A Very Special Workshop

We fancied doing something SPECIAL as a workshop in 2011. Jacksons Hole was mentioned but the cost was prohibitive and then the idea slowly dawned… let’s go back to YELLOWSTONE! But this time, instead of a 5-day workshop, let’s make it six days, make it affordable, and include everything in the price – that’s:

  • Illustrated talk by a Park Ranger so we know what to expect and look out for during our visit to…
  • A full day in the Park with assistance on photography, taking that unusual but useful shot, and looking for elements that can be combined into a useful setting. And we provide transport and lunch.
  • Improve your photography – late afternoon sessions by talented Artist and Photographer Rich Adams beginning with the basic uses of compact cameras.
  • Visits to the nearby Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center to get those photographs that eluded you in the Park.
  • Five days of uninterrupted drawing covering drawing from the basics up to advanced.
  • AND all tools and paper will be provided. Just bring yourself.


Dates     : 12th -17th June 2011
Duration : 6 days, 10 am to 5 pm
Location : Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone, Montana

Our busy 2008 Yellowstone 5-day workshop

Novice or advanced, you’ll travel from the basics right through to a final drawing, covering a variety of techniques along the way, including the use of references and how to use them for composition, how to use Negative Drawing effectively, and the benefits of seeing and using Negative Space. And no lectures! I prefer to work with you individually so you can learn and explore by drawing.

And I’ll show you how you can break down any drawing, however complex, into easily manageable parts, and apply simple step-by-step techniques to draw them believably.

You’ll learn both the “HOW” and the more important “WHY” – the one that adds understanding to the other. Whatever your present ability, you will leave with a new-found knowledge of how to draw effectively, and how to remove stress from your drawing projects.


We’re doing everything we can to make this special workshop affordable – including reserving rooms in two hotels to give you a cheaper option. And we scouted for local RV and campsites as well as B&Bs. They’re all listed on my website.

Let’s make this a workshop to remember! Or, as Rich said, something to tell your grandchildren about   🙂

Drawing Workshop co-organisers wanted

Following a successful workshop tour of the USA this year it’s time to begin planning for next year. Nothing beats local knowledge, so I’m always grateful to receive assistance from my local co-organisers and in return I offer a free workshop.


I’m planning to visit the US twice in 2010 – in May/June and October. I hope the first trip will include Canada, where I have had two tentative invitations, but more are welcome.

The second trip will probably include California (Solvang) and possibly a north California venue.

If you have suggestions for a venue in any state or province I’ll be happy to consider including it.

UK 2010

As well as running workshops locally in North Yorkshire I also try to run at least one elsewhere in the country each year – in 2009 it was Glastonbury and the year before I was in Hampshire. I’m looking for a co-organiser and a suitable venue in any other part of the country (or even near a past venue). Could you, or your local Art Society, help?


I am currently considering a trip to Australia in 2011, visiting as many locations to hold workshops as I can. More than one workshop may be held in the Melbourne area but I’m looking for suitable venues in other locations and states too. See below for details.

Co-Organiser details

The requirements are quite simple: a suitable venue, about 20 attendees, and a base to which I can ship supplies (workshop packs, pre-prepared line drawing etc — you could fit the whole lot into a suitcase!).

The venue need not be any art-related place. I use a village hall here in the North Yorkshire that has good light, a kitchen, plentiful parking, disabled access and toilets, and sufficient tables and chairs. A church hall or community hall would do too, or a hotel with a conference room (although they can be expensive).

Workshops would be either 2-day or 3-day, probably 10am – 5pm.

I need about 20 (maximum 25) attendees to make the workshop viable. Maybe you belong to a local art group and know of other groups you can approach? Would your local newspaper be interested in running an editorial piece on the event? This local knowledge is invaluable – you know things I cannot possibly find out from the UK.

