GUEST ARTIST: “My Life As A Watercolor Purist” by Renee Galligher

Calle De Perro Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

Hi! I’m Renee Galligher, and I live in Meridian, Idaho, just a short drive from the state’s capital, Boise. I’ve been creative most of my life working in various mediums, including watercolor, but never sticking with just one until almost 25 years ago.

I began to focus on art in high school, drawn to it because of a great art teacher who excelled in transferring her love of every form of art to her students. I recall how fellow students wanted to join her class, thinking it would be an “easy A” only to drop out after a few weeks daunted by the challenge of the assignments, but I loved all of it, from sculpturing to carving and batik.

One of my class assignments was a trio of flowers painted in watercolor. My teacher encouraged me to enter it in the school fair. I didn’t think they were good, but I did as she suggested and received a 2nd place ribbon for it! It was then that I decided that I wanted a career in art.

Capitol Steps Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

In college, I selected art as a minor and choosing IT as a major. Well, it was in college that I learned more about composition, sketching, Chiaroscuro, and abstract art. College-level work was much more demanding than high school, and I began to lose my creativity, having to meet deadlines continually! I graduated but focused on my job in the IT field and family rather than art. As they say, “life got in the way,” and as a result, my creativity was set aside except for sketching occasionally.

Under The Brambles Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

About 25 years ago, my life changed, and I began to think of getting back to art and being more creative. I began to work with rubber stamps, making cards, and other crafty things. Eventually, I decided to focus on watercolor after attending the annual Idaho Watercolor Society Rotunda Show in the state capitol. When I expressed my interest, the host handed me a brochure for the society and encouraged me to join. There was no way I was ready, nor of the caliber of the artists in the show, but I kept the brochure.

Don't Fence Me In Dog Pet Portrait Watercolor Painting

Years later, I joined after deciding that I had to start somewhere, and what a better place to start than in the company of some of the most talented local painters as mentors. Even though watercolor is one of the most challenging, if not mostly impossible, mediums for me, I decided then and there to learn as much as I could and be the best I could. I signed up for as many classes as were available.

White Dog Pet Portrait Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

This time, I saw watercolor with a new perspective, as a medium to respect and embrace. One that has its challenges, but is not impossible. When you learn the many aspects of this medium, you can do anything with it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve redone eyes on a portrait!

I began to paint anything and everything with no clear path of what I liked. Still, as I grew and became more confident in my painting, I decided that it was important that I paint what I love and what I like, after all as stated by Neil Gaiman in Make Good Art, if you create just for the money and it doesn’t sell, you have nothing, but if you create what you love, and it still doesn’t sell, you still have something! So now I focus on portraits of both people and animals, and landscapes. I’ve painted other subjects to my satisfaction, but when I paint what I love, it comes through in the finished product.

Moose Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

As an IT professional working full time, switching from left brain to right brain plus finding the time to paint can be a challenge. To stay creative, I always have a piece to work on and try to make a habit of doing at least a few brushstrokes every night, motivating me to paint more to see it finished.

If I’m unable to paint, the subject is always on my mind, with the next step planned. Sometimes, when I get up in the morning, I’m in my studio looking at my work from the night before. I may paint a stroke, and if I don’t, I’m planning in my mind, while I’m at work, the next step.

Plus, I stay involved in a painting group for both the critique and the incentive to meet the deadline of the meeting time so that I have something to show. This approach works; my paintings have been accepted in numerous juried shows both locally and nationally. I’m honored to have earned Distinguished Merit membership in the Idaho Watercolor Society, acceptance into the 44th Annual Western Federation Watercolor Society Show, and numerous juried shows with the Nampa Art Guild. In between all this, I also find time to do commissions.

Watercolor Stormy Sky And Clouds

Early on, I learned to paint with the best paint, paper, and brushes I could afford. I primarily use M. Graham paints but have also used some QOR, Stephen Quiller, and Winsor & Newton Professional received as prizes from juried shows. I mainly use Arches 140# cold press that I always stretch. My favorite board to use is the Incredible Art Board – its super lightweight and never bends as a result of the stretched paper drying.

