Creativity Workshop: New Beginnings

marilyn derwenskus watermedia painting

Dynamic Chicago Discovered (watercolor on paper, 8×20) by Marilyn Derwenskus

I recently retired from an academic teaching career, emptied my studio of 20 years of accumulated artwork and moved to Chicago. Settling into a rocking chair wasn’t immediately on my agenda. Instead, I was eager to begin a new life in a new place with newly established goals for painting and teaching; I wanted a new beginning.

Since it was impossible for me to give up my two passions—painting and teaching—I simply shifted my focus and decided to teach workshops and look for fresh images to paint. Not surprisingly, accomplishing these two goals was easier said than done. I struggled with my creative work. How and what could I paint that was different and new?

The answers to these questions began to emerge during a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Without a concrete idea or plan, I simply began with some technical explorations: pouring, mark-making, backwashing, stenciling and drawing in as many different ways as possible. At the same time, I began to journal my recent life experiences.

Trips through Arizona, Florida and Vermont, along with adventures in Berlin, London and Cardiff, prompted me to think about differences between places. I found myself concentrating on how to present landscapes in a unique way. Ultimately, it was a change in the size and orientation of my watercolor paper that launched my new work.

I tore sheets of Twinrocker and Fabriano paper in half horizontally and reassembled them as one long painting, a new conceptualization of the landscape. With this fresh, altered format, my creative journey finally began. My first step along the way was to experiment with a random application of paint.

MARILYNN DERWENSKUS ( is a painter, teacher, lecturer and juror living in Chicago, Illinois. To read the full-text version of this excerpt, purchase your copy of the April 2011 issue of Watercolor Artist.

Reinterpret your surroundings by combining multiple images, various watermedia materials and techniques or a new format. Strive for a fresh image created in a different way. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to us at, with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line, and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a six-month subscription to online video workshops, plus $50 worth of North Light ?ne art books. The entry deadline is April 10. Happy painting!


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