My navigation system in my car was surprisingly accurate. I had been in Toronto before to see the Blue Jays and Yankees play, so I knew it could be easy to get lost. I assumed that I was going to be a big ball of stress trying to find the location for my first ever painting workshop. I always stress out a little bit when I don’t know where I’m going, and Toronto is a big city. It was just a huge relief that the woman’s voice coming out of the speakers in my car was telling me exactly where to go when we ran into road construction every other street.
Finding the location was easy, almost too easy. Now I could turn all of my attention to stressing out about doing the workshop. I had been teaching my painting techniques online for a lot of years, so I knew exactly how I was going to approach my workshop. I just didn’t know how people were going to react. I had substituted at a local college for the art professor, but it wasn’t the same. In college you are told what the project is and you go do it. Then you have a critique after. There isn’t a lot of one on one guidance. My goal for my workshop was to change that, and try to focus on the one on one stuff a lot more. To be honest, that made me nervous. Let’s face it, people are diverse, with all types of personalities, attitudes, ways of interpretation and ideas. That’s what made me nervous.
I’m an easy going guy. I like to make people happy. If I had someone who wasn’t happy, what was I going to do if I couldn’t make them happy? Are they going to storm out? The stress was starting to build up. I think it built up so much that I started to get a cold, go figure. Every time I go to Canada for a workshop I get some sort of cold or flu, but that’s another story, for another time.
We set up the tables with easels and the workshop was about to begin. I picked a project that was pretty “big”. 18 X 36 with intense clouds and some trees that weren’t too extremely difficult. I’m known for my clouds, so I figured that’s what I should focus on. One thing that I forgot to remember was that I paint really fast, and 18 X 36 is a smaller painting for me.
People started filing in, and I greeted them as they came. I asked their names and forgot their names instantly. Stupid nerves. Eventually everyone was there and it was 10 o’clock. It was time to start. Crap, now I had to talk in front of people. I decided to do introductions. That way it would take some of the pressure off me if everyone had to speak in front of a group. Even though it’s 15 people, it’s still nerve racking to be on display. I started off with my introduction. I could feel my face getting hot as I rambled on and on about how long I had been painting and how I always wanted to be a cartoonist, ramble, ramble, ramble. Its weird how nerves make you forget that their are periods in the human language. Eventually I had enough talking about me, and I had everyone else go around the room. What a relief.
Once it got back around to me, I was ready to go. Let’s paint! I dove right into the painting, and the nerves went away. I knew where I was going and all the confidence rushed back into me. Plus I was looking at my canvas more so I could imagine people weren’t staring at me. We dove right into that tiny little 18 X 36 and the workshop was in high gear.
I would do a step in the painting and then everyone would dig in and tackle the same step at their station. You could hear a pin drop in the place. No talking, just silence. Thankfully someone asked if they could play some music. Yes, music! I forgot about how quiet silence is. Music was the trick, it made it feel much less tense. Before you could feel the concentration in the air. Now everyone was just painting.
As I walked around and helped people through each step of the painting I realized something. Something I had already known, but doing the workshop just reinforced that subconscious fact. People are really nice. I enjoyed helping people with their paintings even more than I liked doing my own up front. Every single painting looked different. Everyone had their own style. Everyone held their brush a different way, everyone’s interpretation of the color mixture was a little different. That really made me happy. It’d be boring if everyone did the painting I was doing and they all looked exactly the same.
Everyone was at different levels, some had painted for years, some had painted for the first time the week before. There were young people, older people, people in the middle, men and women. It was a diverse crowd in many ways, and I really enjoyed that.
There were highs and lows in the difficulty of the workshop. Some parts were really hard, and some parts were really easy. The only thing I wish I could have changed was the size of the painting. Some people were sweating bullets trying to get that canvas covered. “Use more paint,” I’d say. “I brought it, don’t worry about using it.” There were a few who weren’t too shy about using it though :). Let’s just say I didn’t make much money on my first ever workshop trip, since I supplied, paint, food, canvas, easels and brushes. Not to mention I drove to 4 cities and drove thousands of miles and stayed in a lot of hotels. Planning is for the birds.
After the two day workshop ended I was tired but extremely happy. I pulled it off, everyone was really happy with the workshop. They all seemed to have a lot of fun. I even took a fuzzy cell phone picture of all of us at the end. I was worried for the first group, but someone always has to be first. It couldn’t have been a nicer group of people though, and they gave me some great suggestions going forward. Come to find out I had nothing to stress about at all.
