Morning Conversation 1, watercolor on paper, 28.5×21, ©Heather Trost

Drawing on Nature:  Watercolors on Canvas by Helen Klebesadel

Drawing on Circumstances: Contemporary Approaches to Water-media

Exhibit Run:  September 19-29, 2017                     

Reception:  Sunday, September 24, 2017, 12:00-4:00

Common Wealth Gallery, 3rd Floor, 100 S. Baldwin, Madison, WI, Hours: daily, 10:00-4:00

The Common Wealth Gallery continues its mission to make it possible for artists to bring emerging and experimental artworks to the Madison community.  You are invited to explore two water-media exhibitions opening in the Common Wealth Gallery September 19th.

Drawing on Circumstances: Contemporary Approaches to Water-media:

Untitled watercolor and encaustic,  © Janis Post, Chicago, IL


This exhibition includes twenty artists working in contemporary approached to water-media that I have been invited to display their artworks in the main Common Wealth gallery.  The works selected draw on watercolor and water-media/mixed media in the creation of original artworks.  The exhibit explores the range of ways artists are using water-media and watercolor today to explore the medium and address creative and cultural concerns.

Artists participating in Drawing on Circumstance: Pam Alsum, Virginia Calden, Veronica Delcourt, Peg Ginsberg, Jane Halleran, Rebecca Herb, Ann Herrold-Peterson, Evelyn Kain, Elizabeth Kelly, Mary Kay Neumann, Ellen Nordsiek, Janis Post, Beth Racette, Ann Schaffer, Kathryn Schnabel, Marcia Smith, Jen Thompson, Danny Torres, Heather Trost, Ali Wilkinson

Please plan to attend the gallery reception: Sunday, August 24th, 2017, 12:00-4:00

 The artists in the Drawing on Circumstances exhibition approach water-media with a high comfort with experimentation and a deep understanding of the power of art to make personal and social change.  The exhibit included professional artists and first time exhibitors.

Eternal Sun, Water-media on canvas, ©Ali Wilkinson

Among the artists taking creative approaches to using watercolor, liquid acrylics and mixed media are Janis Post uses watercolor as a base for her cold wax encaustics on paper and board.  Her works often  began as watercolors, as a favorite medium for starting a painting. The next layers included oil and cold wax medium, oil pastels, and pigment sticks. She loves the viscosity, smell, and malleability of oil and cold wax medium and how it opens so many possibilities for play.  Ali Wilkinson also used layered water-media to create her expressive and symbolic work.  Ali  combines expressive mark-making and transparent washes layered with an opaque acrylic to create symbolic forms that create a personal expression of inner joy.

Morning Conversation 2, watercolor on paper, 28.5×21, ©Heather Trost


Several of the artist in the exhibition use the human figure as their subject.

Heather Trost, whose watercolor Morning Conversations 1 introduces this post above,  This piece is from her series Alone Together, in which she is exploring the solitude of public spaces.  Even in bustling locales, we find ways to wall ourselves off from others. The Impressionists painted using little spots and dabs of pure color; however heather paints the space around the dots.  She lays down a wash of watercolor paint, then, when the paint is dry she masks the dots of that color that she wants to save.  Then she add another wash atop the first.    When the mask is removed, each spot left is a record of the layers of color that were there when the mask was applied. Heather’s painting uses liquid masque applied in a reverse pointalist fashion that allows the viewer to see every layer she has applied to create this coffee ho

Tree of Life, watercolor on paper, 39×25, ©Ellen Nordsieck,

use visitor who seems dappled in sunlight.


Ellen Nordsieck‘s works in watercolor as well as textiles and stitch.painting, Tree of Life, is part of a series of portraits she has done in which she is thinking about what the future would hold for her children and how that future would relate to what had been passed on to them.

Resonance, 22×30, watercolor on paper, ©Danny Torres,



Danny Torres takes an equally  surreal approach to his watercolor, Resonance, that along with other works explores the emotional expression of relationships in mark


and color. In this work his subject seems to looks to the stormy skys and an inner cosmos for meaning and guidance.  His works and encourage and embrace the surprises that all watercolor artist know will happen.

He says that working with watercolor is ” like collaborating with another artist who never talks.”


Other exhibiting artists explore mixed media to create their compositions.

