Deb Ward, GWS, OWS, PWS, WSI - WATERCOLOR/WATER MEDIA - My passion is teaching adult “beginners”. Weekly classes in my home; workshops; classes for Cincinnati Recreation Commission. My work is nationally recognized and published - see “Featured” on my sidebar. I’m a Signature Member of Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana state Watercolor Societies, Cincinnati Art Club, past-President of Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society. Contact info below under “Class Information”

Sunday, January 29, 2012


At our January GCWS meeting one of our members stood and read an article he had found on the internet that talked about watercolor.

Several colleges had been interviewed in the article as to whether watercolor was taught at the college. Not a one – and these were high level art schools – “bothered” to teach watercolor. Most of the instructors interviewed did not paint in watercolor, did not know how to paint in watercolor, and more than once watercolor was referred to as an inferior medium, relegated to “little old ladies who paint”! (For the rest of the meeting we called him “lady”!)

Can you believe this??? Are you as stunned as I am, that, in this day with all of the advancements in paints, and all of the great watercolor painters we have - especially those “little old ladies” like Ted Nuttall, John Salminen, Mark Mehaffey, Nick Simmons, Charles Reid, George James, Bill James, Fred Graff, Gerald Brommer, Laurin McCracken, to name but a few – watercolor is still considered “inferior”.

Who are these idiots who are supposedly “teaching” in respected institutions of higher learning? To them I say - “Get a clue, people.” Jeepers. All they have to do is look at an art magazine that does not cater to oil or pastel. But, they probably wouldn’t know where to find one of those, right?

My question is, and always has been – if watercolor is so hard to control, so difficult to learn and use – why is an oil painting still valued more than a watercolor of same size and skill level?  Usually in life something that is hard to do is valued more than something that is easy to do – think brain surgeon versus store clerk (and I mean no offense to all you store clerks out there, but I think you get my drift).

Is it because one is on canvas and the other on paper? But, both have longevity if handled properly, and you could argue that the one under glass is better protected than the canvas since one could easily cut or punch a hole through the canvas.
So, why is the medium that is so hard to learn, control and handle (watercolor) valued less than an oil painting that can be changed or scraped off ad nauseum?

I’ve asked this question over and over and no one can really say, other than, it all goes back to the “olden days” when watercolors were fugitive, didn’t come in many colors and were considered “ladies’ paint” or just a sketch medium.

It’s not the 1800’s anymore. Watercolor has come a long way, baby. Isn’t it time that it gets its just due in the art world?

What can we watercolorists do to change the art world?

Have today’s watercolorists made watercolor the dark sheep of the family just because of its difficult attributes?

Someone in our watercolor society suggested that watercolor is the medium for “the thinking artist”. Have we become elitist in our attitude? Have we somehow demeaned this medium?

All you watercolorists out there – let’s band together and take the art world by storm. We know what watercolor is capable of, so let’s try to get noticed by the art world!

Let’s create shields of 300# Arches, make some tri-pointed hats out of 140# and bury those oil painters under a mountain of fine cotton paper as we attack with our #6 pointed rounds held high!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Glug . . . gulp . . . . choke . . . .

That's the sound of me, trying to keep my head above water right now!

Once I passed along the ViewPoint show duties at the Art Club I took on Membership, which I thought would not require as much of my time.

I happily spent a good chunk of  December painting . . . then January rolled in and all of a sudden, I feel like I'm drowning.

In addition to the Membership duties at the Art Club, which requires a monthly meeting in addition to some day to day work, I agreed to help with re-wording the Constitution.  Then I agreed to help out the Club with getting a new gallery space up and running at the Pendleton Art Center in Cincinnati.  All of a sudden, that's a top priority and I've become the "go to gal" for typing!

I was elected President of the Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society which takes effect in March, but before then I'm also typing that constitution!  I'm also Membership Chair and update the blog.

All of the entry forms are coming in for the spring shows and I've got two local shows to take my work to at the end of next week.  Plus, classes will be resuming soon.

Good grief, this turmoil must end soon or . . . .

So, I may not be posting as frequently for a while until I have a chance to climb up out of this quicksand I'm mired in.

Don't give up on me, I'll be back as soon as I can!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012





My daughter asked me to paint a portrait of her fiancé. Apparently he has been asking her if she thought I would be willing to paint his portrait, even though he had not asked me! So, as a surprise for him I agreed to at least try.

