Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Watercolor Wednesdays

In an effort to get me back in the habit of blogging, I thought I'd start a new feature called Watercolor Wednesdays.  Last fall I began teaching watercolor at Two Twelve Arts Center, and in January at the Saline Senior Center.  It was a bit of an awakening!  Watercolor was my concentration in undergrad, and I spent a lot of time in grad school using watercolors, even when I began working with oils.  My graduate thesis exhibition was half watercolors, half oils.  (You can see some of my watercolor paintings on my website, here.)

Even so, teaching watercolor was very different than I'd planned. But then, so was teaching acrylics and oils when I first began that several years ago!  It's one thing to do a thing, another thing entirely to teach it.  I have a friend who is a theoretical particle physicist, and he told me that the further he got into his education, the more difficult it became for him to teach.  He said that he was a much better teacher in grad school than while he was working on his PhD - he got so into the deep stuff, he found it hard to resurface and teach the basics. And as an educator, I have been taught that someone who has just learned something is the best one to teach it - the way they learned it is fresh in their memory, so they can help another person find that same path.  

I mention all of this because I found it immensely difficult to backtrack in my brain to where I first started painting with watercolors.  I tried to rewind back the lessons taught to me at EMU by Maria Ruggiero, the watercolor professor, and have memories of color mixing and still life paintings.  I took those memories, did the best that I could, fumbled through, and finally came to understand what works for me as a teacher, and I hope translates to helping my students.

What has worked for me has been doing small studies rather than large, finished paintings.  I've even done this with my intermediate-advanced students, and they have said that it's helped them a lot to better understand the nature of watercolor paint and paper and how they work together.  That's been my experience, too!  I've never been one who likes to do a painting over again - I do it once, and I'm done.  But with these studies, I've really enjoyed doing them multiple times!

With my senior center students, who are mostly the very beginningest of beginners, I've had to step back even further.  I don't think much about how much water I add to my paint, for example, but that is a completely unknown concept to them, so I have spent many classes encouraging them to add more water!!  I think I may be learning more than my students!

I've enjoyed the process of learning how to teach watercolor, and know it will continue to change.  I'll begin today with a color mixing chart that I did in January - as long as I've been painting with watercolors (10 years?), I still learned SO much doing this chart! I wish I'd done it years ago.

And here's a quick example of what I've been doing with my students - going over step-by-step how to paint things like apples - an insanely difficult object to paint!

Next week I'll share more of the summery things I've been working on with my students!