Market Peppers Watercolor Painting By Mary Roff

GUEST ARTIST: “When The Bluebird Sings” by Mary Roff

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.

Coquina Beach Watercolor Painting by Mary Roff - Doodlewash
Coquina Beach

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.

St. Paul de Mausole Watercolor Painting By Mary Roff
St. Paul de Mausole

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.

Sebring Watercolor Painting By Mary Roff

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!

Sunrise Watercolor Painting By Mary Roff
Sun Rising

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”
– Monet 

Bird songs make me smile.  If one of my doodles makes someone smile then my painting is a success.

Mary Roff
Etsy Shop
Etsy (Jewelry)

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49 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “When The Bluebird Sings” by Mary Roff

  1. Mary, I love the range of your art styles, from highly detailed, to inventive, to loose and gestural. Much pleasure here in seeing your art and reading your story. And I like that you’re willing to break the rules. Takes courage and confidence in that exploratory journey.

  2. my comment appears to have been eaten by the system. hm. your love shows in your paintings. we used to live in the Gainesville area, I see you are in the Bradenton area. beautiful scenery – your beach landscapes are wonderful! but my favorites are your flamingo and the bell peppers. you are blessed to have such a talent. thank you for sharing <3
    (I hope one of these comments makes it 🙂 )

  3. Great to read about you journey,,i’m suprised that you so creative for sure every day making a doodle is an adventure to draw or to try to capture the moment.Thanks for sharing you works !!

  4. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your story, Mary! You are such an encouraging member of this community— always remarking with love on the little bits of art the rest of us share. And now your personal article has simply continued in this encouraging vein. Thank you — I think we all benefit from getting to know how other artists have approached and pursued watercolor in both similar as well as very different ways than we may have up until now. It’s wonderful to share such a lovely lifelong hobby. 😊

  5. Mary, I so enjoyed your “guest artist” blog and enjoyed your wide-ranging skills in watercolor. What a great testimony to your journey. I am in a dry-spell with my daily painting. Everything I do seems overworked and I am dis-satisfied. I am taking this as part of my journey and will forge on. You are so encouraging and your skills are enviable. Thanks for sharing your painting with us.

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments; it’s certainly been an honor to share my story with the Doodlewash community. Those dry spells are never fun but I think you have the right idea about forging on….sooner or later the muse returns.

    1. Thanks, Dominik. I’m all over the place with my bookbinding…I haven’t quite figured out what style I prefer and everytime I see new instructions i have to try making one of those. One of these days I will do a photo of them and send it. I seem to recall that you make your own sketchbooks? What is your favorite style?

  6. I love all your work, but my favorites are the peppers and the orange. You have captured the shine so perfectly that it makes me want to grab hold and eat them.

  7. Mary, thank you for sharing your art journey with us. It is very inspiring and helpful to people like me who is re-discovering passion for watercolour painting. Can totally relate. By the way, your paintings are lovely, light and clean

  8. Mary, un my case I started back in the mid 70’swith oils, then changed to acrylics, and finally discover watercolors back in 2009, literally watercolors have been my passion since then….for some years now I have been part of the doodlewashers and love to share my art with you’ll and see what artist like you offers in the site… I simply love art, and the older I get the more I enjoy doing it….thanks to let me enjoy your art too….

  9. Mary Mary Mary my friend! I had NO idea you were such a marvelous watercolorist! Wow! I am blown away. I showed your DW GA paintings to my husband, and we both LOVED your textured pieces–the wet orange slice, peppers. I am gobsmacked. I’ve been painting 3.5 years, and hope that in 14 years I will have advanced to your beautiful pieces. Wow–what a feast for the eyes. Beautiful paintings, Mary. Wow…

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