I’m not expecting anyone to have to spend money – if, for example, posters or flyers are required for display in local art stores, I’ll arrange that from here or pay for you to do it locally. I’ll give all the support you need, such as circulating the workshop through my mailing lists, advertising on my websites and blog, paying venue deposits and so on. I will also advertise the workshop on other websites, such as the SAA website where I’m a Professional Associate, which has quite a few American and other foreign members, and on my own Starving-Artists site and at ArtPapa.com (both of which have an international membership). In brief, I’ll do everything I can to attract attendees and help in all other respects too.

If you’re interested, please email me to let me know.

To find out more visit my website’s Workshop Central.

Jenny’s Workshop wonder

As I claim my workshops are for the novice to advanced student maybe a little proof is needed? My July UK workshop had a spare place that my wife Jenny decided to take. Some background information might help here – Jenny does the catering for us (with her friend Ruth “cakes” Harrison) and…… well, perhaps I should let Jenny tell you…

“As Mike’s wife I’m always being asked by artists at his workshops if I am an artist too, but I haven’t drawn or painted since I was about twelve years old.

We had a spare place in the July workshop, so I decided to take it. The first day I worked my way through all the exercises alongside everyone else, and then began the main drawing of the workshop in the late afternoon. I chose to draw a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel that Mike photographed in Yellowstone Park, when were there in June to hold his 5-day workshop.

My drawing is about 6″ × 5” and Mike drew the guide-line drawing for me, as he does for every artist in his workshops. I don’t have a lot of patience and thought I would quickly become bored but, once I began drawing, the time went so quickly. Everyone was lucky to get their lunch (my department) and cake!

The next day I really couldn’t wait to get started on my drawing again. Although I’ve watched Mike draw for almost 30 years, I never thought I’d ever try it myself – and now I want to begin planning my next one!

'Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel' by Jenny Sibley at a Mike Sibley UK drawing workshop
© 2008 “Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel” by Jenny Sibley

Now my Ground Squirrel is finished I must admit that the hardest part was the rocks. I found the fur easier because I know what animal hair looks like, but I don’t know anything about rocks. Mike told me to keep them simple, just to take my pencil for a walk, and let the eye make its own mind up about what they actually look like. I really must read that Drawing from Line to Life book 🙂

Mike didn’t help me more than anyone else during the workshop and fortunately, unlike husbands teaching wives to drive, he has enough patience for both of us. What’s next?? A Donkey… because I can’t persuade Mike to draw one.

And, if you’re planning on attending one of our UK workshops, please don’t worry about having to eat Mike’s rock buns – I promise I’ll still do the catering!”

I hope you agree with me that Jenny’s drawing is something she should be justifiably proud of – I know I am.

Yellowstone USA Workshop

Where else can you go that takes 27 hours and three flights to get there, has you short of oxygen at 6500 feet, cracks your lips with the low humidity, gives you snow and sunshine in the same week……and is so very enjoyable. Yellowstone! And to ice the cake, we were warmly welcomed by the many talented artists attending my 5-day workshop. If we could return tomorrow, we would.

Yellowstone Park workshop, day 3

As you can see we had a good attendance – 20 for the first two days then an increase to 23 for the final three days. First, I must thank Rich Adams (www.RichAdamsPhoto.com) for suggesting the workshop and then tirelessly arranging everything, including the making of the drawing boards. And, of course, thanks also to our fellow artist Owen Garratt (www.Pencilneck.com) for opening our minds to art marketing methods over the course of his five evening presentations.

The Production Crew - Mike Sibley, Owen Garratt and Rich Adams

The Production Crew:

from left to right

Mike Sibley (that’s me!), Owen Garratt and Rich Adams.

The day 1 and 2 group, without Rich who took the photo

Most of the workshop group

The Holiday Inn (our venue) worked hard for us too. It wasn’t possible to check the conference room until the first morning of the workshop and we found the lighting to be far from ideal. We asked for a pole so we could adjust the ceiling spotlights. They didn’t have a pole… but they did have a man with a ladder – and by the time we returned from breakfast they had all been adjusted. Then they raided their storeroom for unused floor lamps and installed them too. Much better!

