“Watercolor is such a hard medium”. I hear this so many times from students and other artists. I think it is not the medium, it is the mindset.
Attending Buffalo State in the ‘60’s, I desperately wanted to be an artist and a teacher. I took the college motto “Let each become all he is capable of being” and added to it “Art relates to everything and everything relates to art.” These I live by.
At the time Dr. Julius Hubler was one of my teachers. He was involved with the Bauhaus out of Chicago. He asked us to paint “fire”. When I showed him my work he said, “Well you may be a painter after all.” Relief and encouragement swirled in my heart and brain. I continued to study printmaking with Frank Eckmair along with painting, creative thinking and the many introductory hands-on courses at Buff State.
Leaving the area in the late 60’s, I moved to Massachusetts and opened Gallerie North with classmate Jo-Ann Lizio. We had a great but short lived run in Hingham and both of us went on to teach art in the area. Jo-Ann went on to become a Dean at the College of New Rochelle in New York, while I attended Massachusetts College of Art and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
At the Museum School it was suggested that I take a course with a Japanese professor Kaji Aso. Worried that I might not be able to paint with watercolors I painted several small works. My friend put them up for sale on his cart in Faneuil Hall. They sold immediately. So I gathered my courage and signed up with Mr. Aso. About three weeks into the class he challenged my thinking about a particular painting. Somehow it was devastating and I left the class early. After a thoughtful week I returned to take up the challenge. I studied with him for over 30 years until his death in 2006. In today’s fragmented life this is very unusual, especially in America. People hop around from teacher to teacher. Something seems to be missing that is more than the challenge of the medium. It is the substance and what is behind the painting.
Since the beginning of time human beings have responded to their environment with an action to survive, record, and express, begging the gods for mercy. In the throws of fear and anxiety on a daily basis the cave dwellers communicated through painting. They reached to their inner selves and at the same time grasped for the moon and stars.
Painting is more than therapeutic, though some refer to it as therapy. It is a way to focus. A way to go outside of your daily commitments and discover the poetry and magic that can so easily be lost in the demands of this ever growing fragmented and self-centered world. Because of these demands it is so easy to compartmentalize your class time then walk out and forget it-just as we do with attending church or temple.
True painting touches on that very delicate balance of spiritual and temporal. We all live in this world and work to survive the rigors of modern life. But we do have so much more opportunity than ever before. It depends on how much value you place on “making “ art.
Technology will never replace this desire in human beings it may only change the expression of it. But for now we can use our paints.
The practice of art offers an experience of its own measure. For me this practice can offer fulfillment and accomplishment. It provides a problem solving experience. Interesting because, it seems, I also make up the problems. Art works on the part of a person that is not really definable. It’s not your brain. That is just matter. It is what you do with the signals your brain receives. There is no instinct involved. It is a matter of free thought.
Let ‘s just get over the idea of making money from this practice. You can, but if that is your driving force you are actually engaged in commercial art. True art is perhaps best made when you are having a dialogue (spoken or unspoken) with yourself.
Watercolor offers a glistening, transparency, with exquisite color. The medium offers many approaches and possibilities. As an artist you can be free and spontaneous or analytical and detailed. After the initial investment for materials it is very reasonable expressive medium. I continue to work in many media (graphite and silverpoint, pastel, oil, acrylic and ceramics), but watercolor wins all the time.
Jeanne Gugino is originally from Buffalo, New York. She graduated from the State College with a B.S. degree in Art Education and moved to Boston shortly after. She taught art in New York and Massachusetts public schools. After attending Mass College of Art and The Boston Museum School Jeanne became a member of Kaji Aso Studio, Boston, and serves as Trustee. Jeanne is also Ceramic Chair and instructor there. Her work is often on exhibit at the Kaji Aso Studio Gallery.
Jeanne participates annually in Newton Open Studios and many locals art shows. Exhibitions include Italy (Siena, Padua, Venice); Japan (Shinjuku, Tokyo; UK, London (The Queen’s Gallery); colleges and galleries in NY, MA, and Florida. As President of the Newton Art Association since 2012, she also serves as Program Chair.
Jeanne teaches watercolor and pastel at the New Art Center, Newtonville, and Arsenal Center for the Arts in Watertown, MA.
You can find her at: