Wisdom Tree, watercolor, ©2012 Mary Friedel-Hunt


I just spent a blissful week of teaching, learning, and expanding my circle of inspiration sources with eleven other wonderful women artists who participated in my ‘Watercolor From The Center’ workshop at the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Art Center near Spring Green Wisconsin.

Some participants were first-time painters, others were experienced artists and teachers already.  All were generous with their creative knowledge, experience, and willingness to give themselves over to a learning experience that privileged process over product.  We quieted our ‘judges voices,’ experimented with approaches to painting that we had never tried before, and allowed ourselves to see ‘exactly how much fun we CAN have if we get out of our own way’.  None-the-less wonderful artworks emerged in the form of paintings, experiment sheets, and artist trading cards.

Spirals Everywhere!

You know you are ‘in the flow’ when spirals appeared everywhere, even in Carrie’s dried paint dish!

I don’t think I can do a better job of further describing the experience than sharing a poem gifted to me.  It  describes the experience of the workshop.  It was written by the artist who painted the image that leads off this blog, Spring Green writer, Mary Friedel-Hunt.



they all came hungry

each new technique

every idea

was inhaled

with an urgency

visible to all

enjoyed by all.

negative painting



looking inward

expressing outward

and more.

each grabbed up by

artists starving for new ways

to express…

to make art…

their leader

well prepared

so talented

real, joyful, passionate

gave and gave

to her “brood”

whose open minds and hearts

voraciously took in

all she shared

and share she did.

a perfect week

of art making.

with gratitude


The fabulous class holding our ‘next step glass slipper sculptures’!: (Back row) Carrie, Jane, Yvonne, Sue, Katherine, Deb, Francine, (Front row) Helen, Sue, Wendy, and Mary. Missing from the photo, but not forgotten is Irene.

While all of the participants brought amazing gifts to the workshop, some have their artworks available for us to see online.  Check out these websites of some of the workshop participants:

  •   Sue Johnson, teacher and artist extraordinar.  Look for her paintings and studio on the South Western Wisconsin 2012 Fall Art Tour, October 19-21.
  • Wendy Fern Hutton offers non-traditional doll making classes at the Madison starting in September.  Go to the Madison Senior Center for more information and to register.

In this workshop we used art as a thinking process to draw on the knowledge we already have to guide us as we move forward with our creative thinking front and center in our lives.  In one of the collage exercises we created a central image representing our most precious creative self, and filled in the negative space (the background) with images of those things that nurture it.

Representing Creative Self Now, Collage and mixed media. Helen Klebesadel


As a final gift to this and future  workshop participants, and you, I share below one of the popular painting demos I do in most of my workshops.  This technique for developing a watercolor is called  Negative Shape Painting.  Here the subject is a small grove of birch trees:

Step One: An all over light wet-into-wet wash with salt. Allow to dry.


Step 2: Begin to define the shapes of the trees (in this case, birches) by painting wet-into-wet shapes to define the background, or negative space, BEHIND the trees. Here I lay a light green wash down and drip other colors into it, and sprinkle a little salt for good measure.


Step 2 continues and allowed to dry


Step 3: Repeat the same process, just with smaller shapes and darker paint to define the shape of a second layer of trees. Darker blue-green paint with additional colors dripped in while wet that define the shape of the birch trees in the middle ground.


Step 3 continued and allowed to dry

Step 3 continued and allowed to dry


We could have stopped with Step 3, but I’m inclined to do one more layer. So, Step 4: paint one more darker and bluer layer that adds a third layers of birch trees back in the distance.


Step 4 continued to complete the deep space, and Step 5 adds a bit of detailing to complete the painting.                                                               Birch Study: The Cabal, watercolor, ©2012 Helen Klebesadel


Thank you to all the participants in my summer workshops.  It has been an extraordinary summer so far.  I look forward to continuing the experience next week at Bjorklunden,  in Door County (it is full) , and then back to the Wyoming Valley School Cultural Art Center near Spring Green,  WI  for  Watercolor:  The Expressive Medium, a weekend watercolor workshop in mid August.

There are still a couple of spots left in the August workshop, and in my week-long watercolor workshop Watercolor:  A Fresh Start, designed for beginners and those in need of a refresher, and offered  at Bjorklunden in Door County in September.  Descriptions and registration information can be accesses here.

Keep making art!

Helen Klebesadel