Rich Adams presentation and Mike Sibley demonstrating a drawing technique

Rich Adams giving his presentation on “Non-destructive editing in Photoshop” and me demonstrating a pencil technique.
Owen 'Pencilneck' Garratt presenting art marketing advice.
Owen ‘Pencilneck’ Garratt and his evening art marketing presentations
Workshop members hard at work
Stuart Arnett – Susan Miller – Merrill Willis – Roxy Rueckart and Gayle Uyehara

We had a very diverse class, with artists from Colorado, Montana, Texas, Oregon, California, Canada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, and Indiana. I think everyone took something away with them but some seemed to have had that “lightbulb” moment and their work had leapt forward – and nothing pleases me more than seeing an artist suddenly blossom.

Wolf in the snow blizzard, Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday morning we all met at the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center. Being mid-June I suppose we should have expected… a snow blizzard! It was a real nuisance but most of us, I think, managed to return at a later time. Rich and I spent a happy couple of hours on Saturday morning photographing the Bears and Wolves in brilliant sunshine.

Photographing a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel

I thought I’d start small and work my way up to Bears and Bison… This is Rich’s photo of me seemingly clinging to a cliff face taking a long range photo of a Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel. Fellow artist Karen Hargett photographed it heading for the sanctuary of my trouser leg… but I wasn’t aware of that at the time! And since my return, I’ve drawn the little critter for the Small Wonders exhibition at the Sycamore Fine Arts gallery in Goshen, Indiana. The actual size of the drawing is just 2″ × 3″.

Ground Squirrel - Small Wonders drawing
“Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel” © Mike Sibley 2008

My wife Jenny and I had our first taste of Yellowstone Park on the Sunday before the workshop when Rich and his wife Angie very generously took us on a tour of their favourite areas. The very first wild animal we saw (not counting Bison!) was a Black Bear on a hillside. Then a Bald Eagle, Bison, Elk, more Bison, and we got to see Old Faithful erupt…… and more Bison.

After the workshop we had three days of “relaxing” holiday. Saturday morning was spent with a return visit to the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Discovery Center (just a couple of blocks from the venue) and this time in brilliant sunshine! Rich and I got some great shots between us. Then in the late afternoon, accompanied by Owen and Karen, Rich and Angie drove us out to the Diamond P Ranch to go horse riding. This is something I’d really been looking forward to.

Horse riding - Diamond P Ranch, West Yellowstone
Me mounting Sam – Jenny and me – Jenny followed by Owen and Rich

Although I’ve only been on a horse a half dozen times (and only two of those without someone holding the lead rope!), I’d developed a desire to ride in the Western Style. The English riding style just doesn’t appeal to me, as the Western style seems to be so much more in tune with the horse – a true partnership.

On Sunday, Jenny and I treated Rich and Angie to a mini-bus tour of the upper loop of the park. I think I drove our driver and guide Heather to despair……I seemed to have turned into a loud and noisy tourist. I don’t think two keen photographers laden with long-range lenses and monopods helped either!

Lower Falls, Yellowstone River
Lower Falls, Yellowstone River, and Jenny at “Artists Point”

Actually, our guide Heather was very accommodating and took pains to point out the photo opportunities. At one time she drove the other tourists to see the Fossilized Tree while leaving Rich and I to photograph two Black Bears… but I think she breathed a sigh of relief when she finally dropped us off at our hotel!

Mini bus tour of upper loop, Yellowstone Park
Minibus tour, Travertine terraces, geysers, and guide Heather waves me Goodbye!

Monday was spent in the company of Rich and Angie before they dropped us off at Bozeman on their way home. All that remained was to grab a few hours sleep before catching our plane early Tuesday morning for the 27 hour journey home. Our thanks again to Rich, Angie, Owen and, of course, to all the wonderful workshop artists, for making our trip so very enjoyable.