Painting Workshop: What I learned in Ireland


When people ask about my trip to teach watercolour in Ireland, I tell them it was an amazing gift. How else can I describe the experience of travel in a beautiful and rugged country, the intimacy and connection of a small group, painting and sharing adventures together?

Every day in Ireland is a treasure trove of sights and stories; with so much to see, it's amazing our group ever got any painting done! On our first day we set up in our cottage studio and got to know each other. Because I teach online, often students who attend my workshop have already watched all the content I share on YouTube and in my online classes, and so while they feel like they know me, I have to catch up and get to know them! There is something special about being able to listen for a change, and hear about my students' experiences in learning watercolour, to speak directly to their hopes and fears. We were a class of eight students, an instructor (me!) and two spouses, and when we weren't painting, we were exploring Ireland together.

The third day of our workshop was exciting; we had spent the day before touring in County Mayo, visiting the rugged cliffs of Downpatrick Head and historic 14th century Rosserk Abbey, and returning to the studio with the same bank of images to paint gave us a special unity. So often when I'm teaching, I'm supplying reference photos, or students bring their own, and we haven't the same unity of experience to help us get deeper than what a mere image can offer. Our paintings had a special richness because we could discuss together the emotion of our experience and how to express that in paint.

For years I've believed that more important than teaching technique is speaking to mindset; that if an artist is discouraged or fearful, their painting will be less effective, and they might even quit painting. I get such a charge of joy from my emails from students who have discovered their freedom through my words, but until recently, I felt like I had to "sneak in" words directed to mindset, instead of being upfront about it. Even though mindset is the number one reason why I love to teach!

What you are thinking and feeling is revealed in your art! All the technical skill in the world won't make your painting come alive; your heart needs to engage with the process, and you need to understand how to let it. This is why I've written emails and blog posts (thousands of words!) on the topic. This is what I want my story to be about. This was the passion I shared with my students in Ireland, and I turned on the video camera so you can see a little clip into our cottage studio, and one of many heart-led conversations we shared that week.

Download the lecture notes here: