Tonya Opperman I'm a full-time wildland fire professional working as a fire analyst on fires throughout the US. I fell backwards into this line of work after earning a degree in Forestry, but haven't looked back because it's a fulfilling career that's allowed me to visit exciting places for fire assignments and meet really wonderful people in the wildland fire community. When I'm not working, I paint, run, knit, garden, and travel. I've painted since high school, but only recently heeded advice to paint what I love--this made all the difference for me. I entered shows, started selling work, and reproduce it on everything from totes to shower curtains. I know that fire can indeed be destructive, but in the natural environment, fire means renewal, regrowth, and a diverse landscape patchwork, and that's what I aim to capture. My artwork is water-based using either pure watercolor, gouache, acrylic, or a combination.
Editor's note: Tonya is the MTWS Secretary and an all-around techie guru for the group!
WATERCOLOR BRUSHES (Reprinted from MTWS March 2021 Newslwtter)
Art supply catalogs can quickly overwhelm you with their huge selection of brushes. Choosing depends a great deal on how or what you like to paint, as well as your experience level. Most important, they are the critical connection to the paper from your hand, eye and brain. It’s as simple or complex as that, even as you try to determine bristle types (synthetic, natural, blend), shapes and sizes. My first instructors demanded full sheet work (inexpensive BienFang paper), forcing me to start painting with larger brushes. This brought comfort to use just about any size brush for any size painting, depending on subject and design. If you’ve been using the same sizes or shapes of brushes for some time, I suggest challenging yourself to try a different brush or two. It can lead to discovering new textures, pigment application methods, and happy accidents worth repeating for better paintings. For ideas take note of what brushes workshop instructors, artists in DVDs, magazine articles, and friends use.
By exploring different brushes, you’ll become familiar with their carrying capacity of color and water, stiffness or softness and handling feel. A couple of years ago I purchased a good-sized Quill (mop) and a small ¼ inch dagger, which gave me some new effects and brush stroke results.
Here are some different watercolor brushes that work for me:
FLATS 2, 1 ½, 1 and ½-inch flats bring a lot of control to washes. A large flat often helps me establish a starting point of a painting thanks to big, loose strokes of color, dry or wet into damp – even double loaded with color. Favorites: Winsor Newton Series 965 Wash Brush 2-inch flat feels good in the hand and smooth on the paper. Miller’s Golden Fleece 2-inch flat (Cheap Joe’s). Surprise: Sharp corners and bottom give you great edge control when desired.
ROUNDS 12, 10, 6, 4 with the smallest having a sharp tip for detail. I use them for foliage, foreground, shadows, loose skies, scumbling, scrubbing; most anywhere. Replace when worn out.
OVALS: ¾ and ½-inch. Started using these only a couple of years ago to try something new. Use for florals, shrubs, snow, trees, water. Can give controlled effects quite different from rounds.
RIGGERS Fine lines; power, fence, rocks texture, water, tree limbs. Useful tool in many ways.
DAGGER ¼-inch; sharp tip for fine, straight lines, can be dragged for effective tree foliage. Suggest practice and experimenting for best results. I think you’ll be surprised.
FAN Size 1, an oil bristle brush. I have two, one chopped irregular, and one a fan shape. Used for spikey brush and tree limbs (winter), indicating rain from clouds, rock texture.
AQUARELLE 1 and ½-inch flat; the classic watercolor brush for decades. Mine are now so-o-o-o old and worn that I am about to treat myself to two new ones: Winsor Newton Series 995 Flat.Holds plenty of color. Handle end is beveled sharp for scraping pigment when still slightly damp to make tree trunks, branches, fence posts, highlight points, etc. A basic essential!
There are scads of other brushes available, Hake, Poly, lettering brushes, and so on. Perhaps when painting with others you can borrow an unfamiliar brush to try. Above all, care for yours, washing with mild soap in tepid water after each day’s use. Dry them lying flat to keep water out of ferrules and handles. For thatbrush you have struggled to like for too long, toss it! Or, if not worn out, give it to another painter to try and hopefully keep. Hmmm, I might just have a give-away.
