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Watercolour class brings artists to Greenwood

Art tutorials growing in popularity since end of pandemic restrictions

Budding artists let their true colours come out on paper for the weekend in Greenwood.

The Kettle River Art Club played host to Grand Forks’ Karen Millard July 29 and 30, where she showed 16 people how to paint with watercolours. She took the group through a fun and relaxing tutorial on the basics of how to use the medium, with painting a birch tree forest scene as their starting point.

They spent the first section learning how the medium works and how to make the paint work for them, Millard said. To make their paintings, they placed tape on blank pages to mark out where trees, branches and shrubs would go. From there, she showed them how to use the three primary colours of red, yellow and blue and one other of their choosing, to set the mood of the painting. They also used salt to create texture. Once their backgrounds were set, the tape came off and Millard showed students how to paint in greys and golds, as well as work with any colour that bled under the tape, to create the look of shadows, bark, moss and knots.

To make sure everyone was getting a true taste of watercolours, she brought the artist-grade paints so students could work with professional-grade materials for higher-quality results.

“I bought my watercolours for them to use because student-grade paint isn’t the same quality,” she said. “Professional grade is so much better and I want everyone to feel like they are making quality art and to be happy with the results. I want to see how the paint moves, the vibrant colour and it plays with the paper better.”

This way, people can have artist-level results and they feel they haven’t wasted their time or money on supplies, said Millard.

Even with the limited palette and forest scene, Millard said she was impressed with the variety and inherent talent among the group.

There is more to painting than just lines and colours. She stressed that artists must determine where their light source is coming from, especially for a nature scene like they were doing. Their shadows all must point in a consistent direction, or it will throw off a person’s ability to focus on the image. She also stressed not forcing the paint, because it’s meant to move on wet paper naturally.

This tutorial is based on a lesson plan using seven techniques of watercolours. It’s an easy one for most people to follow with, she said, and it’s compatible with teaching large groups.

“I enjoy watching people take off with it,” she said.

A professional artist by trade, Millard works in watercolour, pastel and sketch. She was asked to come teach because there is a growing demand for art workshops.

“Lessons are hard to come by and are just getting started again after the pandemic shut down everything,” she said. “This is the first class I’ve taught since COVID shut everything down.”

Interest wasn’t contained to Greenwood and Grand Forks. Students from as far as Kelowna made the trek for the weekend tutorial, she said.

While the paper was awash in warm colours. Jody Hatto, from Grand Forks, said she was withholding judgment until the end. This was something new for her to try and enjoyed the overall experience of learning with a group.

This also helped her with future art projects.

“I tried to do neurographic art before, but that involved watercolour and I didn’t know how to work with it,” she said. “This will help me with that if I do that again.”

It was the isolation of the pandemic that caused more people to take up art to pass the time, as well as move out of the cities and to smaller communities like Greenwood, explained Kettle River Art Club president Susan Charnell.

That brought more people to Greenwood with diverse art preferences.

“There are a lot more people enthusiastic about activities like painting now as restrictions have lifted, said Charnell. “We’ll have more classes with Karen in the future.”

Photos by Karen McKinley

Jody Hatto pulls the tape from her painting to prepare for the next phase of the watercolours class with Karen Millard, which was painting in lines and dots to create trees and shadows.

About the Author: Karen McKinley

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