After the first workshop in Toronto, I held another one in Toronto, then we headed to Richmond, Virginia, then to Hoboken, NJ and finished up in Westerly, RI. It was two weeks of painting, driving, sleeping and painting some more. It was a great experience, and not only did I help a lot of people learn some new techniques, I learned a lot of new teaching tips and ideas. I’ve hit 14 cities all over the United States and Canada in the past year. The first year is in the books, and I’m ready for year two!
It has been a great experience, and next week I’m going to write a blog about what I learned on the trip. I hope to see a lot of familiar faces as I head out for year two of workshops around the country!
Here are some interesting and/or funny stories from each city!
Toronto: When we got to the border in Maine to cross into Canada, the border agent asks me what I’ll be doing in Canada. I say I’ll be teaching a workshop. So you are working in Canada? They ask. “Well, not really, I’m just teaching a painting workshop and then leaving.” “Are you getting paid?” “Uhhhhhhh not really…. well kind of?” “Go park up there please and come inside.” Let’s just say we were there for a few hours, and then had to drive to a different entry point to get a permit. Did I mention that planning was for the birds?
There’s one really good story that I probably shouldn’t tell, and will spare you the details. I’ll just say you guys need more rest areas in Ontario, and Loblaws (supermarket) needs bathrooms in their parking garages.
Richmond, VA: Richmond is a really nice city, we just decided to stay in the part that isn’t nice. It was cheaper that way, but we really didn’t know because we had never been there before. The workshop itself was in a nice spot, but our hotel…uhhh yeah. We went to AC Moore in the area to pick up a few art supplies for the next day’s workshop. We were kind of freaked out about how sketchy the area looked. Adam asked the lady at the counter, “Do you think this area is a little, uhhh….” She finished the sentence for him “Dangerous?”
The elevator in the hotel would swing from side to side when you got in it. So every time we got in there Adam would rock it back and forth to try to freak me out as we went up to the room. Fortunately it held on for the week.
Hoboken, NJ Hoboken may be the land of car horns. Everyone is always so happy to see you that they honk at you any chance they get. Honk honk honk!
A lady pulled me aside during the workshop and told me that this was one of the highlights of her life. I almost cried, I’m not going to lie. I held it together though. I was just tired (and pretty touched to be honest).
We drove over to NYC one night and while we were walking around I dropped my parking garage slip out of my pocket. Its a ticket that shows that its your car so they can give you the keys. Not knowing if I’d be able to get my car easily without it I freaked out. We walked all over NYC and I actually found it on the sidewalk about an hour later. That was like winning the lottery.
At one point in the workshop I had a big foot in mouth moment. I was helping a woman with her painting and she said to me “Look at the mistake I just made.” I replied “which one?” Everyone laughed. What I meant to say was “what mistake?” cause I honestly didn’t know where the mistake was haha.
Westerly, RI We went out to eat with some people who were hosting/attending the workshop. Come to find out one of them were friends with someone from my hometown in Washburn, Maine that I knew very well. It’s a small world. The host also showed us Taylor Swifts house, but she wasn’t around… shucks.
The fire alarm went off in the hotel and we had to evacuate. This, we found out, would become a common theme of workshops.
It happened again the next day. At least fire trucks didn’t come this time.
Nashville, TN Everyone tells us we sound like Canadians up here in Northern Maine. We all have accents, and the south is no exception. At the end of one of the workshop we were all taking pictures and one of the people asked Adam if he could take a picture with her camera on the table. He said “which one?” and she said “the pink one,” and Adam said “the penguin?” “no, the pink one,” “the penguin?” “the pink one!” They got it figured out after a few moments of back and forth.
We drove 17 hours in one day on our way to Nashville. When we left Maine it was -22 degrees F. We thought it’d be nice and warm once we got down south. It was out of the ordinary cold though, of course. When we got to the hotel the heat wasn’t working in the room and it was about 30 degrees in there. We almost toughed it out, cause we are manly Mainers. But we wimped out and got a different room.
Atlanta, GA We decided that having 25 people in a workshop was a good idea. That’s a lot of people. Surprisingly the results were awesome. I was so freaked out that I wasn’t going to be able to help people enough. Check out the pic below though! We don’t do workshops as big though, talk about tired afterwards!
