I just returned from a wonderful weekend at the Nimrod Hall Summer Arts Program. This year I took a watercolor workshop from Purnell Pettyjohn, a wonderful watercolorist from Lynchburg VA. I chose the watercolor class because it’s a medium I struggle with. It is very unforgiving and requires a lot of thought and planning. My engineer’s brain struggles with the idea of leaving whites white and painting certain colors and shapes before others, so this was a good exercise for me. The most important thing I learned was that it’s not as unforgiving as I had thought. I learned how to tape and lift mistakes by scrubbing them with a bristle brush. Just that lesson took a lot of the fear out of me.
Purnell is an excellent teacher! We spent the first morning doing a step-by-step painting of a lady carrying pails of flowers in a field. The fact that there was a human in the picture scared me, but her posture and the fact that she was walking away made drawing her manageable. We started with the hat and shirt, moved on to the trees and rocks on the left and right, did the washes for the mountains and the foreground and finished with the fence and a few shadows. Everyone in the class (including the absolute beginners) did a great job. Below is my version. I’ve also included the reference photo provided by Purnell.
Next, that afternoon, I attempted a plein aire out on the lawn. I tried to apply what I learned but I struggled. As I expected, I couldn’t discern the right order to do things in. Purnell saw that several of us were challenged and did another demonstration. During that demo I learned that order doesn’t always matter. I also got to see her do trees where she did light leaves followed by darker leaves and then did the trunk and the limbs. I was fascinated by her technique.
By this time it was late on Saturday afternoon. Sunday is an early check out day so usually there is no additional painting. I was so anxious to try Purnell’s technique with the trees that I sketched a scene with the hammock in front of the old post office building and vowed to get up and paint before breakfast. I did and completed the painting below before I left Nimrod (except for a few finishing touches). Purnell remained attentive and stopped by frequently giving several pointers that greatly improved the final product. I consider it a success that shows I did in fact learn a lot. I also think I need to continue to practice because I’ve got a long way to go.
Nimrod Hall is a wonderful place. The setting is gorgeous. It is not luxurious, but it’s clean and comfortable. Most importantly, it’s intended for creativity. You don’t have to worry about getting paint on things!
Here is a photo of the main house followed by a close up of the tub of flowers by the porch.
Here is a photo of my cabin. This has four rooms with two shared bathrooms. I was in the room on the far right this time.
Here is one of the many beautiful views.
I love Nimrod Hall. I can’t wait to go back next summer!