No Need to Whine

I recently got to spend five days with 14 other artists painting in the Sierra Nevada foothills, at the most beautiful time of year, in near-perfect conditions.  The occasion?  Kathleen Dunphy’s advanced painting workshop, called “No Whiners: Serious Art for Serious Artists.”

Kathleen Dunphy sketches and Cynthia Hein observes. Photo by Stephanie Benedict
Cynthia Jackson Hein watches while Kathleen Dunphy (right) prepares thumbnail sketches for a demonstration at her No Whiners 2012 workshop.

Dunphy structures her five-day No Whiners a bit differently than most workshops I’ve attended.  She opens with a discussion of ways to work through the roadblocks and stuck places we all encounter.  Then she challenges her students to focus on their weaknesses. She asks everyone to name the three or four things they want to focus on during the workshop, and turns people loose.

She still gives demonstrations:  after all, her students are visual people, and learn in part by seeing.  And while her students are painting, Dunphy offers some very specific personalized instruction to address the topics each student wanted to focus on, whether it be paint handling or composition or painting moving water. People didn’t even have to paint, if they felt drawing would be more useful to them.

She also made sure we got to paint at locations with different types of painting problems.  We drove one day to Tamarack, California (elevation 6,913 ft.), where was snow on the ground, bright yellow aspen trees, and weather warm enough in the afternoon to paint in t-shirts. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Then again, maybe it does.  Dunphy’s enthusiasm is contagious.  She’s a great role model of a working artist, challenging herself to do different things, never settling.  She offer tips on everything from how to see values (“Squint, often.”), to how to protect yourself from snow blindness while you paint, to how to work with galleries.

Someone asked me what I got out of the workshop, and my answer was this:  Besides the painting itself, and the camaraderie with a great group of artists, I got a great attitude adjustment and a renewed sense of commitment.  Thank you, Kathleen, and my fellow No Whiners!

Have you taken a Kathleen Dunphy workshop?  What did you think?

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