In the Beginning There Was Cereal
I would love to tell you that my first memory of loving art was seeing an old master painting in a museum or a movie about the life of a famous artists but no, it was cereal.
I clearly remember, at six years old, drawing Tony the Tiger from my Frosted Flakes cereal box, followed by the Rice Krispy Elves, Capn Crunch, Toucan Sam and on down the line of sugary treats that graced our morning table.
Shortly after, Santa left for me a paint by numbers set which I ripped into that very day. Filling in each section by building up colors one next to the other and watching an image emerge was magical to me. I was hooked from then on.
I attended Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, PA on a scholarship earning my BFA in Illustration. And, as you will see, I have reinvented my career as needed over the years.
Greeting Card Designer & Illustrator- Artist Life #1
Senior year a rep from Hallmark Cards was interviewing at the college, so not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I took an interview. They offered me a job on the spot. (Wait. What? You’re in Kansas City, Missouri?)
So being an east coast city girl my entire life, I thought that cows and tornadoes were not for me, so I declined. Six months later they approached me again with an offer. This time I was a little disenchanted with my boring publishing company job and accepted. The actual job was a great experience and I learned so much. But the down side for me was that it was very different from the east coast so I resigned and returned home to Philly. But having been a Hallmark artist opened doors and impressed art directors for many years thereafter.
Art Teacher- Artist Life #2
I freelanced as a commercial artist for 20 years after in greeting cards, gift-wrap, package design and collectibles. Got married to a great guy and raised two children while doing so. But then with the advent of the digital age and home computers those markets dried up. Many card companies folded, package design was less illustrative and more photo/digitally generated and people stopped buying collectibles.
I went back to Moore and did graduate work toward PA State Certification to teach Visual Arts and Art History. I taught art in a private school in Philly for the next ten years.
Fine Art Watercolorist- Artist Life #3
As a certified teacher I was required to take continuing education classes. And then one night about six years ago, I walked into a watercolor class at my local community college and it was the cereal boxes and paint by number set all over again. I was hooked. I went back to the classroom, but on my free time I taught myself everything I could about watercolor.
How to start?
After a while, I felt like I had something to offer so I started entering watercolor society exhibitions. After quite a few rejections I finally broke through. The Philadelphia Watercolor Society was my first acceptance. I was so thrilled to be at the opening reception with so many talented watercolorists!
Nothing like a little success to breed enthusiasm! So I kept going and soon the acceptances outnumbered the rejections and I eventually gained Signature Status in the NWS, PWCS, PWS, NWWS and BWS.
Inspiration & Composition
I began in watercolor with subjects I knew from my greeting card days, flowers. I worked only in acrylic and gouache prior to watercolor. These mediums are handled very differently than watercolor so I was in for a whole new learning curve. But over time, my interests turned toward still life. I love having the control of setting the stage with each painting. Odd objects I find in thrift stores, fabrics and especially colored bottles hold my fascination these days. Strong dramatic light and bold colors get me excited for every day of painting. I set up my stills in the early morning sun for the best cast shadows.
Composing through the viewfinder of my camera, I then go through all my photos from the set up, twisting, cropping, and zooming my way to the composition I’m looking for. I don’t sketch anymore. I work out all the kinks in iPhoto and Photoshop so that by the time I get to the drawing I am ready to go. The chosen photo is then uploaded to my iPad, which is connected to an inexpensive TV monitor on my drafting table. The image comes up on the TV and I can zoom in for details.
This is where all those years training and working as an illustrator really pays off. Drawing is instinctual for me. I work from my selected photo laying in only the most basic contours for size and placement. Then I am ready to spend many happy hours drawing in a very detailed representation. When completed, I use a kneaded eraser to lift excess graphite to keep the colors clean. If my substrate is 140 lb. weight paper I will soak and stretch at this point.
Working from back to front I will mask the main objects to first work on the background. When totally dry, the mask is removed and I work the subjects in detail moving from one completed object to the next. I work wet on dry for details and glaze to build color.
Realistic painting is about developing a strong sense of observation. Studied details of texture, value and light are most important to me. You learn something from every painting that will help with the next. No painting, however you may be unsatisfied with it, is ever a waste of time.
Paper: Arches Cold Press Watercolor paper in 140lb and 300lb weights. I do not stretch 300lb paper.
Brushes: Loew-Cornell synthetic brushes for the detail work. Sizes 2, 4, 6 Ultra Round. These brushes have more spring and resistance needed to paint details. Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sizes 1, 5, 6. Beautiful soft natural brushes for glazing and blending.
Paint: My preferences are, Winsor & Newton, M. Graham & Daniel Smith. I use a large white butcher tray as my palette and mix most of my colors. I also make color charts demonstrating dilutions, transparencies, staining and granulation of each paint tube I own. Very helpful in not slowing down my painting process.
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!