Then, of course, it became a “must do” as a Christmas gift for him.

I finished it up just prior to the big day and, lo and behold, my daughter, the Princess of Detail (as those of you who follow this blog know) is happy with the finished product! Well, as we say around these parts, if she’s happy we’re all happy!

To see how proficient his investigative skills are, we presented it to him in this way: When they came to dinner I had my geisha painting on the easel. Both my husband and daughter referred to it a couple of times while we were eating. Then, prior to dessert, my husband told him there was something in the garage he needed to see so as soon as they left the room I raced to the easel, snagged my painting off and dashed to the library, tossed that painting (literally!) and grabbed the portrait, set it carefully on the easel, and raced back to the kitchen while my daughter was cutting pie slices in the kitchen, so that when the guys came back to the kitchen the portrait was on the easel, pie on the table and Joe none the wiser.

Then, we waited. I could hardly keep my eyes off of him, but tried not to be too obvious. Finally he glanced into the living room, looked back down at his plate and suddenly his eyes popped open and he whipped his head around, stared at the painting a couple seconds and yelled “AWESOME, that’s AWESOME!”.

So – he likes it!!! Only one problem – he now has two pins on his shirt that he wanted added to the painting, so he came over the next day with his uniform and I took photos of the pins and reference for their placement and have since added them (not seen on this photo).

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I got the two pins added to the painting.

Here is the final painting which I have titled “In the Eyes of the Law”.
Acrylic on canvas, 22x28

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Then it was on to the faces. I decided to make the left, main, geisha more real, and also play up the makeup, leaving the other two more plain-faced. So I added the makeup after painting the face, and tried not to be too heavy handed.

I’ve never had a painting that I worked on so long to bring together. Usually I simply take one of my photos, perhaps crop it, and go from there; it’s that simple.

Putting so much thought and effort into this painting, while a lot of work and quite time consuming, was great fun. I’ll have to come up with more ideas along this line in the future.

After much thought and work, here is the completed piece! This will never be a winner of any kind but I like it!

Secrets of the Geishas, fluid acrylic, 22x30, Arches 140 CP

Monday, January 9, 2012


The fans were next order of business. I didn’t want them to detract from the geishas, so I tried to mute the colors a bit. In one fan I used a floral motif to tie into the designs on the kimonos and on the other a bamboo effect to blend in with the kanji symbols.

After a friend’s critique and offer of her Japanese fan, I decided to add “Mt. Fuji” to the bottom fan along with and some striations which her fan had.

Once the painting was mostly complete, I misketed the symbols and flower design in the border, then taped off the border and used gold gesso – this was my homage to Judy Morris.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Well, after my disconcerting discovery, I decided to forge onward.

Color was put into the hair ornaments of all of the geishas – and then it was on to the kimonos.

From my original (??) concept, I had planned on the main geisha to be wearing red and black with some gold.

The small geisha on the right was planned to be in similar colors to the flowers, so that she just sort of blended in.

I got out all of my oriental fabrics to help me decide on the colors for the center geisha, and decided on a vivid blue and teal with gold design work.

I tried out, or “auditioned”, my color choices on some Dura Lar. This is a thin acrylic sheet which I can lay over my painting and color on with my Caran d’Ache crayons. You can also use the thin acrylic sheet from an old poster if you (or your kids) have any. This lets you see how the color (or values) will look before you actually paint onto your picture. I’m sure most of you are aware of this, but some of you “newbies” might like this tip.

Just be aware that the colors might appear a bit gaudy since you can’t really blend colors nor soften the edges – but it can be a big help, especially if you only need help with your values.

My original geisha idea seemed to be working and I decided to keep the round fan in violet. However, I decided to change my left fan to red and put some red into the kimono of the left geisha.

I also changed the kimono on the left geisha to purple.

At this point I took a little break from the geishas to begin a watercolor - working at one table on the geishas and at another table on the watercolor!

Sunday, January 1, 2012


The beginning of a new year is a lot like a painting – literally a blank canvas. We haven’t had time to screw anything up yet, all possibilities are bright and shiny and we are optimistic – “this year (painting) will be better than the last”.

I spent most of my day painting and listening to the wind blow – it’s very windy here, guess it has arrived from the far west where semis were being blown over on the highway. Not THAT windy, but our lake had waves and there were some thumps and bumps not normally heard that indicate something was blowing around outside.

