-By Arnie Fenner

Skowhegan School of Art students in Maine sketch a nude model in 1948
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer in the U.S.; graduations have taken place and most schools are out, NY publishing generally ratchets down to a 4-day work week, people start to embark on vacations, and, of course, the geek/pop culture/what-have-you convention season kicks into high gear. There are also a number of educational workshops that take place over the Summer months and extend into the Fall. Some have been booked solid for months already, but others still have a handful of openings.

Whether you’re a student, an aspiring artist, or a working pro, the opportunity to improve or modify your skills under the personal guidance of creators who are at the top of their game is, let’s face it, pretty damn exciting. Instead of a road trip to see the world’s biggest ball of twine or to pay Stan Lee for his autograph for the umpteenth time, maybe one of the workshops listed below would make your Summer (or Fall) unforgettable.

Above: From Legendeer’s 2016 Canadian workshop. Photo by Loic Zimmerman. 

Starting today—so, obviously, interested parties will have to be thinking about 2018—is Sterling Hundley’s Legendeer workshop, which is something of an “art in the wild” experience that takes place in different scenic locations each year. With a focus on mentoring and skill-building, the 2017 class takes place overlooking Utah’s Zion National Park. Instructors joining Hundley include Adam Paquette, Apolla Echino, and Muddy Colors own Vanessa and Ron Lemen. You can learn more about Legendeer here.

Above: Gary Kelley demos at the Illustration Academy. 

Next up is the Illustration Academy’s annual Summer Workshop, which is actually sort of the granddaddy of all of today’s various offerings. Originally started in the 1970s by Mark English, the workshop is now headed by his son (and fellow illustrator) John. With an intense focus on career-building, for a week—up to a full five week experience—students will learn from a rotating group of commercial art giants including Gary Kelley, C.F. Payne, Karla Ortiz, Jon Foster, Bill Sienkiewicz and a host of others. As the longest-running and largest illustration workshop, spots might still be available for latecomers. The deadline to register is this Wednesday, May 31: you can learn more about the IA (as well as their online programs) here.

Above: Mike Mignola explains everything at the 2016 IMC. Photo by Dave Palumbo. 

The middle of June is the time for Rebecca Guay’s IMC (originally known as the Illustration Master Class, but its focus has now expanded to include gallery and Fine Art disciplines) in Amherst, MA. Featuring a week of guest speakers and, of course, drawing and painting, IMC fills up early, but they also offer longer digital mentoring classes with a choice of instructors later in the year via their SmArt School program. Faculty for 2017 includes Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, Cynthia Sheppard, and fellow Muddies Donato Giancola, Dan dos Santos, Greg Manchess, Lauren Panepinto, and John Jude Palencar. You can learn more about IMC here.

Above: The 2016 Fantastic Workshop Class. 

Looking a bit further down the road into the Fall is the Fantastic Workshop November 15-20 in Nashville, TN. An outgrowth of the popular One Fantastic Week podcasts and focused on the business of being an artist—along with plenty of art instruction, naturally—teachers this year include Allen Williams, Jasmine Becket-Griffith, Sam Flegal, Peter Mohrbacher, Sean Murray, Annie Stegg, and MC’s Justin Gerard. If you’ve watched Annie’s and Justin’s presentations via Muddy’s Patreon program, you know you’re in for a treat. Limited to 50 participants, you can learn much more about FW here.

Frankly, it’s hard to keep up with everything Bobby Chiu’s Schoolism is doing…because they’re doing a lot. Both online and with workshops spanning the globe, including ones upcoming in London, Berlin, Portland, and Copenhagen. They even host a month-long bootcamp in Montreal in the Schoolism House. Rather than try to list them all, just go to their website to learn more. Also…enjoy several of their videos below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHt9VO2_F9k?rel=0]
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6u3AYY6X84w?rel=0]
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyKQyl-3kys?rel=0]

Is there a cost attached to these various workshops and educational opportunities? Of course there is. As kind and giving as all of the instructors and organizers are…they have to eat, too. But any form of education is an investment, not only of money but of time and intellect: it has to be the right class or workshop or school for you, one that matches your wallet as well as your outlook and long-term goals. Is a workshop the right choice for everyone? Of course not. People learn and work in different ways and high-energy, fast-paced situations can be rewarding for some and intimidating for others. They aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Which means, simply, to do your research: talk to your fellow artists about their experiences, ask the organizers questions, and ultimately make an informed decision based upon what’s right for you.

But…nobody can learn (and improve) in a vacuum. Taking part in a live workshop or in online classes or by attending informal life-drawing gatherings (like those the Illustration Academy sponsors regularly in Kansas City) can help artists advance in their craft and ultimately help them achieve their potential. No one knows it all and every opportunity to learn should be—must be—embraced. There will undoubtedly be reports about each of the events mentioned above, here on Muddy Colors or on various other websites. Think about it. It’s never too early to plan for the future. It’s never too early to plan for your future.