2017 West Coast School

I just returned from a week long investment in photographic education in an effort to improve my craft and learn a new skill set that I plan to introduce to my clients later this year.  Where did I learn all of this?  At the Professional Photographers of California‘s West Coast School on the beautiful campus of the University of San Diego.

I took a course on digital painting with the very talented an extremely patient instructor, Sandra Pearce.  She uses Photoshop to paint rather than the other popular computer painting option of Corel Painter.   I thought that would be an avenue I would love to explore as I working Photoshop almost every single day in my world, and rarely use Painter as its just too cumbersome for my brain to understand – I’m not going to get into a debate of which is better as they both are tools to create digital artwork.  I just seem to have a better understanding of one over the other and my instructor is a Master at painting in Photoshop.

So I loaded up an image of our fur baby, Lucy Mae, and set about learning what I could do to paint her.

After learning a few amazing tricks, getting my Wacom Tablet set to proper sensitivity, and figuring out how to set some of the brush characteristics up.  We were told to put our pens down and watch rather than try to follow along or take notes.   That proved to be some very useful advice from Sandra, because we got to watch how she works, moves the paint, and her technique.  Then we worked on an item together so we could follow along and get use to the procedure of painting in Photoshop and finally she had us work on our own so that we could screw up only to have her come to the rescue and help us.   It really was a great way to learn and I successfully painted Lucy Mae!

Sandra’s class was just one of many classes that were being taught last week.  Others included Portrait classes by Carl Caylor and Tim Meyer, Artist classes by Thom Rouse, Photoshop Classes by Michael Collins and Suzette Allen, Marco Photography by Franke Peele, and Wedding Photography with Jesus Padilla.

Being immersed in a photographic subject with one instructor for a week was a new experience for me, but proved to be a great way to learn.  My initial motivation was to learn how to “paint” with Chalk and Charcoal so I could offer additional fine art offerings on my black and white portrait line.  I had mentioned that on social media prior to our class and Sandra gave me a gift the first day of class.  Soap infused with charcoal!

I don’t know that the soap will help me (well smell better for sure) but learning at our own pace and being able to ask questions specific to what I was trying to accomplish was a fantastic way to learn.  You just can’t learn from videos or online classes the way you can sitting in a room of peers with a master in the subject material you are learning.

A week ago I would never have imagined that the painting above would be something I was capable of creating, but not only am I capable I can and did create this painting this morning!

I can’t wait to see what this next several months have in store for me as I continue to practice my new skills and look forward to attending West Coast School again next June!   Oh and if you would like to learn from Sandra she will be teaching her class again next year at West Coast School!    See you there! – Cheers!


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