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”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


A couple of weeks ago I took a trip up to Youngstown, Ohio to the Butler Institute of American Art –  to see the Mary Whyte exhibit.  It was a long drive, with a “detour” through Columbus that was just too much fun (yeah, riiiiiight). 

Sadly, we were not allowed to take any photos in the galleries – but you can probably find all of her paintings online.

While I enjoyed viewing these paintings, many of which I had seen in magazines or books - the detail she is able to capture is amazing – I must admit to being just a little bit disappointed.  I didn’t realize that she is not a purist in watercolor; she uses whatever it takes to get the job done, which may include gouache or Chinese white watercolor, pastel, crayon, electric eraser, etc. 

I was also surprised by the size of the heads (portraits) in some of the paintings in relation to the size of the actual painting.  Some of the portraits are quite small.

Another thing that amazed me was how we focus on that detail and don’t realize that many of the backgrounds and/or clothing surrounding the figures are just simple shapes or swipes of color.

Until we stand before an original painting and discover how it was created, we really cannot totally appreciate it. 

Viewing these paintings leads me to ponder my own work. 
Should I make changes to the way I paint?  Maybe. 
Will I ever be able to create a portrait with the delicacy and detail that Mary does?  Probably not! 
Can I hope to someday create passable portraits, looking back to Mary’s work as my inspiration?  Hopefully.

I’m glad I took the time and effort to see these paintings, they are exquisite, and their impression will stay with me for a long time.

If you live in northeastern Ohio, the trip to the Butler is well worth it.  If you ever see that a Mary Whyte exhibit is coming to your area – GO TO VIEW IT!

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