Beth Racette combine acrylic ink on paper with oil pens to create celestial works. She explores our relationship to nature beyond ourselves.   Her painting, Celestial Sphere, is part of a series called GAIA, in which she explores the Earth as a living system.

Celestial Sphere, acrylic ink on paper with oil pens, 36 inches framed, ©Beth Racette

Beth’s painting was originally conceived to be Earth as a hive super-organism, and it evolved over time to encompass: a contemplation of the dynamic relationship between humans and the sky; a prison planet, expressing her feelings of sometimes not wanting to be alive any longer; and a desire for a world beyond dualisms of body and mind, good and evil.

Drive to the End of the Earth II, watercolor on paper, 28×28 framed, ©Elizabeth Kelly






Elizabeth Kelly explores patterns and ecological content in her watercolor works in the exhibition. Elizabeth likes to work with color, pattern, geometry, and the relationships one can make from these three. Here hope is that each time you look at her work you will  see something new.


Where’d Everyone Go? Watercolor on paper, 22×11, ©Jane Halleran


Jane Halleran also shares an ecological message in her ghostly watercolor, Where’d Everyone Go?

Jane is inspired by Caroline Myss’s statement “Look for God in the details.” She uses her art making to do careful looking for possibilities to capture of the beauty around us, so others may experience it as well.  In her painting the ghost bird speaks for all the species no longer with us, reminding the viewers that we are the stewards of this world while we are here.


In her watercolor, The Last Waltz– Melting Sea Star Series, Mary Kay Neumann adds to her ongoing series addressing the danger to our oceans and the rest of the world because of the effects of human activity on our climate. In this work she is depicting the sea stars in the “melting” phase of Sea Star Wasting Disease, where seastars (star fish) become barely recognizable shapes, only hinting at the forms they once were.

The Last Waltz– Melting Sea Star Series, Watercolor on paper, 30X40, ©Mary Kay Neumann

The  process of disintegration continues as the disease dissolves them.With careful looking you can notice the hint of hopeful juveniles, providing hope that they can survive the disease.

For Mary Kay, art making has become a mission for to bring awareness to climate degradation.  She is my collaborative partner in Flowers Are Burning: An Art and Climate Justice Project.  This project aims to use art to counter the climate change denial that has numbed our awareness and our ability to act on behalf of ourselves and the earth. Our message in that project is:  What do you love in the natural world that needs protecting? What are you moved to do about it? in the belief that we will act to save those things we care about if we are willing to see that they are at risk.

Virginia Calden, watercolor on paper of a kitty cat looking for adoption.

Other works are included that have a purpose beyond aesthetic contemplation in the exhibition.

Ginny Calden will have a grouping of watercolor works she has been painting to bring attention to cats and dogs in need of adoption at our locals agencies working to find homes for them.  Her beautiful paintings capture the animal personalities and will highlight particular pets that are available for adoption along with information about how and where the animals can be found. (Ginny is one of several artists in the exhibition that regularly tithes a percent of their sales from art to organizations that are working on the issues that are close to their hearts and, sometimes, the subject of their art.

Corcovado Hammock in Sunlight, 6 ¾ x 8 ¾”, watercolor on paper, Ann Herrold-Peterson



In allegiance with the Caroline Myss quote above, the exhibition also celebrates the skill and pure  joy of well rendered watercolors that embrace the power of the medium to capture the beauty of the world we live in so we will pause and notice it through art if we are unable to find a way to do it in life.


Ann Herrold-Peterson’s, Corcovado Hammock in Sunlight, captures a quite moment in a beautiful place of contemplation.  The painting was inspired by the hammock hanging in a beautiful bungalow at Hotel Casa Jungle Corcovado in Corcovado, Costa Rica.  The sunlight would stream into her suite, illuminating the hammock and inviting one to “stop, rest, and soak up the peaceful atmosphere”.

Sunrise at Baileys Harbor, Watercolor on paper, 13×22, Peg Ginsberg

Likewise, Peg Ginsberg uses her watercolor skill to capture a sense of place in her wonderful watercolors.  In her work Sunrise at Baileys Harbor, Peg captures the early morning shadows of the lake shore.  These works are that much more poignant for me, as I have chanced across Peg and her camera at dawn as we have both been  drawn to the beauty of Björklunden in Door County.

