My name is Deb Watson and I’m from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As a child, I loved to draw horses and animals, but my parents discouraged art. So, I became a nurse and art was my hobby. While home on maternity leave, I bought watercolors and a how to paint book. The first time I saw the beautiful bloom of color and water, I was hooked. I told my husband, “I’m going to practice watercolors until I’m really good at it.” He patted me on the shoulder. “Sure you are,” he agreed, without much belief.
I had no art training, but painting was my passion. While working full-time and raising a family, I spent every spare moment painting at the kitchen table. I painted what I knew best – the small town where I lived – the people, the places, the gum in the candy machine.
Once, while washing dishes at the kitchen window, the sunset turned my neighbor’s deck into a beautiful scene. I grabbed my camera and pounded on the neighbor’s door. “I want to photograph your deck,” I announced, “but it needs flowers on the table for a focal point!” My neighbors knew me well. “I have lilacs!” she answered, and promptly came out with a vase of flowers. That scene made a nice painting, and the dishes did get washed, eventually.
Later, I began showing my work, and was surprised to win awards and be considered a ‘professional’ artist. I worked even harder to produce my best work, and won awards in the juried shows. I also began teaching, and used that to improve my own painting skills, as well as my students.
Being self-taught, learning was a slow process, but it gave me a unique style. I studied books and took local lessons, but most of my skills came from trial and error. I would paint, wash off what didn’t work, and paint again as long as the paper held up.
I got quite good at washing off long before I was good at painting, and figured out how to fix almost anything in a watercolor.
I do most of my paintings with two brushes (a size six round and a 3/4″ oval wash brush) and a limited palette of about ten transparent colors. I use Arches paper and Arches art board. Lately, I’ve been varnishing my work (Golden Archival Spray Varnish) so it can be hung without glass or mat.
I do use opaque white (for touch up at the end of a painting) and I mix my own blacks. I encourage students to ignore any ‘rules’ they’re told and not to be afraid to try things. Failure is just a piece of paper, and you can still wash it off and reuse it.
Watercolor will always be my favorite medium. Like a true friend, it’s always ready for adventure. Currently, I’ve come full circle, back to my first love of horses and wildlife. For my new series of western subjects, I’m working with photographer’s reference photos. Next year, I hope to take a vacation out west to get photos of my own.
I recommend watercolor to everyone. Whether you’re considering it as hobby or a profession, art will improve your life, introduce you to new people and let you live your life in a full color, beautiful world.