I saw an announcement in the Post and Courier about a watercolor class at the studio of Mary Lou Bloise offered by the Gibbes Museum of Art. The notice intrigued me. I hadn’t had much experience with watercolor except for a brief six-week period on a cruise ship, offered as an enrichment program while at sea. I enjoyed the experience and upon my return to Charleston, I rushed to purchase art paper, watercolors, brushes, and books. I even bought a DVD with watercolor instructions, but as time passed, I never opened my supplies. My enthusiasm for this art medium had been replaced with day-to-day busyness and my art supplies sat on a shelf. I decided to sign up for the classes offered by the Gibbes. I was excited to reunite with my old friend watercolor! The day before the first class I drove to the location to be certain I knew exactly where it was and how long it would take me to get there. I took my art supplies off the shelf, placed them in a canvas bag, and I was ready to start.
When I arrived for the first class, I was greeted by the warm, smiling, friendly face of the instructor Mary Lou Bloise. Her inviting demeanor made me feel at home. The space was set up as an artist’s studio and her love of art infused the room. There were five students in the group and Mary Lou gently guided us. My earlier watercolor experience came back to me, although it was very elementary, and I was open and willing to learn more.
The first lesson was about brush strokes. We were instructed only to use the primary colors. As I began to fill my page with red, yellow, and blue streaks and various sized lines, Mary Lou offered suggestions on how to hold the brush, the amount of water to use, and how to control the color pigment. As I examined my finished page of rainbow colored stripes, lines, and streaks, I felt reconnected with my long lost friend – water coloring! That rainbow effect was my promise of future creations, which lay within my mind and hand.
Arriving for the second class, I saw apples in the center of the worktable. It was at this point I realized we were going to actually paint an object! I was thrilled! But before I could take brush to paper, our instructor gave a brief explanation of how to look for various colors and shadows on the apples. I carefully examined my chosen apple discovering amazing different shades of red, yellow, and a hint of green now and then. Mary Lou also pointed out how the light affected the objects. I will never view a fruit or vegetable in the same manner after discovering just how many colors are present in a “red” apple.
It took me three attempts to achieve the correct shape of my apple. The first try looked more like a red pumpkin but on the third attempt, I was pleased with the shape and coloring of my creation. At break time the group examined and chatted about each other’s work. It was interesting to see how others used different color intensity. I must admit, their apple stems were superior to mine!
To prepare for our next class, the group was asked to bring in a vegetable or fruit to use as a subject to paint. I chose to bring a papaya cut in half. The instructor placed complementary colored flowers beside my papaya. The lesson focused on composition and painting colors in relation to each other. I enjoyed manipulating the shape of the papaya as I painted. I discovered that if I made a mistake, I could correct it or go in a different direction. I call this a happy accident because I actually ended up with a better product than I had originally conceived.
Sadly, the last lesson day arrived quickly. Our instructor told the class to take out our T-squares and use a pencil to place lines at the edge of our paper to accommodate for the overhang of a mat if it was framed. Mary Lou had arranged a cobalt blue vase holding a purple flower, placed on a slab of marble. I felt totally comfortable as I began painting strokes to create the vase. It came together well, as did the stem and purple flower. I completed my painting by adding the gray and pink veined marble on which the vase rested.
I enjoyed the classes very much, and I have a newfound appreciation for the accomplished artist. It takes a lot of practice to refine brush strokes and time to achieve the desired color by using the right amount of water for the desired hue. I look at things differently now, noticing the varied colors and shading. I think my watercolor work shall achieve satisfaction and not perfection—it is simpler and more enjoyable that way.
—Jeannette Sink, watercolor student and guest blogger