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I started teaching oil painting over 20 years ago.

One thing I started doing early on is to read the book for the lesson and watch the video tape the day before. I felt strongly for my students that they should have the best instructions ever. So I would read, watch the DVD, even do the painting myself the day before. It wouldn’t matter if I’d done the painting the week before or several years before. I would always review.

I still do.

Once in a while I get surprised by a student or host that will ask, why did I do that. Didn’t I know how to do the painting? Why didn’t I come prepared?

Sure. I know how to do the painting. Yes, I am prepared. And if it is a painting I’ve never actually done before, it wouldn’t take long to figure it out. But not the point. Nor is the point that I could teach the painting and the class wouldn’t know I’d never done the painting before.. But, this wouldn’t be the best I could do. My students wouldn’t receive my best efforts. So whenever I am going to teach a class, the day before I review.

People who have hosted one of my workshops know I bring an assortment of DVDs, photos and a DVD player with me. And in fact, I try to schedule myself to be there one day early so I can do the review of all the workshop paintings. The night or day before each class I will spend an hour or two reviewing in the quiet of my own room. I’ll even repaint the scene the day before if no film exists. Or if that’s not possible, I’ll look at the photo and go through in my mind each brush stroke.

Ask Sandee Franz from Colorado. She hosted a class a year or so ago in which her students wanted to learn to paint from photos. No paintings had previously been done before. In fact, the class had only sent me the photos of the paintings they wanted to do just before my arrival in Colorado.

The first night, we went out to Sandee’s garage and painted rock cliffs in a seascape. The whole thing was worked out beautifully with most of the work done by the 99 cent scrubber. Each evening, I worked out the approach we were going to take on the next day’s photo. We spent the first hour of each class marking up the photocopies and outlining the process for painting. That class was a blast and everyone enjoyed themselves. But I doubt it would have been any fun had I not reviewed each evening previously.

Ask Mary Melia from Massachusetts. She hosted a four-day workshop this past year which featured four of my paintings from my DVDs. Each night before class I retired to my room to watch the DVD. She tracked me down the first night and saw what I was doing. Each evening thereafter, she watched my DVDs with me. We had a great time preparing.

I have a few friends who are medical doctors and each evening before surgery, they will re-read the procedure to ensure they forget nothing, do everything. That’s so critical.

I always learn something new in my reviews. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t painted that picture in several years or the day before. I find that the key to a great class always lies in how you prepare the day before.

Am I being professional or unprofessional? Well, I’ll let wiser people than I answer that question.


    • Beth Leah said, No teacher worth their salt would go into a class room unprepared. To do so affects one’s results. This is always a good thing to do. People forget so a refresher is always a good idea. I sent in my Alexander Certified Instructor (ACI) stuff a few days ago. Wish me Luck.
    • forget so a refresher is always a good idea. I sent in my Alexander Certified Instructor (ACI) stuff a few days ago. Wish me Luck.
      Annie Bowie said, You inspire me Darrell. I think that’s why we get so much out of each lesson you present. Your preparation shines through. Thanks for sharing your story. I will do the same someday.
    • Sandee Franz said, I remember clearly the day before Darrell’s workshop here in Denver. He and my husband and I were in the garage. Darrell had his easel up and the canvas up and I was watching him paint various elements of the first painting of the workshop. (This was the first time I had ever met Darrell). Then he said it was MY turn. With shaking hands (and knees) I took the brush and began. By the time that day was over, I had learned a ton about how to paint some of the elements we would be painting in the next day’s workshop. I instantly became a believer in Darrell’s statement, something about practice makes perfect. Every time I teach a class when I haven’t practiced just before the class, my sample picture may turn out ok, but my teaching is not as good. I doubt I will EVER become a great painter, but I AM becoming a great TEACHER. This bit of advice from Darrell is rock solid.
    • Ria du Pisanie said, Darrell, No you not unprofessional, in fact, I’ve learned a lot from your DVDs/ It is not what you do, is what you say, that makes your DVDs so special to me. You gave me the “look in mirror” yes I can even when we get stuck, we still can.
      Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    • Meg Gamble said, Darrell, What is the process for hosting a class? I would like to do a weekend workshop as most of my friends work during the week. Maybe a Friday, Saturday, Sunday would be fantastic. Let me know what I would need to do to get this started. I know of a small building I could rent by the day. Hi Meg Gamble, Primarily you find the place to paint and then recruit the students. I advertise here in the event someone in your area would like to attend as well. I have all of the details on my website at the bottom of the Class Schedule.