GUEST ARTIST: “Wicki Does Watercolor” by Vicki Neil Ross

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - Doodlewash

Hi! I’m Vicki Neil Ross, in Northwest Arkansas…Bentonville. I wish I could say I’ve been painting since I could walk, but that would be a lie.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashI did draw as a child…saving my color books by taking a sheet of plain paper and drawing what was in the book, then coloring my drawing.

Then school, music, boys, college, university, distracted me. Several careers including retail management, design/publishing soft crafts (needlework and knitting), graphic design/advertising… and now, artist!

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashMy HUGE life changing event happened on Christmas Day, 2001, when a fire raged through our new custom home and took the life of our 14 year old daughter. I was pushed off a cliff with nary a fare-the-well! I couldn’t go back to work, so we eventually closed the doors. For the first time, I am a loose balloon, floating with no one holding my string. Nothing to do, not wanting to do, just floating. My therapist suggested I consider painting to help bring me back.

Sounded good to me, so a few months after the fire, I was attempting watercolor. I spent hours one afternoon at Barnes & Noble looking for what called to me. I didn’t know watercolor from oil, really. (I had to learn which end of the brush to use!) The book I chose was way to advanced for a beginner.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - Doodlewash

Then I tried a succession of mostly social art groups—you know the ones where “students” paint once a week, and visit about their recipes. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but I wanted to learn everything I could—don’t get between me and my easel. I’m in a hurry to learn.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashHubs (Randy) and I took several European painting workshops by choosing the location instead of the tutor for the first one. Tutor turned out to be Charles Reid. Randy immediately struck up a friendship with he and his wife, Judy. What an experience! We had new gear—a ton of it! Several blocks of Arches paper in various sizes, hot and cold pressed, 2 or 3 tubes of each color he recommended, Guerrilla Painters 9×12 box each, tripods, stools, hats, walking shoes…you name it, we had it! I had to cart my own pack, and sometimes we walked a mile to our spot, on cobblestone streets of villages with hills! Thank goodness Randy was able to keep me from a Kafka-esque fall! We had enough supplies to paint several years.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashI couldn’t keep up with the class, so I listened, took tons of progress photos of his work, and took copious notes. Back home, I started going to every workshop instructor who would travel through for local groups to demonstrate for 3 days, and got all kinds of unrelated information, like formulas for trees, favorite miracle brushes, oh, and buy my video, book, etc.

I was introduced to soft pastels a few years later, and put the watercolors away for awhile. I did improve, but still struggled with painting on my own. I could just get so far, then would run up against my lack of training. Many teachers want you to sign and frame works that are really just practice pieces. Of course, they offer framing.

I continued with soft pastels and went to a convention in Raleigh, NC where I happened to meet a portrait artist from Atlanta, but who lived in France and had an artist’s retreat about an hour southeast of Paris in a little village of Fontaine-Fourches.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - Doodlewash

I connected with her, she took me under her wing as a mentor. She couldn’t believe I did not have any knowledge of the basics and was trying to paint the emotional paintings I felt I had to do (people in my position don’t think they can paint “happy/merry”). After several long talks, she “gave me permission” to paint apples and trees. She had operated an art school in Atlanta for several years, so I became her student. I read, studied, practiced, and collected art supplies.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashSeveral more trips to France to study came after that, with world class tutors for weeks each. In between, we sponsored Charles for a workshop here locally. It was a huge success, and I fell in love with watercolor all over again, but once again, with no “HOW” I was unable to continue. I’m not much of a “player/experimenter”, and found myself reading about how to paint, then didn’t have time to actually paint! More workshops, more information, more techniques. Picked up oil at one of the French trips and LOVED it. Still traveled with a small watercolor kit and would pull it out occasionally, but oil got my watercolors back on the shelf again.

Continued to study and practice oil, and found that my study and experience in other media all complemented each other, after all, the pigments are the same, just techniques change. I still yearned for watercolor, but felt it was too difficult. To be quite honest, I was scared of it.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashAnother curiosity of mine was Encaustic. Collage is a big factor in that medium, which led to Mixed Media. I love that too! I used that experience to learn to loosen up and “just do it”. Junk Art Journals taught me that no supply was precious. I quit being an art snot and grew to love and collect the myriad of paints in custom admixture colors for Mixed Media, both watercolor and acrylic.

Everything has its place for me now, so I keep separate workstations in my studio for crafty watercolors, and acrylic paints in many colors and types and a separate station for pastels and another for oil. It’s CRAMPED in this small room, for sure! Watercolor can be done almost anywhere.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - DoodlewashWatercolor was back for me because of the mixed media journey. Last year, I had a major surgical event, a colon blockage, emergency surgery and a colostomy. I had talked to Charlie around this time about doing what I am doing now for a feature, but, well, you know.

