Plein Air Painting Workshop in Tobin Lake: Recap

When I was first approached to teach a 3 day plein air workshop in Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan, I said no. First of all, I was too busy, secondly, I usually teach 2-day workshops, and finally, PLEIN AIR? I don’t really qualify as an expert; I hardly ever paint on location. However, the organizer, Roberta, doesn’t give up easily, and somehow she talked me into coming to this beautiful lake resort area for a three day workshop, which ran last week. I’m glad she did!

Until recently, plein air painting has been intimidating to me, and in organizing a workshop, there are a lot of unknowns. Is the weather going to cooperate? Will the northern Canadian blackflies, mosquitoes and ticks be in residence? Do I know what I’m doing? Fortunately for this workshop, the answers were yes, no and well, maybe not, but I know how to teach as a fellow student of watercolor.

I want to tell you about the workshop, but I’m going to let my photos do the talking. We spent three days in the beautiful outdoors and each day we learned something new. I’m incredibly fortunate in that my workshops bring together so many incredible people, and the camaraderie is always exceptional. We have so much fun getting to know each other and admiring the wonderful art that comes out of each workshop.

Day 1: Painting at the Silver Pine church. What a lovely, peaceful spot to start off the week’s adventure. Not only was the church painting worthy, but there were so many lovely vistas of the surrounding fields and the beautifully changeable sky. Thank you, Monica, De Wit for sharing your photos.


Day 2: The Marina. This lakeside location gave me the opportunity to paint barefoot (my favorite) and I so enjoyed the birds; pelicans, cormorants and gulls, and the hot sun provided plenty of fascinating shadows and reflections to explore.


Day 3: The Garden. We had a lot of options for where to paint on day three, but our host’s lovely home and garden had such appeal that we chose to stay there and enjoy the little vignettes of beauty that Roberta had arranged in her flower beds and garden. I’ve been teaching myself to paint architecture and it was a good experiment to try painting the cheerful yellow cottage framed by trees and flowers.


In addition to painting together, we got to know each other during meals and in the evenings. Each student had brought artist trading cards - mini paintings - to trade and this created such a fun keepsake of the trip. Roberta had provided door prizes that were highly coveted, and my “paint buffet” of paint provided by Daniel Smith and QoR watercolor gave students the chance to try dabs of different colors and get to know some of my favorite hues.

There are times when teaching workshops can feel pretty scary. Many students come a long way to take in a course with me, and I don’t want anyone to feel disappointed. I’ve learned that when I make my goal and focus the people who have always been my motivation for teaching, it takes the pressure off me and becomes a simple case of loving my people. Getting to know you, to listen and to collaborate as fellow watercolor lovers is an incredible gift.