LUDINGTON, Mich. (AP) – The Ludington Area Center for the Arts is holding virtual art workshops – dubbed Workshops in a Box – in place of in-person lessons while it is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, and local artist “Chaotic” Mike Coleman will host one of these events on Wednesday, Jan. 20.
It will be one of Coleman’s chaotic fish workshops, and participants will learn to paint a one-of-a-kind fish designed onto pieces of reclaimed wood with help from Coleman.
“I hope it gives people struggling (to find) something to do a way to keep busy, to keep them occupied,” Coleman told the Ludington Daily News.
This will be his second online workshop. Coleman said the first one in mid-December was well-received.
Supply kits for the workshop will be available at LACA. When people register for the workshop online, they can pick up the box from the art center or request that it be shipped to their homes.
The kits include a piece of reclaimed wood, several primary paint colors, one custom color such as silver or gold, and bonding primer so the paint will stick. There is also the option to request brushes and additional paint.
Coleman is passionate about reusing materials so they don’t end up in landfills. The wood that will be used for the workshop came from the Brill Company in Ludington.
There will also be templates for those who are not yet comfortable painting free-hand.
“If you are not super creative, then you can use those,” Coleman explained. “It’s like paint-by-numbers. You can cut out the template, trace it, then fill it in so it looks similar to one of mine.”
With the kit comes a link to a video with instructions for prepping the wood, including painting backgrounds for the fish.
“There are also tips and pointers about composition, shading and mixing colors,” Coleman said. “That gives the patron something to do right away when they get their box.”
The live session on Jan. 20 will take place on Google Meet with Coleman hosting from his studio at LACA.
Coleman sets up his phone on a tripod to show the table he is working on and keeps his laptop nearby to answer questions that come into the chat during the live video.
“They’re painting while I’m painting,” he said. “They follow along, and I give plenty of time to work on it.”
During the previous workshop, he was able to address concerns about specific parts people had trouble with.
“It worked really well last time,” he said. “People were able to say they were struggling with the eye (and ask) what they should do, and I was able to explain and guide them through that process.”
Coleman regularly teaches workshops at LACA. He didn’t known what to expect the first time he did it online.
“I’ve had practice with doing paint-alongs on YouTube before that were not a paid class… I just described my process,” he said. “This is more of an experience where you are getting instruction and are able to ask questions and get help. That’s why there is more value to it than just a YouTube video.”
His first workshop had six people and he is expecting more this next class. He’s been posting teasers on social media and received several responses.
“I never really know what to expect, though,” he said.
While he prefers teaching in-person, he said during these challenging times he’s figuring it out like the rest of the world.
“It’s kind of exciting, too. I can reach people who aren’t in the immediate area, and it opens up different avenues,” he said. “When you are doing in-person classes, you are limiting yourself to the immediate population, but once you’re online… now you’re reaching a much broader audience.”
And he’s ready to keep doing it online for the foreseeable future.
“I’d like to see it evolve,” he said. “There are some people who need the instruction to really build their confidence before they strike out on their own. Some people, they are consistent subscribers and it’s become a hangout, like a book club or painting club.”
He said the participants were happy with the class and excited about their creations. There was one person who was not satisfied with their end-result, but Coleman said he reached out to that person later.
“Through messaging, I was able to give her a couple extra tips to finish it once it dried,” he said. “Part of the problem when you teach a class is when you do a start-to-finish piece, there’s the pressure of getting it done in that timeframe. Sometimes, especially when you make a mistake, you need the paint to fully dry. When it dries, you can cover over it and fix the mistakes. It was good to have that open lane of conversation.”
During the pandemic, people have turned to activities such as painting for a creative outlet. Coleman said people are using what they have around their houses as sources of entertainment.
“They are looking through what they have for supplies. I’ve even heard baseball card collecting is making a comeback,” he said. “It’s cool because in a way it’s bringing back those hobbies, and art is a great option to express yourself, to cope with depression and sadness. I think it’s been good for a lot of people.”
With the restrictions that were in place throughout the year, many of the art shows Coleman attends were canceled. He said he missed being able to travel and meet people.
“I love… engaging with people who like art. That’s fun, when someone enjoys your work and get a that boost that’s needed to keep going forward. When that opportunity isn’t there, that’s hard,” he said.
He was able to make trips to New York and Walloon Lake near Petoskey, and he said those experiences were rewarding. Coleman said people who are using art as entertainment now may need to continue to stoke that fire once they’re able to return what was normal before the pandemic.
“I think it’s (people’s) responsibility to be grateful for what’s out there. And any time they can support those people who are making an effort to make the world better, they should,” he said. “It’s easy for people to brush artists off, saying they were going to do it anyway… or it’s not worth the price.
“I think people need to remember to be grateful that these things are out there and know that it’s expensive to have a website, to put your art out there, to have a studio, to store (the art). All that has a cost. The costs never stop. When you get a chance to support the arts and it’s helping you – motivating you and getting you through – pay it forward. If that’s a talent you have to share or you watched my YouTube video and learned how to paint, teach someone else. Or buy a painting if you like it. It doesn’t have to be a huge one. Every little bit helps.”
Coleman is considering expanding the virtual workshops beyond his chaotic fish to include chaotic cats, a new design. He’d also like to find a way to work his acrylic pour workshops into the mix, which are his most popular events.
“I’m still trying to figure out (the acrylic pour) so people will be happy with the kit. That’s still on the drawing board,” he said. “I like doing the projects for beginners because then they are all having fun and learning something new. If you make it too complicated, then you limit your pool of participants. It’s not too hard, but just enough of a challenge. They get something cool out of it to enjoy themselves or give away.”
LACA is hosting several virtual workshops people can register for through ludingtonartscenter.square.site/workshops.
The cost to have materials for the Jan. 20 workshop is $35 for those picking up a box at the arts center, 107 S. Harrison St., or $50 to have a box shipped.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.