Sunday, March 24, 2024

Watercolor Recap

Last week I was invited to give a show & tell + demo to one of the oldest and most active local art groups in our neck of the woods. The fine folks at the Fairbanks Watercolor Society (website, Facebook, Instagram linkage) have monthly meetings held at Pioneer Park (aka Alaskaland) along with fieldtrips and workshops. Their 25th year anniversary group show will be at the Fairbanks Arts Association's Bear Gallery next month, and will showcase the breadth & depth of their membership's diverse range of skillsets and subject matter - an exhibition not to miss.

After an opening social, and brief business meeting, a good-sized crowd of about forty-something people attended the talk. The 45-mute slide show went over a bit compared to a couple rehearsals that kept one-hundred images at 30-minutes instead. That's on account of feeling so welcomed and relaxed, like talking to a bunch of friends. Then after a brief break a group gathered around the table for a half-hour demo on the process and my technique.

This was the second opportunity I've had to present before them: a decade ago was my first visit (back when I was less gray and skinnier), and it's probably taken that long for some of the them to recover from seeing how bad I treat my brushes - and definitely can't stay in the lines! 

So realizing I am so far opposite the spectrum compared to many of the experienced watercolorists watching me, in a kind of way released me from any expectations, which lossens you up... not unlike doodling. In this instance I admit to the intimidation at the number of really, really talented practitioners, who probably look at me like a gorilla poking about with a stick. I know all too well my skillset in using watercolor medium - not that that will ever stop me from having so much fun with it. Your limitations are a starting point - I've always equated critiquing artwork with attending 12-step groups: there's always gonna be somebody "better" than you, and there's always gonna be someone "worse." But that's not what it's about - we're all learning from sharing, and learn from our mistakes, and are all here to help each other do some drawing. 

One of the reasons I am particularly effective teaching the Beginning Drawing level (which over all of my years in the classroom has comprised the majority of my experience) is that I can relate to a lot of the issues facing them, whether it is not having enough hours in the day to work on art, to anxiety over meeting deadlines, and the existential stress staring at a blank sheet of paper. In other words, I have empathy with anyone who every time wonders to themselves "what am I gonna do?" and/or "how am I gonna do this?"  That's when the fun starts, and and there's so much more possible than what will happen in reality: wake up, go to work, pump gas, order food, park and walk to the office etc. The panels boxing in the images don't restrict because they're are windows.

Thank you to the fantastic hosts!

These wonderland images via Vladimir Zhikhartsev and Phoebe Mae Flanagan courtesy Fairbanks Watercolor Society. 

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