Friday, January 15, 2016

Do you know how to identify a good art instructor?

(Annie Strack teaching plein air painting in Spain)

My new watercolor class started yesterday at a local arts center. I started my course with the basic lessons about art materials -- I explained the different types, grades, uses, properties, and care of the various materials we use in class -- paper, paints, brushes, and more. How the materials are made, what the ingredients mean and why they are added, explanation of art and painting terms, and on and on and then moving on to drawing and design before getting into painting techniques.

(Annie Strack filming for television)

Most of my students have been taking watercolor painting classes from other art teachers at that center for years, and after the class they confided in me that everything I taught was new to them! Their previous teacher/teachers just SHOWED how she painted, but never EXPLAINED her processes -- like what makes a good composition, or why she choose certain colors, or the importance of values, or how color temperatures work, etc., -- nothing.

(Annie Strack giving the keynote address at the Annual Meeting of the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society)

My students lamented that their other teachers had never explained the differences between artist grade and student grade materials. Or the difference between washes and glazes. Or how to mix colors, or clean their brushes properly, or the difference between opaque and transparent colors, or, well, anything. They were so grateful to finally have an experienced professional teacher, and they eagerly soaked up knowledge. 

(Annie Strack's students at Nunez College)

Sadly, I've seen this all too often. A person can be a great artist, and at the same time, have little or no knowledge about art. There's nothing wrong with that. But being able to paint beautifully does not mean that they automatically possess the ability to teach art. I’ve watched lots of talented self-taught artists paint, and many of them have no idea how they create – they “just do it.”

(Annie Strack teaching at Delaware Watercolor Society)

Some of these artist can enjoy great success, and their paintings are featured in magazines and even win top awards in major juried exhibits. These are the idiot savants of the art world. People who were never taught how to mix colors or hold a brush, and yet they can produce a beautiful work of art through instinct -- without understanding how they did it.

(Annie Strack teaching watercolor painting techniques in New Jersey)

It’s like the people who can play an instrument “by ear,” but can’t read a note of music. Their music can sound perfect, but if they don’t know what key they used, or can’t tell you the name the chords, or show you the difference between flat and sharp, then they can’t teach you how to play the instrument.

(Annie Strack's workshop students in Mississippi)

Anyone can call themselves an artist, and any artist can call themselves an art teacher. This is why it’s so important for students to make sure that their teachers are good teachers, as well as good artists.

(Annie Strack's students at the Bayou Lacombe Art Center)

I'm seeing some of my former students are advertising that they are now teaching workshops and classes, even though they've only been painting for a short while.

(Annie Strack teaching a workshop in Ocean City, Maryland)

Although I make it look easy to my students, art and teaching both require training and practice. Someone may copy my lessons or paintings, but they can't teach from experience that they don't possess.

 (Annie Strack's students and Yves-Marie Salanson of Sennelier in France)

I have decades of training, knowledge, and experience, and spent years perfecting lessons and developing instructional materials for artists. It's better to learn my material directly from me, rather than from someone who has taken a workshop from me or just watched me demonstrate a technique.

(Annie Strack teaching at at Rowan College)

Before you sign up for an art class, make sure the instructor has demonstrated knowledge of whatever it is that she is teaching. Besides experience teaching in legitimate and prestigious venues such as schools, art centers, arts supplies stores, and artist organizations, look for teachers who have glowing references and recommendations.

(Annie Strack's workshop students in Charleston)

Most art instructors publish tutorials and lessons, and you can usually find samples online and in print. Look at their online videos and check out their DVDs. Read their tutorials that they wrote for art magazines, for art supply companies, and online blogs. You need to see evidence like these examples that prove the artist's teaching abilities. If you can't find any evidence, then it probably doesn't exist -- and that is a red warning flag! 

(Annie Strack teaching artist materials at Plaza Art Stores)

The funny thing is, the bad classes are often the same price as the good classes. Would you rather spend your time and money in a class where you won’t learn anything, or would you rather spend that same time and money taking a class from a professional artist who has the knowledge, experience, references, qualifications, and credentials that prove her worth as an extraordinary teacher?

(Annie Strack teaching for the Louisiana Watercolor Society)

Don’t sign up for a class just because the artist is a remarkable painter, make sure the artist is a remarkable teacher, too! Same goes for those of you who book the workshop artists and hire the art instructors – the good teachers don’t cost you any more than the bad ones, so do your homework and get the good ones!
(Annie Strack teaching for the Philadelphia Watercolor Society)

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posted by Annie Strack @ 9:26 PM   6 Comments

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

West Bank Art Guild Workshop

This post is for the artists registered in my watercolor workshop hosted by the West Bank Art Guild, January 29-31.  Students may use the comment section at the bottom of this post to ask questions, or they may email me directly. All future correspondence regarding this workshop will take place here, so please bookmark this page. 

Materials List for Watercolor Painting Workshop

Participants in this workshop will learn the techniques to paint realistic water, skies, landscapes, and more. They will learn how to create convincing reflections and shadows in water, and how to paint various types of waves and water movement. Participants will learn multiple watercolor techniques including glazing, washes, dry brush, masking, lifting, etc., also composition design, values, color mixing, and use of color temperatures. Students will complete one "primary" painting during the workshop, the complexity of which is determined by the length of the workshop. Participants will receive reference photos prior to the workshop and are responsible for drawing the subject onto their own watercolor paper before the workshop begins. In addition, students will also complete at least one "study" painting during each day of the workshop. The studies are used to practice the many techniques that we cover during the lessons.

