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

Market Peppers Watercolor Painting 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

Sebring

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
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42 Comments
  1. Anita Sinha 9 months ago

    Wow…Mary, such a wide range of watercolour paintings…Thanks for sharing your artistic journey!

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you so much, Anita! The journey has been fun and I’m so happy to have found my way to Doodlewash! It’s really a joy and inspiration to see everyone’s work everyday!

  2. Jodi Ballenger 9 months ago

    Mary, your paintings are really beautiful! And, yes, they made me smile! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Leena Uniyal 9 months ago

    Beautiful paintings, and a very inspiring artistic journey!

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you, Leena! It’s been and continues to be an amazing journey!!

  4. June Hadaway 9 months ago

    Your paintings are lovely. Such a great article….very encouraging. Thanknyou, Mary.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you, June! I love all of the inspiration here on Doodlewash and am so happy to have be a part of this wonderful community!

  5. Sandra Strait 9 months ago

    I’ve been enjoying your art work for a couple of years now and it’s so nice to learn a bit more about you! Your work is amazing!

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you so much, Sandra! I have so loved being a part of this community!

  6. Laura Hale 9 months ago

    I’ve enjoyed seeing your art, and it was nice to “get to know you”. Thank you for sharing.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Laura, thank you for taking the time to read my story and for the comment!

  7. Carol 9 months ago

    I could feel your joy for watercolor while reading this post. It was nice to get to know you better, and indeed your paintings made me smile 😀

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you so much, Carol! Happy to hear about the smile ! 🙂

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 9 months ago

    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.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you for your comments! It’s taken me a long time to learn to play and I am thoroughly enjoying the process.

  9. Sharon Nolfi 9 months ago

    I’ve enjoyed your work for a long time in the News Feed, so I’m delighted to hear your story at last! All your paintings are lovely, but I especially love the flamingos.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you for the nice comments. I have to admit I love the flamingos too…it’s a good memory from a visit from my nieces a few years ago. Flamingos always make me smile!

  10. Laura Kate 9 months ago

    I love all of your paintings, but the bell peppers are particularly striking. Thank you for posting.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thank you, Laura! Those flamingos are one of my favorties too.

  11. Alice Hendon 9 months ago

    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 🙂 )

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      Thanks so much, Alice! This is a beautiful area and I love the Gulf of Mexico.

  12. Fatima Chamkha 9 months ago

    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 !!

  13. Mary Roff 9 months ago

    Thank you, Fatima! I love making time to do those daily doodles! 🙂

  14. Fatima Chamkha 9 months ago

    i know and you doing this very good!!

  15. Karen 9 months ago

    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. 😊

  16. Mary Roff 9 months ago

    Thank you for your kind words, Karen. When you love doing something it just seems natural to me to want to share the enthusiasm.

  17. Carol L Rieger 9 months ago

    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.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      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.

  18. Janneke Booister 9 months ago

    Everything has already been said… So I can only add that I enjoyed your story and your paintings very much 🙂

  19. Mary Roff 9 months ago

    Thank you so much, Janneke!

  20. Dominik Neuffer 9 months ago

    Wonderful! I enjoy seeing your artwork and reading your story. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Dominik Neuffer 9 months ago

    Oh, would also love to see your hand made sketchbooks.

    • Mary Roff 9 months ago

      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?

      • Dominik Neuffer 8 months ago

        Oh, I bind them with the kettle Stitch technique

        • Mary Roff 8 months ago

          Also my favorite stitch for a sketchbook. Thanks for responding.

  22. Lin Powell 9 months ago

    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.

  23. Mary Roff 9 months ago

    Lin, thank you for reading my story and for the nice comments.

  24. Laure Ferlita 8 months ago

    It’s always so nice to learn more about an artist and it’s fun to see so many different pieces of gorgeous work! Your joy of painting and creating shows in each piece.

    • Mary Roff 7 months ago

      Thanks so much, Laure! Your workshops and art have certainly been an inspiration!!

  25. Ellen B 6 months ago

    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

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