Students take watercolor course during three-week session
calendar icon19 Jan 2021 user iconBy Kathe C. Andersen
Lincoln, Neb.--Assistant Professor of Practice in Studio Art and Foundations Coordinator Byron Anway taught Beginning Watercolor I during the January three-week session. It is a course taught infrequently in the School of Art, Art History & Design, so it has proven to be popular with 40 students enrolling.
“I decided to take this course because it was really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Joselyn Andreasen, a freshman studio art major from Kennard, Nebraska. “As well as watercolor being a mystery to me, and many others, it seems like a good tool to put in my skill set.”
Anway said watercolor courses have not been offered very frequently in the School in recent years.
“Professor of Art Aaron Holz taught watercolor at Art at Cedar Point two summers ago as a special topics course,” Anway said. “And he will teach it again this summer at the 300-level at Art at Cedar Point. Otherwise, it has been a while since it has been offered with any regularity.”
Watercolor is also Anway’s primary medium.
“But because I teach foundations, this January class was my first opportunity to offer watercolor,” Anway said.
Cicely Pickel, a junior studio art major from Davey, Nebraska, took the course to count toward her studio art credit.
“And it seemed like a less stressful option than taking it during the normal semester length,” she said. “I am also trying to see if I can graduate early, and this seemed like a great opportunity to get that done.”
Pickel had some experience with watercolor paintings in high school, but had not touched it again until this course.
“It has been informative and eye opening,” she said. “I feel like there was a whole medium of painting that I never fully considered until now. I really like this course because I feel like I am learning a lot about my personal style and habits as we try to get these paintings done class by class.”
Anway said he was initially hesitant to teach the class online.
“I was worried students wouldn’t be able to have the communal experience and that it wouldn’t meet this idea in my mind of what it was supposed to be,” he said. “I decided to change. Instead of worrying that it won’t be what it was, I would design the whole class with assignments and activities that were specifically designed to succeed in this remote situation.”
Teaching Beginning Watercolor remotely during the coronavirus pandemic made Anway rethink the eight assignments for the course.
“When I set up the course, the goal was to do assignments that would work well from a home studio and assignments that would work well over Zoom,” he said. “They’re doing partner portraits over Zoom. We’re doing watercolor as a journal, so taking watercolor with you wherever you go. We’re doing a view from the studio window. We did a project called Cezanne’s Apples, where they had to find a subject that was significant for them and it had to be two identical objects, and the hard part was looking at both the similarities and the differences, you know, unity and variety. How can you establish an expectation and break the pattern at the same time? The final project is an interior, so the interior maybe has a window going outside. They could have still objects. They could have people. They could have lighting effects. So it’s combining all of the different skills with that we’ve learned.”
Andreasen said she is enjoying the class.
“This course has been a relief to me,” she said. “Like many other students, I have been working a lot over break, and something about watercolor is so soothing. I really enjoy this new class.”
She was currently working on the View from Your Studio Window assignment.
“For this assignment, we are supposed to hone in our drawing before we paint, and to turn it into a painting, not just a representational painting,” she said. “I am doing a view of a corn field in the distance with four grain silos and a cattle feedlot.”
Anway said there is a big difference between representation and realism.
“That realism is achieving some sort of predetermined expectation as if it’s a photo or something like that, whereas representation is about recording what you see in the world,” Anway said. “And so that’s one of the goals I have is for students to let go of a predetermined expectation for realism and instead allow the paintings to become paintings about the world and not photographic imitations.”
He is also teaching them technical skills.
“I want them to start with light colors and big brushes,” he said. “Stay away from details and allow a detailed brush to sharpen the picture at the end. We’ve learned tips and tricks to keep our colors bright and saturated in prismatic.”
One of reasons Anway got into watercolor was because it is easily transportable.
“You can carry it with you,” he said. “You could have an entire year’s worth of paintings in a backpack.”
It can also be unforgiving.
“With watercolor, you measure twice and cut once,” he said. “There’s no delete. There’s no reverse. You put the paint down and let it be. It’s tactile. It’s expressive. It can be fresh. It reveals everything you can’t hide. There’s something warm about it emotionally.”
Pickel said she likes how watercolor takes patience, but not necessarily a lot of time.
“I like that it requires a lot of planning before you start painting because watercolor is not as forgiving as oil paint,” she said. “The benefits of taking this in a three-week class are that I was able to apply what I already knew and add so much more information about art history, composition, and what makes a really good painting. Byron was very good at teaching all this important information in a non-stressful, encouraging way.”
Andreasen said she likes watercolor for its freedom and fluidity.
“The point of watercolor isn’t to mask all of your brushstrokes,” she said. “It’s to accentuate the artist’s vision.”
The biggest challenge for her has been to slow down in the creative process.
“The biggest challenge in watercolor would have to be taking your time,” Andreasen said. “’Don’t make mud,’ as Byron says. And to do that, you have to wait for the paint to be completely dry to add a different color.”
Andreasen said the paintings she have created, thus far, hit close to her heart.
“I am taking this class from my parent’s house, and all of the assignments have been from observation,” she said. “I’ll be able to keep these paintings and remember where I came from.”
Andreasen said she would recommend the course to other students.
“Watercolor is my new favorite medium of mine,” she said. “And it’s truly not as daunting as it may seem.”
Anway hopes to offer the course again.
“This January watercolor course gives students the opportunity to take something that’s not normally offered,” he said. “These three-week courses help students graduate on time, and it’s an opportunity for students outside of art to engage with our department and our curriculum and have an art experience. Everything about it feels kind of like a gift.”