Creativity Workshop: Background Check Winners

In the June 2008 issue of Watercolor Artist, Wendy Hill challenged readers to loosen up with a spontaneous background. “Deciding how to handle the background can sometimes be the most difficult part of making a painting,” she said. Hill recommended that artists experiment with unconventional tools–tea bags, coffee filters, sponges, leaves, paper, plastic wrap and salt, to name a few–in order to liberate the painting process. (Click here to read an excerpt of the column)

Artists from all over the country responded to her call in record numbers and sent us images of experiments of their own. We’re now pleased to announce the winner of the $100 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama: Gail Gwinup with What’s Black and White. Runners-up include Nancy Standlee, Helen K. Beacham, Mary Hopf and Doreen Spoor. Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of these fine watermedia artists, whose paintings are published below.

Winner: What’s Black and White by Gail Gwinup

Like Wendy Hill, I was also bogged down with too much  detail, an occupational hazard from years of costume designing. On 300-lb hot-pressed Lana paper, I followed Wendy’s instructions by wetting the paper and spattering it with watercolor. Then I laid numerous tea bags on top and saturated them with more watercolor. This made for interesting wrinkles in the paint pattern.

Once the work was dry, I lightly penciled in the zebras and then used diluted India ink to paint in details, stripes and shading. I’m quite pleased with the result and have begun more paintings in this style. A big thanks to Watercolor Artist and Wendy Hill for my inspiration.

Self-Portrait Nancy
by Nancy Standlee

Standlee’s wrote a blog post and invited her readers to join her in taking the challenge. Read all about it here.

by Helen K. Beacham

When it came to painting these orchids, I knew I didn’t want the typical background for them. (Behind them was the most awful flocked wallpaper!) I pulled out my concentrated watercolors and the rest is history!

Willy’s Wanderlust
by Mary Hopf

This turned out to be the inspiration I was waiting for: How to make Willy’s Wanderlust more interesting and fun to paint. I played with the background, while I saved the whiskers and backlighting, then added the geometry of the decking and deeper shadows with the tea bags directing my color scheme. You may be able to find the coffee filter as well off his shoulder. My only challenge came from the darker “necklace” of tea bags and string around his neck, but in the long run I like what it adds.

Day Lilies
by Doreen Spoor

I painted a day lily in the traditional fashion and it turned out flat and uninteresting. I repainted day lilies first using wet-into-wet splashes and puddles of color and then drew my subject on top of that. The painting now has depth and life and movement.

Try It!

Send us your Creativity Workshop Activity for a chance to win your own $100 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama.  Send a JPEG image (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to To see the latest Creativity Workshop Activities and a gallery of reader responses, click here.

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