Watercolor Live, the beginner’s day that heralds the success of the convention.

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Watercolor Live, the annual event dedicated entirely to watercolor, is back for the second year in a row with the Beginner’s day. Watercolor Live is one of several events conceived by Eric Rhoads, the tireless man who, flanked by the Streamline team, is recognized as the leader of a thousand resources. 

He will be for this edition too, even if he is “under the weather” and to be replaced -delightfully- by Tish de la Bretonne, copywriter and marketing strategist of Streamline Publishing. 

Tish de la Bretonne assisted Kelly Kane, Editor in Chief of Plein Air Magazine in this educational day that involved people from thirty-two countries around the world.

The beginner’s day always proves to be a valuable and uplifting resource. It is an educational day in which concepts ranging from the presentation of watercolor tools to the discussion of more complex issues such as color is brought into focus. The generosity with which the professional artists make their knowledge available makes the training day very interesting not only for newcomers to the medium but also for more experienced artists. 

Tish de la Bretonne and Kelly Kane

There were several teachers during the day who addressed various issues related to watercolor whose concepts, however, are applicable to other techniques. 

It was Wennie Huang, professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York City and Ambassador Member of Royal Talens America, who got to the heart of the day. She did so with an exhaustive demonstration that reviewed the materials used in the practice of this artistic technique. A dissertation that reviewed commercially available colors (from the classic godet and tubes to the more innovative liquid or marker consistencies), brushes – natural and synthetic and hot and cold pressed paper. Without forgetting to talk about the tools needed to tackle a watercolor session both outdoors and in the studio. 

Wennie Huang’s materials demostration

The approach to color is always an obstacle, not only for beginner artists. In this regard Julie Gilbert Pollard, author of several books and watercolor teacher for several institutions, addressed the issue of color and value. A binomial not always easy to put into practice and about which she states:“The triadic color wheel is a great explanation of color, it’s so simple and it works.”

Julie Gilbert Pollard’s values demonstration

Even the artist Birgit O’Connor, in dealing with the theme of “basic colors”, made reference to the color wheel. O’Connor sustains the necessity of creating one’s own color chart, free from those proposed on the market which are sometimes misleading because of their not always truthful rendering. According to the artist it is necessary to create one’s own chart also by virtue of the mixing which is done afterwards in order to obtain a determined color and which must result harmonious in the final composition.

Birgit O’Connor’s basic color demonstration

“Watercolor is a very exciting technique because it is constantly moving and changing and unlike other mediums it has the gift of being translucent,” says Susan Blackwood. The love story between the artist and watercolor is a liaison that has lasted for over fifty years and at times has even been a cause for discussion for the artist. In her session, Blackwood demonstrated the importance of watermarking by revealing some surprising optical effects that can be achieved using everyday tools such as food film or toilet paper.

Susan Blackwood’s materials trick for texture

“For me, painting in watercolor is not just representing what I see, but it is the medium through which I express, represent and convey feelings and emotions,” said Richie Vios. The artist explained the theme of art composition by making a landscape demonstration of The Texas State Capitol in Austin, TX. Architectural rendering is a very complex subject in art and Vios simplified it by applying the “Rule of Thirds.”

Richie Vios’ work in progress composition demo

A degree in Psychology and certification in Art Therapy, brought Carol McSweeney into contact with artists from different disciplines. Her love of watercolor and knowledge of people then did the rest, allowing her to hone the skill of portraying people for over twenty years.  In today’s demo, the artist explained the importance of the “Portrait Elements” dwelling in particular on the importance of believably rendering skin tones and eyes. “Working on the eyes for me means doing micro-surgical work,” said the artist who considers anatomical knowledge of the face very important. In the creation of the portrait. She performed layered, light washes that she alternated with more full-bodied layering of color to bring out the shapes, which were finished in detail.

Carol McSweeney work in progress portrait demo

Kathleen Alexander’s demonstration of a still life relied on an unusual subject to represent in a workshop: a single flower. The composition explained through eloquent slides and combined with the purity of the colors used by the artist, fascinated the audience, who was enthusiastic. “It is very stimulating to listen to the detailed description of each brushstroke as well as the motivations that the artist explained to achieve her goals,” said a participant who called her an extraordinary teacher.

Poppy Balser’s landscape demo

Canadian artist Poppy Balser did a landscape demonstration at the close of the day. As Balser prepares the colors in advance, she tests each color on a piece of cardboard before proceeding with the application. A process that helps a lot in the realization of the desired shades. It is also interesting to see how the artist while using mainly 1/2″ brushes also takes advantage of the side sections optimizing the work. “The pressure of the brush is a fundamental component in the practice of watercolor,” the artist reiterates several times during the demonstration. 

During the day the presence of sponsors was not lacking. Among them, there were and there will be in the days to come, well-known faces representing the brands, such as: Pierre Guidetti, unmistakable face of Savoir-Faire and Sennelier America; Joe Miller of the homonymous Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff and Jeff Olson for Royal Talents America, who we will see soon during the official convention and who delegated the artist Vic Hollins for the day. The refined Sarah Simon, already author of several books, realized two different demos for Blick Art Materials while Daniel Marshall represented as Signature Member the association LPAPA, Laguna Plein Air Painters.

It is always constructive to follow the beginner’s day: the quality of the information is always valuable and helps prepare for what promises to be another success with the official start of Watercolor Live. 

(on the title, Kathleen Alexander’s flower demo)

A work by Daniel Marshall, LPAPA’s Signature Member
Ecoline watercolor demo by Vic Hollins for Royal Talens
Joe Miller for Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff
Pierre Guidetti for Savoir-Faire
Sarah Simon demo for Blick Art Materials

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