I’m delighted to step aside for today and share the blogging podium with Ann Kullberg.
I first met Ann when the gallery where I worked as director hosted her for a workshop featuring her portrait drawing techniques with colored pencil. She was doing then what I hoped to do some day—make a living from my artwork—and she was also specializing in portrait work and in colored pencil work. Two things near and dear to my heart (even though her portraits are human and mine are animal).
Ann is now focusing on the teaching aspects of colored pencil work, but I’ll let her tell you about that. Please welcome Ann to Horse Painter!
Teaching is my First Love – Ann Kullberg
I had a horrible sinus infection and to make things even more interesting, the stomach flu, too, on the first day of the first colored pencil workshop I ever taught, about 20 years ago. I couldn’t cancel the workshop, because I couldn’t refund money I’d long ago applied to an electric bill or kid’s school shoes. I had to ride a ferry to the workshop, and then meander through Vashon Island back roads to find the venue, which was a charming converted barn. I was a bit horrified, though, to discover that the bathroom was not attached and was quite a bit of a walk up a hill, and my stomach flu wasn’t sure it could make that short walk without humiliating consequences.
Still, I stood in front of that first class of colored pencil enthusiasts, nervous and woozy, yes, but also honored and excited! I had never taken an art workshop, but I had taught Junior High English and Japanese language to adults, and I am a natural-born ham. Nothing lights me up as much as an audience, so I powered through and by the end of the three-day workshop, I was in love with teaching colored pencil and was hoping I’d get to hold a lot more workshops!
Fast-forward to today. I’ve now taught in 44 states in the US, in Tokyo and Kobe, Japan, in the UK, Mexico, Canada, and on numerous cruises. And I still love teaching every workshop. I’ve learned so much about colored pencil by teaching. I’ve refined my own technique, and have learned how differently we all think and see and interpret line, color, and value. I’m still in love with colored pencil and I love to draw, but teaching for me is my first love. Sometimes I think I learned to master something just in order to have something wonderful and exciting to teach!
If I could somehow find a way to click a button and upload the contents of my colored pencil brain into student’s brains, I’d do that in a heartbeat…but that technology seems a bit of a ways off, so for now, I try really hard to THINK like my students. How can I say what I need to say in a way that will make sense? I’ve learned that the content that I really need to convey must be said in three different ways in order for everyone to get it. It also has to be shown with demonstrations multiple times. What seems to work best is if I break everything down into tiny bits of info. I talk about the technique, then show it, then have students try it out for themselves. Once they’ve tried it, I repeat the instructions and have them watch me again. It seems that most things don’t really sink in until after they’ve tried it for themselves, then see me repeat the technique.
I know that lots of people come to one of my workshops feeling pretty nervous and intimidated. My hat is off to anyone who attends any kind of workshop. It’s not an easy thing to do! What will the teacher be like? Will she be nice? Or not? Will I be the worst one in the class? Will I be able to follow the instructions? Who will I sit next to? So many questions and valid concerns!
I always let folks in my workshops know that a workshop is all about “process, not product”. I’d rather teach someone how to see and build color and value thoroughly, rather than just teach them a single project, step-by-step. I am hoping they learn many things that they can apply to their own future colored pencil projects, but they shouldn’t expect to do their best work in a workshop. There’s so much to learn and so much to pay attention to that it’s pretty hard to do stellar work in that kind of setting. I think the best approach to have when attending a workshop as a student is to try everything the teacher suggests. If it works for her, it just might work for you. Remember that at a workshop, you’re in a learning phase. No one ever played their first set of piano scales perfectly, or put on a pair of ice skates for the first time and did a triple axel. It takes practice and time and modification at home to incorporate new techniques into your own unique style.
I’ve branched out my teaching now, to online Live Webinars from my home studio. I’ve only held a few, but they’ve been a blast, and it’s been pretty exciting to have people from the Netherlands, UK, Australia, Canada, and the US all in the “same room” during a webinar! I feel like I can finally teach as thoroughly and in depth as I’ve wanted to all these years, as the webinars are relatively short with time in between for folks to practice what I’ve taught. I hope I get to do lots more!
When I see someone have a “light bulb moment” (or several!) in a workshop, I am tickled to my core. I’m happy to put up with airports, rental cars, technological glitches, and all the other downsides of traveling to teach, or teaching online, just to see the happy faces of folks who’ve just understood something brand new to them. I’ve still got a few good years left – I hope I get to teach workshops in the 6 states I’m missing, and a few new spots around the world, too!
Take a look at my Workshop Listings and think about joining me in one, soon!
Ann Kullberg is the author of many instruction books on colored pencil, including Colored Pencil Portraits Step by Step. An award-winning portrait artist, instructor and author, Kullberg has published a monthly magazine for colored pencil artists for 15 years. Through her books, website, and workshops, she continues to instruct and inspire colored pencil artists worldwide. www.annkullberg.com