Back from teaching two workshops. Ah me, blogging again? When I get out of bed… maybe…. & clear the decks in the office, family & garden. La Reprise.

‘Exhausted Tutor Syndrome’
A5 sketchbook
© the artist

Hope this post doesn’t sound too spammy self-promotional nor too much like me banging away.

Here are a few of the images I made whilst teaching. They are demonstration pieces, intended to help the learning of students.

‘The Two Bridges at Limeuil’ Demonstration piece – two hours
28 x 38 cm
© adam cope

Painters & Draughts-Persons

It’s also good fun to paint people painting & drawing. All levels of painters should try it, IMO. Here’s a watercolour that a student did in the studio during one of the Painting Holidays in France that I’ve lead over the years.

‘Students Painting’
Chris Sharland
© the artist
Personally, I would like my ‘painters & draughts-persons’ (the name I give to the paintings of this genre) to communicate something of the fun & ‘bonne ambiance’ of a successful painting trip.

‘Painters in the Park’
Demonstration Piece – one hour 15 mins
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.
DETAIL : ‘Painters in the Park’
Demonstration Piece – one hour 15 mins
28 x 38cm (15 x 11 inches).
© The Artist.

I was quite pleased with the above two figures. The watercolour is fresh & ‘just-so’, if I may say so, somewhat immodestly.

Lots of quick scribbles too. Of people moving about, painting & drawing. ‘Moving targets’. These sketches were done in less than five minutes each ‘take’.

‘Picnic People’
A5 Sketchbook
© The Artist.

A5 sketchbook
© The Artist.

‘The Chairman’
A5 sketchbook
© the artist

A5 sketchbook

©the artist

The above are demonstration pieces. Should one exhibit them? Learning is the desired product & not a finished painting.

The Educative Value of Demonstrations

I believe in the value of demos. True that they are only one teaching technique amongst many others. Sometimes the learning environment can get too wordy, so watching someone paint, seeing a painting unfold before your eyes can open up the non-verbal & encourage the natural.

WORK IN PROGRESS – unfinished state – two hours demonstration piece
‘A. & I. Painting’
Full Sheet Watercolour
56 x 76 cm (30″ x 22″)
© adam cope

Now please don’t get me wrong, I do know that the real goal is student-centered learning & not tutor showing-off. However, by seeing an experienced painter in action, who is also teaching & explaining – ‘sur la vif’ & in front of the subject – is something you won’t find neither on internet nor in a book. I myself have learnt so much this way ( & would be game to do so again).

Demos also quickly sort the chaff from the grain; if a teacher doesn’t have the years of painting experience integrated into his or her hands, his or her gestures, well then …. you should ask yourself just who do you have as tutor?

Here is some of what I have to say about the good uses of demonstration as a teaching/learning technique. I quote from my website What Makes a Good Painting Workshop Tutor? (hoping that this won’t trip a google duplicate content filter…nor sound too self-important nor spammy)

“A true teacher does not explain – he invites you to stand beside him and see for yourself.” Raymond Inmon

A good painting workshop tutor should also have a whiff of turpentine about him. Painting is first & foremost an activity & not a theory. It will help you if the art teacher is a practicing artist. On a practical level, you’re far more likely to have an exciting & educative learning experience from an experienced painter/teacher. The demonstrations will be more natural & the guidance more relevant because he/she has been there too. It takes many years for a teacher to become good at the art of demonstrations.

“A picture is worth a thousand words and watching a picture being painted is worth even more….The best teachers I’ve had show you rather than tell you how to do something. Talking the talk is far less important than walking the walk.” – Charles Sovek

As recommended by ‘France’ Magazine

The january 2008 issue of France magazine has recommended us at  Chateaux Painting Holidays in France. France magazine is UK number one magazine about France, so it’s nice to have a mention.

We also had a large mention in Time Out (London) in 2003, which did an article on us.

A good painting holiday should have a great venue…..

good tutor & good food, accommodation, ……and be really good fun , with lots of laughter!

NOTAN – Annabel Drawing

Felt tip & pencil. A5
© The Artist.
This is a notan drawing of Annabel drawing on last week’s workshop. It was done on day two, and I liked the way she was bending over her drawing , really concentrating. I like it when painters meet up & make ‘un entourage’, a crowd of painters if you like. Good to be group. The drawing was good.


28 x 38cm. Watercolour. Arches Rough 300gms
© The Artist.

A Painting Demonstration

This was a demonstration painting from last week’s painting course in the Chateau de Lanquais.
I’ve frequently commented on the importance of demonstrations. If you want to learn to paint, go see a demo from someone who knows how to paint. Worth a thousand words or a million bulletin points. Their knowledge is in their hands & their gestes. You see just how the another artist goes about making a painting (which is of course just what a teacher as well also gets to do whilst watching his students paint!), how the painting unfolds, and even better, you are also in front of the subject matter ‘sur le vif’ .A book can never give you this.

“I don’t do railings”

There’s a funny story that goes along with the above demo piece. One of the group chirped out “bet you’ve painted that doorway a few times already”, which was true, for I had already painted as a demo once beforehand.

There’s the problem of those pesky railings in front of the entrance on the balcony… not only incredibly fiddly but all upright & regular, with a lot of drawing but also with the added problem of them being light railings in front of a dark door. light over dark. Tiger territory. And when asked by a student about the railings, I spontaneously blurted out “I don’t do railings”, which caused much laughter. Important point however… you don’t have to put in everything you see. There’s some editorial scope for exclusion as well. At least, to identify the areas with which you feel there’s gonna be scope for making a error. Try not to mistakes in public (advice to a blogger).

Doing a demo at lanquais (please don’t note the bald patch)

So, below, there’s the demo piece.

“You’ll be lucky!”

