time to paint. But you get home and life sets in and you keep putting off painting and six months later you find your art stuff has a light layer of dust on it.

Most of us have lives outside of art. Regular jobs, families, and other responsibilities. We want to get better at our painting but we really don’t have time for it…or do we? Here are some tips to consider to help you create some consistency in your art life.

1. Set up a permanent work area. You really don’t need a huge space. Talk to your spouse or partner about setting up a committed area in your home or apartment so as to avoid unnecessary set up and break down time. If you fear it’s unsightly when guests come over, find a creative way to hide it. A Japanese screen. A decorative curtain.

2. Schedule consistent time to paint. Yeah, I know, you’re laughing at me already. But get creative and be determined. Also, don’t derail yourself by thinking you have to block out huge amounts of time. One hour is better than nothing. Even thirty minutes a day, or every other day, will be beneficial to your craft.

3. Be healthy. Eat right and exercise regularly. I’ll not insult you by listing the benefits. You already know them. Just do it!

4. Join an art club or co-op studio. Find a place locally where you can join others in consistently scheduled painting sessions. I get together with a group most Friday mornings to paint the portrait from life. It’s great practice and I find working in a group setting to be energizing. If something like this is not available in your area, look harder, you might be wrong. If all else fails, start your own group.

5. Plan to enter a contest. I think one of the best ways to help keep you consistent is to find an art competition and plan to submit an entry. This can help motivate you and keep you on track with your schedule. There are lots of competitions and contests out there for artists of all levels. If you’re not world class yet find something local and low key. Just give it a try. Check out this website for some ideas:

6. Set achievable goals for yourself. I think many aspiring artists set the bar WAY TOO HIGH for themselves at the beginning which can set them up for failure and disappointment. Set up smaller projects. Do something that’s not going to take you six months. Succeeding in smaller projects that won’t take too long will not only grow your abilities and confidence, it will eventually propel you to larger and more ambitious projects.

7. Define a stylistic path. Once you can create some consistency in your painting schedule, capitalize on it by being consistent in your artistic direction. Defining a path can take some time and soul searching, so don’t rush it. I’ve seen many people jump from style to style. They attend many workshops with teachers who paint very differently from one another. The result is they NEVER master anything. Now some people just love this. They don’t really care about getting better. They just like the excitement and fun of attending workshops. I get it. But if you really want to get good at what you do, you need to settle into a particular methodology and master it. I touch on this in another post “Dave’s Tips to Becoming a Better Artist”. Check out points 2, 3, and 4.

Have a great day!


The Burden of Doing Something Right

uceny 2

When you finally do it right. When all your hard work culminates in that great piece. When you feel you were finally on your game. When it felt almost easy. What happens next?

Well, for me it boosts my confidence — as it should, right? I mean, I’ve been working SO HARD for this. It finally happened. Yay, Me! So this means I can do it again, right? I just did it. So, of course, I’ve reached a new level in my skill set. I broke through the barrier. I can do it again, can’t I?


Maybe not.

What has happened to me so many times when I reach that new level in a particular piece is I set myself up for failure. How? Because I’m an optimist — especially after doing something great. I launch into that next project as though I were invincible. And…I tank. Ouch! Don’t let your successes side track you. I’m not saying you shouldn’t launch into your next project with confidence and optimism. You should! But if you fail, as I have so often after a performance windfall, don’t let it get to you.

I’m writing about this because I know how sensitive we artsy types are. We can be downright bi-polar at times. One moment we are going to conquer the world with our art. The next we are contemplating giving it all up to go do something easier. So don’t give up. If we were to graph our progress as artists the upward curve would not be smooth and consistent. It would be as jagged as a crosscut saw. Of course, in the big picture we are getting better. So don’t let those little failures bother you too much. And they are little. Maybe “failure” isn’t the best word to use here. Maybe “setback” or “speedbump” would be better. Just keep going. Progress in art is much like anything else in life: relationships, parenting, learning any highly skilled activity. We succeed, we fail, we succeed…etc. But the persistent and optimistic ones make steady progress. We grow. We mature. Believe it or not I have to talk myself through this quite often.

So keep going, My Friends. Don’t let your successes set you up for failure. Realize you’re GOING TO FAIL at regular intervals…unless you’re super human or something. Learn from it, take it in stride, and enjoy the journey.


PS — When I say “realize you’re going to fail” that doesn’t mean you should expect failure when you start a painting. You should expect success. Start each piece thinking you’re going to nail it, because that’s probably the only way you will nail it. But if you don’t…you know what I mean. When I tank it still seems like a surprise. “What do you mean I screwed up?!” It kind of hits me hard. But I pick myself up and go after it again. Perhaps just a little wiser this time.