Montana Watercolor Society (MTWS) has been discussing the possibility of allowing glassless framing for entries into our member’s shows. This is a trend that is emerging around the country in different studios and art shows that allows the artist greater flexibility in framing options, particularly with larger pieces which can get expensive to frame and ship back and forth to galleries and shows. Most recently, there was an exhibit in New York City called “Breaking Glass” that ran from 7 September to 2 October 2021 at the Painting Center. The show featured 10 award-winning artists andwas “about removing glass as a barrier to the viewer as well as breaking the glass ceiling of arbitrary values placed on a medium and not on the work itself”, according to Golden Artist Colors CEO, Mark Golden. Many people continue to place added value on oil paintings over works done in watercolor.
With this in mind, we decided to give it a try in Karen Leigh’s Watercolor Class at Flathead Valley Community College. With notes from Eric Wiegardt’s2019 MTWS workshop and a full sheet painting, we tried it out with positive results. The consensus in the class was that this is a technique worth adopting!
Materials: ¼ inch gator board or canvas, spray bottle with water, archival PVA glue, gloss varnish (Liquitex or any acrylic varnish), Dorland’s or Gamblin Cold Wax Medium, cheese cloth, cheap 3-inch soft bristle brush such as camel or goat hair
-Spray water onto both sides of the painting to help the paper relax (it won’t hurt a dry painting)
-Put glue onto the board (Lift one side of the painting and apply glue, lay painting onto glue, and repeat with the other half. There is no need to press the paper onto the board manually)
-Lay another piece of watercolor paper on top of your painting and place books on top to dry overnight
-Next day: Brush the varnish onto the painting with the 3-inch soft brush recommended above (we used one part varnish to 2 parts water). ONLY stroke once or it could ruin the image. Don’t worry about missing spots. Let dry for three hours and then repeat the varnish process to catch spots that you may have missed. There could be some buckling during varnishing, but it will dry flat. At this point, the image will be locked in. Apply Cold Wax Medium with a cheesecloth to the varnished canvas to eliminate areas where the varnish may have pooled.
-The painting can now be framed without matting or glass unless desired.
I have a $60 frame on order for the 28” x 22” piece so the investment in the framing process and materials is well under $100. Worth a try and I think you will be pleased with the results, the cost, and the glowing appearance of the final product. Janet Bristol MTWS Vice President
What motivates you to create a watercolor painting? Are there specific subjects you enjoy painting? Here is my artist story. As a realistic Watercolorist, I create paintings of wildlife and landscapes found across our diverse country. Recently, I was asked if the subject matter chooses me or the other way around. As I create paintings the subject matter always chooses me! Here is an example. In 2017, while tent camping at Yellowstone National Park, a herd of Cow Elk and young Elk traveled through our campground. I immediately started photographing the Elks’ interactions and beautiful evening light. In my mind, I was creating future paintings, watching specific Elk behavior and their story. I observed one young Elk, whose Cow Elk traveled quickly through our campground. The young Elk was busy grazing, not paying attention. As the young Elk looked up, it appeared to be bewildered. My motivation to tell this Elk’s story was identified. I titled my future watercolor painting, “Where did you go?” When completed, I will post this painting on my artist website: www.deenajharkinsart.com. As visual artists, we have an important role, we capture a special moment or record a visual story that can be shared with future generations.
I like to try to capture some of the beauty of the natural world around us in my watercolors. It might be a cascading mountain stream, or the quiet atmosphere of the forest.
I grew up in the east, and spent part of my childhood summers fishing and hiking in the mountains of New England. While serving as pastor of churches in Minnesota, Wyoming, and Montana, I have used my art in conjunction with my ministry. One way I have done that is to illustrate children’s sermons.
I began drawing at an early age, then received training at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. From that point on I became more focused on artwork, finding watercolor to be one of my favorite media. Teaching classes in both drawing and watercolor has helped me keep sharpening my own skills.