Virgin Of Zion Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

I use numerous brushes, both natural and synthetic, including Cheap Joe’s Miller’s Pseudo Squirrel and Sable, my favorite synthetic, Richeson Grey Matters, and a few Isabey Pure Kolinsky Sables and Pure Squirrel for paint retention. I always start my paintings by photocopying the reference image in black and white to the size I want the finished product, then trace the basic shapes using handmade carbon paper.

I have another black and white reference copy and a high-quality color copy. I use both when painting for color and value reference. It’s fascinating what you will see in a black and white photo as opposed to a color one.

Our Lady Of Tears Watercolor Painting by Renee Galligher

My goal is to continue to improve upon my work by challenging myself by selecting intricately detailed and expressive subjects to paint. I see fellow watercolorists branch out to other mediums, but not me, I’m sticking with watercolor. I want to be a purist! I’ve got a lot to learn and so many subjects to paint!

Renee Galligher
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Recommended6 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
24 Comments
  1. janellmithani 1 month ago

    Such beautiful art. Love the paintings of the dogs…really captured their sweet personalities!

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Hi Janell, Thank you so very much! Animals, dogs, are my favorite to paint and I do so from my own photos!

  2. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 1 month ago

    Greetings Renee, It was so good to read about your art journey. I really love your art!!! So gorgeous!!!! I am new to watercolors and you inspire me to see what is possible with them. 😀

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for your inspirational words! I am honored to be an inspiration to you as well!

  3. Karen Fortier 1 month ago

    Renee, thanks so much for sharing your story and your wonderful art!

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Karen – you are most welcome! So much to learn and so much to do!

  4. Laura (PA Pict) 1 month ago

    Wow! Beautiful rendering of light and shade.

  5. Sharon Nolfi 1 month ago

    Thanks for sharing your work and story. I particularly love the duck with duckings – beautiful detail and contrast.

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Thank you Sharon! A friend of mine took this photo and I was drawn to it immediately. Once I started, I thought, “what was I thinking?!” So much detail, but I took it one step at a time, one technique at a time. My fellow art group members, often tell me that I pick the hardest subjects to paint, and I seem to, but that’s how I learn!

  6. Laura Hale 1 month ago

    Such wonderful art! Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Laura, You are most welcome! Thank you for reading and commenting! I appreciate it.

  7. Loan Anh Pham 1 month ago

    I love your wonderful art 🥰. Thank you, Renee.

  8. LoriCtoo 1 month ago

    Beautiful work! Your story is so inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      LoriCtoo – thank you! I should’ve added that timelines also drive me. As a project manager, I’m timeline driven and that seems to have affected by art work drive too and the drive to excel at what I do! Well, I have a lot to learn yet.

  9. Fanna 1 month ago

    Hi Renee! I enjoyed viewing your paintings and well understand the obsession of even a few brush strokes at night. While I’m a new watercolorist (2.5 years) I learn from every artist I view. Your animal paintings were my favorites–so realistic, they could be a photograph. How long does it take for you to complete a piece as detailed as these? I know it’s many sessions here and there, but am curious because they’re so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your work with us, and congratulations on your successes!

    Fanna Turano

    • Renee Galligher 1 month ago

      Hello Fanna,
      thank you so much for reading the article and commenting. I appreciate your feedback. The animals are my favorite as well. Time depends on the size and detail. For the dog at the fence, “Don’t Fence Me In!” that one took me a month of painting every night for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours.

  10. Carol Hartmann 1 month ago

    Beautiful! Your animals almost jump off the page!

  11. Laurie Asahara 3 weeks ago

    What beautiful work! And the versatility in such varied subject matters as portraits, landscapes, and animals/wildlife shows a deep expertise in the medium.

  12. bingingonabudget 1 week ago

    Thanks for sharing, beautiful work. How long have you been blogging?

    • Renee Galligher 1 day ago

      You’re welcome and thank you for looking! I haven’t been blogging long. I have a website up and seem to focus more on painting then blogging, but I have so much to share, so I need to push that.

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