Also spent time cleaning – even “hot mopped” – and creating an impromptu family dinner. Originally it was just me and my husband, until my daughter called. I had spoken to her yesterday and she never mentioned coming for dinner, but I should have known. Joe was working and she didn’t want to eat alone, especially when she found out pork chops were on the menu. And Joe might come. (I’m learning that means he will be here come heck or high water, since he can drive his patrol car anywhere. Of course, that also means he may fly out in the middle of dinner if he gets a call out). So . . . another package of meat to thaw and a quick spot clean (mostly my spotted kitchen floor) with the hot mop. Now I’m back to painting – oh yes, and typing while paint dries!

I’ve been painting all through the holidays on very detailed paintings (gee, I’m sure you are all very surprised to hear that last bit of info!!!). It’s very zen-like and gives me plenty of time to let my mind wander to ponder various offbeat items, and to daydream.   (See my photo and notes below about my new favorite brush!)

Today I got to pondering about people without hobbies or friends. Whether you find painting a hobby or your full time career, consider yourself blessed. You have a way to occupy your time in a productive way and create something wonderful. It’s very fulfilling. And if you are lucky you have found other like minded people and have created a group of artists/friends to paint with, which makes the whole enterprise even more enjoyable. I’m blessed to have found that and regularly meet with one or two and yearly meet with our special painting group for a fantastic week. I would probably not be sane without them!

Sometimes, while waiting for paint to dry, I read or . . . . . fritter away time watching TV. Particulary HGTV. I’m fascinated with wealth (who isn’t!) which is not to say I need a vast amount of wealth to be happy. (I refer you to the prior paragraph!). But that doesn’t mean I would say no to someone handing me boatloads of cash. (If you have a few extra million laying around you don’t need, email me and I’ll send you my address)!

Lately HGTV has been showing the “Millions” programs. “Million Dollar Houses”, “Million Dollar Pools”, “Million Dollar Outdoor Spaces”, ad nauseum. Which is why I’m currently feeling Candy Spelling’s pain. After all, she’s downsizing and was forced to move from her home within 30 days after she sold it.

Now, is it just me, or isn’t it usual to move out of your house after you sell it? And, isn’t 30 days a fairly normal amount of time to do this? And, don’t most people move on their own without a “staff” to assist. And don’t they normally accomplish their move in one moving van versus a fleet?

Oh well, I still feel her pain. After all, she is downsizing - into a space the size of her prior attic. Now, I’ll bet you are feeling her pain too as you contemplate being forced to reside in your own attic. Oh yes, feel her pain - until I tell you the size of that attic - which is to say – 17,000 square feet. Or, as I figured out, a space about 8.5 times the size of my house (give or take a 1,000 square feet). Down from a 100 room, 27 bathroom mansion. I’m sure there were some servants quarters in there somewhere too, but who’s counting? Oh, yes, I’m feeling her pain.

And I’m fascinated!

HGTV is a veritable fairyland for adults. Oh, magnificent houses! In far away places. Where people get to work from the beach or their penthouse condo. Or, not work at all – let the staff do it!

Once a year HGTV will even let people win one of these magnificent houses. (“Oh, maybe I’ll win someday!” I tell myself as I daydream about how wonderful it would be to live in such a place. If only I had entered). HGTV even lets us take a private tour before anyone moves in.

Of course, HGTV doesn’t tell you how you will be able to afford the upkeep on this magnificent home, or what the cost to furnish it will be. Maybe you can call up Candy and she’ll give you a good discount on some of her stored furniture. After all, she probably needs the cash, seeing as how she’s been forced to move and downsize, and all.

Well, enough of my day dreaming! I’ve got work to do! But before I go . . . .

Hope this year is good to you (even if it ends dramatically on December 12 rather than December 31, as per the Mayan prediction). May your painting improve and your life be richer for it!

And remember - if you are having a bad painting day go watch HGTV and drift off into Fantasy Land - maybe you’ll even win a house!

Then I’ll feel your pain.

Here is my new favorite brush. 
It's a "Silver" Black Velvet, #6.  It's soooo soft, like a sable but at a tiny price, and as you can see the tip
comes to a tiny sharp point.  And, best of all, it holds TONS of paint.  I think I also have a slightly
larger one, but this one has been my steadfast partner on my last few paintings.