We stayed in a really inexpensive hotel again for the first night. And again it was in a rough part of town. We were scared to even go outside of the hotel to get stuff out of the car. The cashier was behind bullet proof glass when I checked in. I think that’s a bad sign. We made it out alive though.
Fire alarm came to visit us again in Atlanta. 1 am wake up call, go outside and stand there for awhile!
Naples, FL Cop cars would follow us around while we walked through parking lots. I think we were picked out cause of our age. I’ll just leave it at that. Strangely enough almost no one in the workshop was from Naples.
We had a secret celebrity in the workshop. That’s all I’ll say :).
Orlando, FL As we went around the room doing introductions there was this guy who looked familiar to me. He said he had been painting for a little bit, but mostly played the guitar. He said he liked to travel around and teach people how to play guitar too. I thought it was cool cause I play guitar as well. During lunch break Adam and I were sitting in the parking lot enjoying the 75 degree weather. The same guy comes back from lunch and pulls up in a really nice car. Adam and I look at each other and say “he must be doing really well teaching people guitar.” So when he walks over we say hey, and ask him about guitar some more. Eventually I ask him “so are you in any bands?” He says “yeah a couple.” “I’m the guitarist for Alter Bridge, and I started a new band a few years ago called Tremonti. I also formed and played guitar for Creed.” All the guitar magazines I used to read flashed into my head “that’s who you are! I knew you looked familiar!” It was Mark Tremonti.
We went to this place with called Tu Tu Tango one night with a couple of the attendees. It was awesome food, and they had people painting live, performing different types of art, and there was art everywhere. Not really a funny story here, but this is a cool place you should check out in Orlando.
Jacksonville, FL We were really tired after driving 2000 miles around the country for the previous two weeks that we weren’t really adventurous and just stayed in the hotel the entire time. We will have to make a funny story this year while we are there!
I think the fire alarm visited us again here, but I can’t remember for sure. It happened twice on the trip in the south.
Ottawa, ON – On our way there we stopped at McDonalds in Quebec. Well I don’t speak French. I can read a little, and understand a little bit, and say a few things, but I’m far from speaking French. This McDonalds was packed and there were tons of people there. We were standing in a crowd of people that was supposed to be a line I guess. I wasn’t going to ask anyone, because I wouldn’t understand their response anyway. Well, the workers at the counter kept saying “Que Pas Ci Ci?” Or something like that, and we would just stand there not having a clue what they were saying. They probably said it 20 times, and eventually some guy in front of us says “that means go up there.” We’ve asked around but we still have no idea what they were saying. Good thing everyone speaks a little English so we could order food :).
This time the security alarm went off, and the power went out. Alarms really enjoy workshops.
Oscoda, Michigan We were fortunate to stay at a really wonderful ladies house named Helen in Oscoda. It is a beautiful house. She waited up for us to get there (we were driving up in a rented car from Detroit) so she could show us the house, and where everything was. We got lost along the way because I was watching a basketball game on my phone and not being a good navigator. So when we got there it was really late, like 11PM or so. Helen greets us and shows us around the living room. Then she shows us a bedroom with one bed in it. “This is where you can sleep.” So then she says shes going to get over to her neighbors house to go get some rest. Adam says “are you gonna show us another room where I can sleep?” “Oh,” she says “I thought maybe you two were… oh okay, yeah lets go upstairs.” “Tim and I are good friends, but we aren’t that good of friends, Helen.” We had a good laugh about that, that whole week. Just a side note, Helen is one of the nicest, funnest people I’ve ever met!
Dallas, TX One day I mentioned how much I liked Krispy Kreme doughnuts and how we don’t have them up North. The next morning there were 4 boxes of doughnuts on the table. I need to start saying stuff like that all the time in the workshops!
We went to a Dallas Mavericks game one night, and after it was over we jumped in a cab. The cab driver asks us where we are going and we start heading that way. A few minutes into the drive he looks back at us and asks “so do you guys want to go see some… ” I’ll just say he asked us if we wanted to go see some ladies of the night :). We said no thanks, our hotel is fine with us. Awkward.
We went out with a few people from the workshop one night to a restaurant across from the hotel. There was a cop that stood behind us the entire time. So Adam got up and asked him what the deal was, and he said it was no big deal. As we left the cop followed us out. Lets just say the crowd at that place was a little rough, and we stood out. So I think the cop was there for us to make sure we made it out okay. We like to live on the edge apparently.
Next stop Vancouver in November! Time to teach some more painting and make more memories!