My wife, Joyce, and I lived for a number of years in Helena, and now our home is Bozeman. It has always been an encouragement for me to meet and learn from other artists, including such contacts as I have had through the MTWS.
Andy’s journey brought him full circle, back home to Montana seven years ago. Since leaving Montana for family and career reasons Andy has lived in six other states including Idaho, Wyoming and New Mexico – all of which are fine places, but he had forgotten how inviting Montana is. Inviting landscapes, inviting people, inviting waters, inviting places for artists! So coming home was special.
For Andy, artwork has been a common thread in this journey called life and he tries to convey the thrill of coming home in his brushwork. Anybody who finds themselves where they truly love to be wants to share that.
From Andy: This particular painting is of a Glacier Lily in Glacier National Park. I painted it for my daughter who not only wanted real flowers at every table of her wedding reception, but paintings of flowers, too! I thought it was a great idea and because I had a deadline and so many paintings to do there is a quick and loose feeling to this painting I like. Andy White email@example.com
Winners Raffle Book and Fundraising This year we’re going back to having a book assembled with original watercolor paintings! It’ll be a special collection this year – paintings by MTWS Watermedia award winners. Margo Voermans has been collecting the paintings over the years and Ilene Paulson, one of our artists, is working at putting the book together. Winning one of these books is a very special deal. Chances have sold well past years!
All the money that’s received from raffle ticket sales will go toward a workshop scholarship offered to students and others; good cause to support. What an encouragement it’ll be for someone who wants to attend a workshop and who will then, hopefully, become a member of the Montana Watercolor Society.
I am a self- taught artist. During the 1980’s I created graphic artwork for local businesses and government agencies. My works were displayed at the Missoula Art Museum in the “ Facing Our State” and “ Art Revolution” shows, in 1989. During this time my work could also be seen at the state capital building in Helena and Missoula businesses and galleries. From 1990- 2006 I took a hiatus from my art work to be involved in social work with the elderly and handicapped. In the fall of 2006 I picked up my pencils and brushes again, to find that I had not lost my creative touch. In fact I saw an improvement as I had gained patience and more sensitivity from my journey alongside humanity. My initial medium was watercolors, but in 2008 I began working with pastels then added acrylics, gouache, ink and collage. I have developed a line of greeting cards,” Dipper Cards”. Working as an art instructor helps me to keep learning by experimenting with new techniques and mediums ,because of this you will see a wide range of styles in my work. I love art, what would the world be without it? https://www.facebook.com/terrisaolsonstudio/ www.etsy.com/shop/TerrisaOlsonStudio
Surely some folks must like roosters, but I hate them. And I don't use that strong word lightly in regard to those cocksure cock-a-doodlers with their beady-eyed bravado, over-sized machismo, and creepy feet. However, I'm having so much fun painting pictures of roosters that I may yet find a place in my heart for them.
From my perspective, anything goes: tail feathers of schnazzy violet and cerulean, 5-star epaulets of bronze and gold, gaudy combs of crimson and alizarin, high stepping struts, mincing side-passes, and full-throttle sprints . . . so many juiced up possibilities that my head spins just thinking about them. In fact, I've arrived at names for paintings that I've only begun to visualize: "Rooster Tango, " "Rooster in Drag," "Rooster Masquerade" to list but a few. This flamboyant deviation from my usual sober subject matter is a result of the MT Watercolor Society workshop that I attended in early October with Bev Jozwiak. I played catch-up during all four days, always one project behind Bev's demonstrations, but I was determined to complete each one of her challenges, even if I had to do so at home. In my first effort to take rooster extravagance over the top—"Two Steppin' Rooster"—I underpainted gold metallic gesso here and there. Wowzers! It looked like gold leaf, without any of leaf's tedium and expense. Like a gateway drug, my two-stepper demanded a second dose. "Rooster Steppin' Out," is the consequence. I hesitate to 'fess up, but it's true—roosters are pushing me to lighten up and revel in more splash, even as they energize my hours and brighten our grey November days. Margaret Eller firstname.lastname@example.org prairieislandellers.weebly.com