Reflections on Robert Burridge’s Mentor Workshop

September 12, 2014

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This past year was a pivotal turning point in my art career as I decided, for the very first time since teaching myself to paint 11 years ago, that I would invest in myself and take a couple of in person workshops to help me better prepare my body of work for gallery submissions and to broaden my knowledge base for the students I teach art to at St. Paul’s.  With this decision came excitement and then trepidation as I set some really specific guidelines as to what type of workshop I was willing to attend, especially in light of being on a tight budget. Along with the budget, I was seeking out an experience which would give me the freedom to work on my own body of work,  rather than learning a specific technique or style from a specific artist. I also wanted to apply all the fine art concepts I would learn to the lessons I use for my 3rd – 8th graders and…. I really needed him/her to have a reputation for having a big heart. I prayed about it, let it go, and payed attention to the buzz and goings on in my art world. Thankfully…there was a great deal of buzz around The Mentor Workshop from Robert Burridge, which just so happened to meet the needs I had for a professional workshop experience…and, everything I have ever heard about him was that he had a HUGE heart, that coupled with the workshop I have booked in October and… I was sold. 

Unlike the workshops that he teaches as he travels, the mentor workshop is offered in his studio at his home, in a small group (we had 7), and over the course of several days. 

I had shipped my supplies out to California, walked in the first day after flying at length, and felt at ease as I began to set up and met the fellow artists that would share this journey with me. 

The mess was joyous, the energy exciting, and at the same time, my spirit felt right at home amongst the drips and runs and marks of color along the walls and floors. 

Bob’s Figure Studies

Over the course of the next 4 days we talked and talked and questioned and talked. We slung paint, lots of it, played with glazes, talked about master artists, watched Bob paint demos and work on his own body of work, and ate some of the finest food ever  prepared by his lovely wife Kate and assistant Debra.

 Between painting sessions, which started for some, at 7 am, we enjoyed the sounds of chickens laying eggs, horses asking for carrots, and a couple of times of day watched ever so gently as the deer came up to eat and take in all the excitement between the studio and house. The setting was idillic for an art retreat, and I soaked it all in. 

Throughout the painting process I was open to trying new ideas and techniques within the scope of my own style. Because I was flying, I chose to paint on paper and opted for the 25 3/4″ by 40″ 260lb. Arches cold press which worked out beautifully. I was able to have full sheets, two 18″ by 24″ sheets, or two 12″ by 40″ sheets along with my smaller studies on paper.

 One of the things I found extremely valuable was understanding the importance of the four C’s before each painting begins. That intention made a world of difference in my focus and completion of each piece. It will be a concept I share with my students as well, which I believe will give them a much stronger foundation in their focus. Below are some of my pieces with intention, title and/or insight. 

Figure Study with Acrylic Washing

Figure Study with Acrylic Washing Technique
Figure Sketches
Complimentary Color Quick Paints
Complimentary Color Quick Paints

Complimentary Color Quick Paints and Ink washes
Color Palette Study 12″ by 12″
Acrylic Washing Technique
Texture Study 18″ by 24″ with glazing and Rembrandt Lighting Study
Mark Making, Glazing, and Subtlety Practice
Diebenkorn Inspired piece after studying his planes of color
“Headed For Change” 40″ by 26″ 
“The Tourists” 18″ by 24″ 
“Marks of Time and Place” 18″ by 24″ 
“Blue Lemons” 18″ by 24″ (deliciously odd texture)
“I Am An Artist” 40″ by 26″ (test of black gesso vs. tar paper

“Pogo Sticks and Love” 13″ by 40″ acrylic on paper (sold)

As the workshop came to a close, we all celebrated our finished pieces and reflected back on the experience a bit. It was worth every penny for me in the first 30 minutes.  Not simply because of all the joy that was found there, but the professional goals I set to move my career forward were met in spades. I felt confident leaving, sure of where my style lands, sure of my talent, better equipped to teach my young ones, and sure that investing in my career was a sound decision. On the heart side, mine was full to the brim with gratitude for Bob, Kate, and Debra holding that space for us and opening up their home. What a testament it was to living the life of a creative, being willing to share their knowledge, and give credence to the artists walking in their footsteps. 

Many of you have asked me about my experience and I am eager to share more specifics if you wish to message me: But first, if you haven’t already, head over to Bob’s website, and sign up for his Artsy Farsty Newsletter and Bob Blasts. They are chock full of his vast buckets of knowledge, techniques, product reviews, book suggestions, and some of the best music options for painting I have found. You can also find their 2015 Mentor Workshop details there, and as I understand, spots fill up quickly. 

Next month I head to my second workshop for the year in Raleigh with the also HUGE hearted Jeanne Bessette. I am looking forward to taking what I have experienced here, applying it over the next two months, and heading into that with rockets fired. Can’t wait, 🙂

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