From quite a few years back. 2002. In this one, I did exclude the railings. Cut them off. Whipped them out.

This time, there was a remark from an ex-architect “You’ll be lucky!” – who saw me painting it straight in with the brush, without any underdrawing. I don’t know if I was but what did happen was that I reverted from a transparent palette of cobalt blue & raw sienna such as used in the above, to a heavily opaque palette of cadmium yellow & a blue shade of iron red. Even the ‘watercolour sin’ of using acrylic. Covering up one’s mistakes? Making your mistakes in public? To do railings or not do railings…. (note the fade-out on the railings that go down the stairs in the first demo piece. Compromise & suggestion is possible, n’est pas?).

‘Portail, Donjon Sarlardais, XIV ème, Chateau de Lanquais’
© the artist

Painting Holidays in France – revisited

Today I run another painting holidays au chateau de lanquais, france.

Painting together in group, learning, wining & dining & visiting beautiful new places! Above is a photo of a goup besides the beautiful dordogne river.

For me, as a teacher & course leader …. I see teaching as a two way exchange. I’ve learnt alot about painting whilst teaching it these last fifteen years. You get to know a subject when you’ve taught it a lot, explained it, demonstrated it, observed other solutions to shared & common problems/issues in painting. Helped others find their own way to paint. Watched over the shoulder of others whilst they paint. Compiling & planning my lessons, doing the background research, writing my how-to-paint books.

I woke up early this morning and wondered just where this summer has flown to?

Time passes & I guess as a painter, I judge my progress & achievements uniquely in terms of how many good paintings that I make & how much progress I make in terms of quality & vision. But then , it can’t be just that…. Art & Life, finding the time amidst my many other commitments, which makes for a busy life .

But, hey, who hasn’t got a busy life? One would expect to be busy whilst in your forties.

And then there’s that old, old, old question of earning money…

Anyway, gear shifts, changes of activities, the hope for a balanced life, with a love for creativity at its core & the simple wonder at the miracle that is LIFE.

I mean to thoroughly enjoy the teaching & the company this week!


Dordogne at Badefols

‘La Dordogne à Badefols’
Quater sheet Arches (28 x 38cm ; 15 x 11inches)
© The Artist.
Click on image to enlarge (& see without the blur).

250 € / 100 £ UK / 200 US dollars.
Click here to buy this painting.

This was a demonstration painting done for the June painting workshop here in the Dordogne.

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
– Chinese Proverb

Alot of painting tutors shy away from demonstrations. Certainly there are good reasons why they aren’t always the best teaching technique to use. There’s the risk of the teacher showing off & pulling virtusio slick-tricks. Also they risk encouraging imitation in the students and inhibiting the evolution of a natural style of painting. Yes all these are real risks. And then there’s the problem of a lack of a long enough concentration span in the students themselves. Yes, yes, yes, all this is true.

But what I feel to be the greater truth is that … to see someone actually paint is worth a thousand words or a million bulletin points on a blog. The relation between theory & practice. Remember a painting is made with the hands, and to see just how hands with more experience play with the painting, deal the work-flow as it unfolds. This is the magic & the learning of a good demonstration.

It’s always a bit bizarre to present a finished ‘demo’ painting, as the learning is the real product. Last week there was a talented photographer on the course who photographed the demo. I hope to get copies of his photos & post them here (or use them in my upcoming how-to-paint book).

Demos fit in well into a week long course but maybe might be a bit boring for night classes.

More abouts demos & teaching at what makes a good painting workshop tutor?

I wrote some more about the good energy of a painting demo at:

painting workshops france

Next week I teach one of my Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais, France

I’m currently busy preparing & thus it might be abit difficult to keep this blog’s promise of ‘a painting a week’ (if I hadn’t spent so much time chatting away to myself here in the deafening silence of this blog, then I could have painted a stock of ‘a painting a week’ & then published them at my leisure & thus you all could have said ‘incredible! Not only does he teach but he also paints & writes long, confusing, wordy posts at the same time’).

A painting workshop is a lot of fun. If you like painting, meeting people & learning as well as the excitement of travelling & being in a new place, then a painting workshop is for you. New places can inspire your creativity.

To see with fresh vision … new places…

I think one of the reasons why artists take on the challenge of painting new places is that travel ‘defamilarises’ (actually we have a 30 % student return rate, so for some it’s not a new venue. One person is coming back for the fourth time). To see with fresh vision … new places… I thought the notan photograph in the previous post had a little of this quality of unfamilarity. So as to give a more complete picture, I now post another snap of the gates of Chateau de Lanquais.


Notan : ‘La Maison Peyarade, Bergerac’

‘La Maison Payarade, Bergerac’ Encre Chine. Tous Droits Reservés

I’ve been following some the talk about ‘Notan’ over on Katherine Tyrell’s blog, so I thought I’d post this three-tone drawing. Not quite a Notan I know, as it’s not flat enough. Has perspective & depth rather than flat pattern. I decided to try however to use flat blocks rather than lots of separate brushmarks or ‘accents’. This, in my opinion, is one of the secrets of good ‘notan’. I did it by floodlight one dark & mysterious night.

A painting needs good tonality to work well. Especially watercolour.

Quarter tone & half tone drawings

Quarter tone & half tone drawings are great practise at this. Helps students work out in what order to construct a painting. Once you get into them, you see black & white everywhere. I teach tonality at my Painting Holidays au Chateau de Lanquais, as the chateau does have some wonderful light/dark painting opportunities.

Even Turner was seduced to paint the occassional interior, albeit Petworth Castle. The important thing is that the learning helps – & don’t worry, students do get out in the sunglight as well.
Later on , the students ‘did their own thing’ in black & white.

lanquais alumni – ink pen

Lanquais alumni – oil on gesso