Bloodroot, First Up, 11 x 14, watercolor on canvas, Rebecca Herb

Rebecca Herb‘s small watercolor on canvas celebrates spring wild flowers.  Becky photographs the wild flowers, trees, birds, and other creatures that she sees and began drawing and then painting them to try to capture the more personal impression of the beauty she finds in nature.

Lilies at Dawn, 9×12, Watercolor on paper, Veronica Delcourt

Veronica Delcourt also enjoys the challenge of expressing the emotion she feels for nature through watercolor.  Her art is a personal acknowledgement and appreciation inspired by the passion and commitment dedicated to the Earth by those to whom she is connected. This can be seen in the time and labor dedicated to a family backyard garden, a community project, or even volunteerism to domestic or global efforts.   Whether tilling a garden to sow new annuals or designing a large plot of land to feed communities, the relationship between humans and plants is focused in her painting. Lilies at Dawn is one of Veronica’s first works and is an interpretation of magnificent lilies grown in a family garden.


Marcia Smith also loves lilies and one of her paintings in the exhibition captures that love.  She is passionate about her belief that the joy of watercolor lies in the possibility of fresh and luminous color and the goal of all her painting is to achieve this wonderful vitality.

Day Lilies, watercolor on paper, 12 x 20 1/2, ©Marcia Smith


Future Produce, watercolor on paper, 18×24. © Pam Alsum

The garden theme carries on in the exuberant and  expressive work of Pam Aslum. Pam also knows that art making can be about joy and love of everyday experience translated to something to visualize. Quoting sculptor/painter Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), she asks us all to reach for and embody our artist selves:

“To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer.”

Birther of Worlds, water-media on paper, © Jen Thompson

While  representational approach to watercolor on paper is fully present in the exhibition in beautiful works discussed above, and others, also represented in the show are works that takes an approach that draw on deeply expressive and internal knowledge.  Jen Thompson and Kathryn Schnable use water-based mediums and mixed media to document a process of tapping into the divine creative for inspiration.

Jen is clear that “Creativity belongs to all of us, not just to a select few. Each of us creates each and every day by the decisions we make. The most important question is: are we conscious in our creation? What are we intending to create?”  Jen works with others in her Jillyhop Studios to remind us that “Painting, representational or intuitive, is a spiritual practice, a space of growth and to meet our dragons. ”

Photosynthesis, mixed media silk painting with stained glass detail; 18″ x 24, © Kathryn Schnabel

Kathryn Schnable is intrigued with expressing ‘mystery’, and these both of her paintings in the exhibitions are a good example of that effort. In the works shown here she asks, “What might the process of Photosynthesis look like?  That moment when sunlight, air, and bright green chloropyll, all mix around together on the inside of a leaf? I think it must be a spectacular, vibrant and dynamic cellular event, and I’ve tried to capture that in this painting.”  Kathryn uses an intriguing process of mixed media silk painting to create her works.

These artists share other works and join Ann Schaffer, and Evelyn Kain in sharing their  works that embody contemporary approaches to watercolor and water/mixed-media in content and technique.  Plan to join us during the exhibitions to see additional works in person

Drawing on Nature:  Watercolors on Canvas by Helen Klebesadel:

I will be also be displaying a number of my watercolors on canvas and works on aquaboard and other non-porous surfaces in the Common Wealth smaller square gallery that explore a range of subjects focused on our relationships as they act on nature and are a part of nature.  I will l present artworks created with experimental techniques that examine social and political patterns created by human that have huge consequence in the natural world, that she describe

Vanilla and Allspice: Super Naturum, 20×24, watercolor on canvas, © Helen Klebesadel

s as nature/human/nature.  Several of the works focus on the same climate change issues that have been in the news lately.

The exhibitions are times to be in the gallery during the period when I am teaching several watercolor workshops in the same space.  If you are interested in learning more about watercolor on paper or canvas and want to tale a workshop from someone who LOVEs the medium, there are still a few spaces available for beginning through advanced and aspiring watercolor artists.  Checkout the workshops here: Creativity Lessons With Helen Klebesadel.

The Common Wealth Gallery is free and open to the public.  Gallery hours: Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Sunday from 12:00p.m. – 5:00 p.m.