Materials list:

  • Watercolor paper (4 or more), CP, at least 140# or heavier. Approximately half-sheet size. Blocks can be used.
  • Several smaller scraps or a small pad of watercolor paper, for practicing brush strokes
  • Removable masking fluid
  • HB pencil
  • White plastic/vinyl eraser
  • water containers
  • Paper towels
  • 1" flat watercolor brush
  • Assorted large round brushes, no smaller than #8 (at least one should be at least a #16 or larger)
  • Paints: Indigo, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue (green shade/hue), Manganese blue (you can substitute similar mid-value warm blue if you don’t have this color), Payne's Grey, Sepia, Olive Green, Green Gold, Violet, Yellow Ochre, a warm and a cool red, and any other colors you like to use. Click here to see the colors I use most often! We all don’t need to use the exact same brands and colors of paint. I hate it when students go out and spend a lot of money on colors that they might never use again. Artists can paint quite successfully in my workshops and classes using only a split primary palette of colors, or any standard set of watercolor paints. However, I do prefer that students invest in quality artist grade materials, as student grade materials do not perform as well and therefor are more difficult to use.
  • I suggest that students bring whatever watercolor paints and brushes that they already have. There are tons of colors that I like to use, but I don’t want people to go out and buy new colors that they don’t really need. Same thing with brushes – I like to use an assortment of Kolinsky sables, squirrels, and synthetics. Natural hair brushes are very expensive so I don’t require them in my classes, but there are advantages to using them for some techniques so if you have them – bring them!

This is the photo we will paint in the workshop. It is also attached to this email, so you can email it to participants. NOTE! There is a wreck of a sunken boat near the shoreline in the background of the photo -- we will NOT include that in our painting. 

posted by Annie Strack @ 10:31 AM   0 Comments

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tips For Professional Artists - 10 Easy Tasks to Grow your Art Business

Ten Easy Tasks to Grow your Art Business in the New Year

By Annie Strack ©
(Originally published in Art Calendar Magazine, December 2007)

There are some standard business chores that must be done after the end of the year, like calculating a profit and loss statement and filing those pesky tax returns.  In addition, I like to add a few other simpler tasks to my end of the year chore list.  These simple tasks provide useful planning for the year, and help to maintain focus on career growth.    
Annie Strack painting in the Cedarburg Plein Air competition. 

  1. Look at your list of career goals, and check off the ones that you met for the year.  Did you accomplish all of your annual goals for the year?  If not, look at the goals you didn’t meet, and think about the various reasons why they weren’t accomplished.  Where these goals too lofty for this point in your career, or did you not give yourself enough time to accomplish tasks, or did you schedule too many goals at once?  Adjust your goals for the next year, setting goals that you can attain, and add new goals if needed.  Fine tune and tweak your career plan so that your goals are arranged in schedule that you are confident you can attain.   

  1.  Count the number of artworks you created during the last year.  If you find that you did not finish as many as you wanted, think back to events and try to determine why.  Was it a lack of time?  Could it have been outside distractions, or perhaps lack of studio space?  Determine what changes you need to make to your environment or routine in order to increase your productivity.    

  1. Count the actual number of artworks you sold in the year, not just the total dollar amount.  Is this number consistent with previous years?  How does it compare to the number of works you created during the year?  If sales dramatically increased or decreased, examine the possible reasons why, and determine what changes need to be made to maintain or improve sales.  If your sales ratio was too low, think of ways to improve it for next year.  If your sales ratio was extremely high and you sold most or all of what you created, explore new possibilities for increasing profitability or expanding production.    

  1. Plan the direction you want your art to take this year.  Perhaps plan a new series, or think about ways to improve your current line.  Whether you’ve been thinking about narrowing your focus to concentrate on niche markets, or expanding your line to reach broader audiences, the start of a new year is a good time plan a course of action and implement those changes you’ve been putting off. 

  1. Examine your prices.  When was the last time you raised your prices?  The beginning of the year is the best time to evaluate whether your pricing schedule is working or not.  Now is the time to look over last year’s income and expenses, and determine if your prices are within a range that will enable you to show a profit.  Also, make sure you can adhere to your pricing schedule in a consistent manner, and that any price deviations are adequately justified.   

  1. Buy a new appointment calendar, and pencil in all the shows, festivals, workshops, meetings, and other significant dates for the year.  Mark all those entry deadlines down in your calendar now, so that you won’t forget about any important events or miss valuable opportunities later.     

  1. Update your resume’.  When was the last time you did this?  For most working artists, the resume needs to updated at least once a year, adding shows, exhibits, awards, publications, and other honors that were achieved during the year. 

  1. Update your mailing list.  This is a good time to go through all your old invoices, receipt books, and piles of business cards from the previous year, and add the names and information to your mailing list and data base.  At the same time, go through your list and purge out any outdated or old information.  Don’t forget to go through your email address book and tidy that up, as well. 

  1. Update your promo materials.  Now that you’ve polished up your resume, revised your mailing list, and planned your calendar for the year, you have no excuses left to keep you from redesigning your old promo materials.  Create some new business cards and color brochures, print revised price lists, and maybe even order color postcards with your upcoming exhibit schedule. 

  1. Outline your marketing plan for the year.  Now that you’ve finished updating and organizing your information, you can pull all of these materials together to create a more efficient strategy for marketing your business.  

Individually, these simple tasks don’t take too much time to do and you can easily complete one or more a day.  You’ll not only feel more energized by your accomplishments, you’ll also give yourself a jump start to a more successful year. 


Annie Strack earned Signature Membership from 12 artist societies and she’s an Official Authorized Artist for the U.S. Coast Guard. Her art has received hundreds of awards and hangs in collections worldwide. She’s a popular juror for art competitions, and is a much sought after lecturer and workshop instructor. Annie draws experience from her former career in corporate management to build a successful art career, and she shares her knowledge of business and marketing in her articles for Professional Artist magazine.

posted by Annie Strack @ 10:43 AM   1 Comments

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