My name is Mary Roff and I grew up in Elmira, New York, a beautiful small city in south central New York State in an era when there were neighborhood parks and arts and crafts programs in the summer months available to everyone.
I always enjoyed the time spent on art projects in school but never had the opportunity to pursue art classes in grade school or high school. In college, I took the required art courses for my degree and loved every minute. But, it wasn’t until I had graduated from college and spent a few years working in the banking and insurance industries that I realized there was something missing in my life. It felt like there was something inside of me trying to get out and I knew the path I was on needed to change for that to happen.
The road to watercolor was a bit circuitous by way of photography, decorative painting, making glass beads, bookbinding and eventually making sterling jewelry. These are all wonderful creative outlets and I still enjoy doing most of them but there was still something missing.
My husband and I eventually moved to Florida and one day my husband mentioned that there was a customer service job opening at a local art center and he thought I should apply. I started working at ArtCenter Manatee in September 2005 and I was exposed to a whole new world of art. The job, which became full time, truly changed my life.
My desk was near the watercolor studio and I could listen to the instructors as they taught and they were so encouraging to their students it seemed that anyone could paint with watercolors. The work the students brought out of those classes was amazing and I decided that I was encouraged to give watercolors a try.
My first watercolor class was a 3 day class that lasted 2 ½ hours each day. I’ll never forget that class; the list of supplies included 3 tubes of paint, a full sheet of watercolor paper, a couple of brushes and a pencil. When I got to class we were provided with an image of flowers and we were expected to draw them on a FULL sheet of Arches. I was scared half to death but did the drawing and completed my first watercolor painting by the end of the class. I fell in love with watercolors.
I am so fortunate to live in an area that has a very active arts community. There have been opportunities to take classes from a number of incredible local and nationally known artists and I continue to takes classes and workshops whenever it’s possible. I’ve attended lectures and demos by artists like John Salminen, Mary Whyte, Jean Haines and Vladislav Yeliseyev. The ArtCenter has hosted the traveling exhibits of the American Watercolor Society and National Watercolor Society numerous times since 2005 exposing me to work by some of the best contemporary watercolor artists.
In August of 2017, I discovered Doodlewash and have been happily painting every day since. Being able to put brush to paper and to complete a painting each day is a dream come true.
Painting is a totally joyful experience for me and I have always loved working in miniature so now my paintings are all done in sketchbooks, ranging in size from 4 x 4 to 5 x 8 inches. I’ve even painted on 1 ¼ inch squares of watercolor paper – a really fun project.
My favorite sketchbook is Hahnemuhle Akademie Aquarell Watercolor Book in either A5 or A6. But I’ve used Moleskine and Hand Book Watercolor sketchbooks and have enjoyed using them also. Lately I’ve been binding my own sketchbooks and trying out a variety of watercolor papers. If I’m painting on a sheet of watercolor paper my choice is always Arches 140# or 300#
I’m not very loyal to any one brand of paint but love using Da Vinci, QoR, Mission, Daniel Smith and Schmincke in my paintings and I love combining colors just to see what colors I can create. The first watercolors I bought for classes was Holbein and I often use those paints also. There are so many beautiful pigments to choose from in each of these quality brands that it would be difficult to choose just one.
There is a shelf in my cupboard that is full of palettes…I feel like I’ve tried them all. Since I am painting in small format and sketchbooks now I use small travel palettes with half or full pans of watercolors. I will pull out an enameled butcher’s tray and tubes of colors if I am working on a larger watercolor.
When I first started painting a friend and artist gifted me with several Kolinksy Sable brushes, which I love but I do believe different brushes work well for different techniques. I love the Kolinsky brushes for the amount of pigment and water they will hold but use my Loew Cornell round brushes for any dry brushing. I also like using Yasutomo Niji waterbrushes especially for quick doodles and sketching on site.
Whatever supplies you use, buy the best that you can afford; good quality paint, brushes and paper will make your painting experience much more enjoyable.
It’s wonderful to take classes, learn from YouTube videos and books. I think I’ve learned the “rules” of a good painting, but recently, I’ve been learning to stretch or even break those rules. Have fun with your paints and papers and sometimes just let things happen. Painting should be FUN!
Watercolors are a joy for me and I love sharing my enthusiasm with others. There is nothing more rewarding than finding out you’ve helped someone discover a passion for creating art.
“I would like to paint the way a bird sings”
Bird songs make me smile. If one of my doodles makes someone smile then my painting is a success.Recommended9 recommendationsPublished in
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. 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!