What I Learned At This Art Workshop

Keuka Lake Winery

View of Keuka Lake from winery

At the beginning of the summer I had the blessed opportunity to teach a 3 day watercolor painting workshop for the Yates County Arts Center at their Sunny Point cottage. Sunny Point is a cozy cottage with an incredible barn shaped like a lighthouse at the edge of the water on Keuka Lake in the beautiful Finger Lakes of upstate NY, the lake is surrounded by endless first class wineries!

Sunny Point cottage on keuka Lake

View from inside the cottage

Keuka Lake

Backyard or front? Either way it’s breathtaking, imagine having your morning coffee here!

This little piece of heaven was donated by Dr. Annie Smith, a well-known artist, author, and a professor of art history for more than 30 years at the University of Toronto at Mississauga/Sheridan collegian. She  fought a long battle with breast and ovarian cancer and shared her endless struggles in a book called “Bearing Up With Cancer”, and is wonderfully animated with bears.  During one of the quiet evenings in the cottage, I glanced through the book and although it’s creatively animated, you can sense her pain and the toll the illness was taking on her life. You’ll find these adorable drawings around the cottage.  The facility continues to support Annie’s legacy, to be used as a place for artists and others to gather, to be inspired, to learn, to contemplate, and to share ideas. And so I was more than inspired…

Sunny Point Cottage

Sunny Point cottage

Barn Lighthouse

View of barn with workshop participants and their art exercise in progress

At the time of the workshop I was recovering from a fracture on my left leg, the cast had been removed and replaced with one of those Frankenstein braces, this made it a little difficult to get around. My 9 year old daughter, Rebecca, was ending the school year and her classes were winding down, coupled along with  my husbands working schedule we agreed that it would a good idea to bring her with me, she was in heaven! She turned out to be the best Assistant and student, we had a wonderful time together and the workshop participants pampered her, who wouldn’t enjoy that?

Rebecca making copies

My baby hard at work

This was a workshop jam-packed with lots of information, demonstrations, painting and hands-on exercises. I’m a tough teacher, I worked them pretty hard, at the end of the 3 days they needed a nap and so did I! I do admit I go overboard with information and I try to be extremely organized. Since I was providing so much information I wanted to make sure they had plenty of painting time, again that’s why they are there. I prepared and printed notes for the participants and then bounded them with a binding machine I had purchased, they turned out to be quite handy for the students, they didn’t need to take tons of notes and can refer to them later. Perhaps I overwhelmed them with too much material for a 3 day workshop, but all in all I believe for some they learned something new, for others some material was a refresher or perhaps they saw it with a different perspective.

Binded Class notes

Student binders: notes, references and individual paint inventory spreadsheets

What I learned

I enjoy teaching and sharing all I know, why hold back? Teaching this workshop I learned a few things about myself and from the participants:

  • Adjust to all skill levels; I put myself in their shoes and remembered when I went to my first workshop and felt so unsecured as a beginner. I’m sensitive to their needs, I make sure these participants get the most as they are moldable and need a little extra attention without neglecting the intermediate and advanced painters.
  • I try to encourage a warm and inviting atmosphere among the participants to encourage participation. I was quite surprised with the number of students who made copies of information for everyone, shared a book or a great tip.
  • I do try to maintain control of the time and conversation, I respect the fact that students are there to paint and learn, their time is valuable, without them I wouldn’t be teaching the class.
  • I learned tips from students as we went along that I can apply for future classes and in my art work.
  • I encourage feedback, yes I had them complete a questionnaire, it’s priceless and I respect all feedback: the good, the ugly and the in between. Feedback is the way to feed forward.
  • I learned that I love to share my joy of art and painting and that I wasn’t alone!


Thanks to everyone who made this a special time and place for Rebecca and me, for the wonderful gifts showered upon us in material and spirit.

Thank you Dr. Annie Smith for gracing us with incredible inspiration for our art and souls.

Thank you to Ampersand Art Supplies for the samples for the students to mount their watercolors.

Thank you to the Yates County Arts Center that in addition to teaching,  invited me as one of the three featured artists for their exhibit “Thyme In A Garden” which ran concurrently with the workshop, how cool is that, they are just terrific! They have a great new building on Main Street and are offering all types of classes in their new HUGE classroom, watch their website for upcoming classes.

Thank you  Rebecca for being there for mom, I’m truly blessed to have you as a daughter!

Above all, thank you to all the participants who shared this magnificent experience with me!

We hope to return to Sunny Point in the future!


While I was creating this post I received this email and images from Bonnie Barney, one of the participants;

See what a student of a good teacher produces…  The daylily is on textured Ampersand watercolor surface, the iris on smooth  clayboard.  Both are so different from paper that I found it difficult to
get anything to “flow”.  Live and learn.

Thanks for the inspiration,


Dayliliy by Bonnie Barney

Daylily on Textured surface or Aquabord

Bonnie Barney

Iris on Claybord

Music to my ears, thank you Bonnie! Bonnie is a very talented artist, tons of experience, we found we had many books in common.

About Ampersand Art Supplies

What Bonnie is referring to is the extremely smooth surface of Claybord, comparable to Yupo or Hot Press paper. For a comparable paper to cold press paper, I would recommend the Aquabord. Here is “Exhuberance”, which was part of the exhibit “Thyme in a Garden”,  painted directly on Aquabord, it measures 36×24″, larger than a full sheet. I had it framed with a linen fabric and wood frame, looks lovely, I love this piece. To achieve the dark background I used acrylic paint, the tulips were painted with watercolor. It has a plexiglass to protect from dust, another option is to varnish the surface. I really love these products because it save me money on framing, specially when I mount the watercolors on to the Claybords, the surfaces are acid-free,  and with the large selection and variety of sizes and panels I can get very creative because I’m not limited to one option of framing, size or medium… yes, to creativity! I have seen a large number of artists using these products in many creative ways, techniques and mediums, it’s fascinating to see new art!

Thyme in a Garden Poster

Thyme in a Garden exhibit at Yates County Arts Center

“Thyme in a Garden” exhibit, front display at the Yates County Arts Center

Iris III

My largest painting, “Iris III”, 6×12″, Watercolor mounted on to Claybord


 “Exhuberance”, Mixed media on Aquabord, 26×24″

Watercolors on Ampersand Claybords

Watercolors mounted on Claybords on exhibit at the Yates County Arts Center

Watercolors on display

Workshop pictures

I want to share with you a few of the pictures from the workshop. You’ll see the participants doing building exercises: color blending, color intensity exercises, glazing techniques and mounting their their second watercolor painting onto an 8×10″, Ampersand Claybord, thanks to the genorosity of Ampersand Art Supplies!

What are your teaching or workshop experience(s) that have inspired your style or changed your skills?

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