Eight weeks later, I had reconstruction surgery. Between the two surgeries, I got out my Winsor & Newton watercolors and easel, my Ikea Raskog cart, and made a mini-studio with all my watercolor “stuff”. Here is an assortment of paintings I completed from my chair as I watched our country implode early 2017.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - Doodlewash

In the year that it took to fully get my energy back, I painted. I painted on crafty cellulose watercolor paper just for fun. I tried new pigments…and fell in love with Daniel Smith PrimaTek granulation, even the tube that contain several pigments that play together to make stunning colors and patterns. Moonglow became my friend, and I used an air sprayer to get flawless backgrounds. I must have done one a day, 16×20”. They still need a bit of softening on facial features.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Vicki Neil Ross - Doodlewash

I posted in World Watercolor Group on Facebook my invention for organizing tube and pan watercolors. I’ve been using it, and it works GREAT. Just pull your palette, paint, then they go right back in their tins.

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a program to share my experience and journey to art and healing through my loss. I can save people so much time by taking everything I’ve learned and condensing down to the core basic.

Then I’ll do an introductory demo in several media. I help people learn and grow as artists, filling their empty time with peace.

Vicki Neil Ross
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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!

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19 Comments
  1. coyotespirit 5 days ago

    Wonderful feature post Vicki! Sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter…but glad that you found watercolor as a way to deal with your grief. We are all story tellers and your post shows that we don’t just paint…we are telling a story…our story.

  2. Thomas Blanchard 5 days ago

    What an inspiration of strength and growth. Thank you for sharing your story and lovely work.

  3. Sandra Strait 5 days ago

    Your work is beautiful, and you are inspirational.

  4. zuzala 5 days ago

    The journey of a lifetime starts with but one step, into a charles reid class. It is sad to hear why you got here but inspirational to know how you over came all odds.

  5. Pamela Smith 5 days ago

    Such a wonderful story,a positive and sharing way to work through grief…your work is beautiful,,,I appreciate your sharing.

  6. Vicky, you made me very emotional! You shown an exceptional strength with learning new skills and making positive steps further. Take care and fully enjoy your painting time.

  7. Sharon Nolfi 4 days ago

    Lovely portraits!

  8. Mary Roff 4 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your story and your paintings are wonderful.

  9. Susan Cuss 4 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your story, and your wonderful, expressive paintings. I am glad that watercolours has brought you through grief to peace. How inspirational that you now share that teaching others.

  10. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 4 days ago

    Vicki, I gasped when I read about the loss of your daughter and I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Your story of recovery and growth as an artist is inspiring. Your art is beautiful. It’s wonderful that you’re now sharing what you’ve learned with other folks.

  11. Yvonne Reeder 4 days ago

    Vicki, your story was both heart breaking and uplifting. Your kind of grief is something you will never get over, as you know, but you’ve put that energy into a positive action which clearly has let you get on with life again. Your artwork is so amazing and diverse. Thank you for sharing yourself, your story and your work with all of us. I hope your body has recovered finally. ❤️

  12. Kati Brooke 4 days ago

    I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. Your story of finding your way into classes that were too advanced, eventually getting ‘permission’ to paint those apples and such, and now producing beautiful art is very inspiring, along with you sharing what you’ve learned with other people.

  13. wow your paintings are amazing, im a true believer in the power of art therapy, it has helped me through many a dark days.

  14. Delores Azary 4 days ago

    What beautiful paintings! Thank you for sharing your touching journey!

  15. Kaye Boggs 4 days ago

    What an incredible story and I am really impressed that you know Charles Reid. You have taken quite a journey through your life as an artist and, yes, I also have pastels, acrylics, wax from my encaustic period, papermaking equipment and a slew of magazines and blank canvases from my collage days. (I did donate my potters wheel to the local museum’s school.) You would think I have an entire lifeline ahead of me to do all these things again… I don’t… but they bring me comfort and joy, as did your tale of a true artist. And I am so sorry for the loss of your daughter.

  16. Jennifer McLean 3 days ago

    I’ve always admired artists who can successfully paint faces. Beautiful art!

  17. Kate Powell 3 days ago

    Been sick or would have commented earlier. What a gift to read your story! I did not know that about the loss of your duaghter. We are amazing entities, who can take what sorrows befall us and move forward. Huggs.

  18. Fikria Novalisa 2 days ago

    Beautiful

  19. Beverly Dyer 16 hours ago

    Vicki, your story is one of courage. What an inspiration! Thank you!

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