Sunday, May 11, 2008


NOTE: The minutes of our business meeting are posted below, immediately after the information about our speaker.

Guest Artist

Deb Ward introduced Stephen Blackburn, our guest artist. Steve is a well-known local artist from Indiana, who creates his light-filled paintings using a pouring technique. Deb said she has taken three different workshops with Steve and described him as a wonderful artist, a great teacher and a nice person.

Steve worked on two separate paintings, sharing the initial steps and types of paper/board he uses and then continuing on, showing how he adds more intense color by dropping color in with a brush after the initial pours are done and the miskit if off the paper.Steve said the main thing he wants to create in his paintings is a “play of light.” He does this by first pouring liquid miskit on dry paper (or on Crescent hotpress watercolor board).

He uses grey Pebeo Drawing Gum, pouring about a dime’s worth of miskit into a small cup, then pouring just a bit where he wants the light to be in his painting. He pours, then, with a spray bottle of clean water, he spritzes the edges of the miskit in order to get it to run and merge on the paper. He doesn’t do this right in the middle of the paper, but in strategic places where he wants the whites to remain. He tilts the board or paper to help the miskit run and sprays it around, wanting the miskit to go off 3-4 sides of the paper/board and to merge (not leaving stopping points of miskit in the middle of the paper).

Due to time constraints today, he used a hairdryer to dry the miskit but he doesn’t recommend that, preferring to let the miskit dry naturally at home, whether it takes 1-2 hours or overnight. Steve also uses a Cheap Joe’s miskit pen to push the miskit around.

Steve says he often paints just from the small cups of mixed pigment and water, not even using a palette of colors. He works with an analogous color scheme to keep the colors fresh, and he always uses transparent, nonstaining colors. The cups are mixed according to how saturated the pigment is, so for today, using Rose Madder Genuine, he used more pigment in order to get more intense color and less pigment when using the Quinacridone Burnt Orange. He also needed a bit more pigment when mixing the Cobalt Blue. Those were the only three colors he mixed and poured today.

The steps Steve went through for today’s first painting start were:

1. Sketch a light pencil drawing of what you want to paint, not putting in a lot of detail but just enough to guide you.

2. Pour your miskit onto dry paper/board, using a spray bottle of water to move the miskit around on the surface.

3. Allow the miskit to dry completely – or use a hairdryer on cool to dry the miskit (too hot and it will melt the miskit into the paper fibers).

4. Wet your paper thoroughly and pour off any excess water.

5. Pour your first color (Steve started with the Rose Madder Genuine).

6. Pour your second color (Steve used Cobalt Blue).

7. Pour your third color (Steve used Quinacridone Burnt Orange).

8. Allow the poured paints to dry before going back and pouring more color on (if you want). Steve often does 3-4 separate pours, allowing them to dry in between each pour.

9. Peel off the dried miskit and drop in more intense color with a brush, blending away the color at the edges so you don’t get hard edges.

10. Continue until you are happy with the results!

You can see how some of the watercolor board Steve was using in today’s demo is still pure white with no miskit or color on it. He likes to get all the bright colors with his various pours into a central focal area and then he puts in the darker colors around those bright colors.

Steve most often uses hotpress watercolor board (Crescent brand) or hotpress 300# watercolor paper that he tapes down onto some Gatorboard so he can tilt and move the surface around to get the miskit and paint to move and run and merge.

When he got to this step, he pulled out a second painting start, to show us how he works once the initial pours are dry and the painting it ready to work on again. He had used the same three colors on this painting start as he did on the first demo. This painting was on watercolor paper taped to Gatorboard. He had gone back, after the initial pours, and carefully drawn in a more finished drawing. He also had done a color study before beginning the painting – something he says he always does for each painting.

The next step is to use negative painting in order to bring the main elements (in this case, the petals of a poinsettia) out from the background.

With the miskit off and the initial pours dried, Steve dipped back into his cups of pigment and water with a brush and just touched the color onto the paper in places where he wanted more intense color. This process of touching in more color can take a long time and takes much thinking about how you want the composition to take shape. This is the only time he wants any hard edges in his painting and then only about 10% of the overall painting uses hard edges. He thinks about where he wants them and how he wants to lead the eye around the painting. He glazes over and over, gradually darkening colors and avoiding blossoms by not going back into an area that has begun to dry. He moves around the paper, adding color to the shapes, and about ½ way through the painting, he zaps in some darks. He calls this “charging towards the dark.” This gives the painting pop and interest and allows you to paint around the shapes you want to keep.

As he adds the darker layers, he is thinking: What part is in front? What part is behind? What could be dark? Where should I add some interest? Should that part be pure white or should it be knocked back a bit? At this stage you begin to see what he is painting, but before that you just saw him add color here and there. You can look at the painting below and, seeing the three reference photos he used, you can tell where he is beginning to bring out some petals by darkening around them (see the upper middle-right side of the painting where a lighter petal is beginning to take shape).

Steve gave us several rules for pouring miskit:

1. Let the miskit go off the edge of the paper on 3-4 sides

2. Connect the miskit edges up – don’t have it stop on the paper or you will draw the eye there

3. Break up some of the white of the miskit in areas

Steve often puts acetate over a painting and, with a black marker, he traces around the painting. Then he uses the computer to remove the color, and prints it on a piece of paper he uses to create value studies. Again using a black marker to get darkest darks and leave whites, he creates a strong black and white value study to use.

He says his style of painting makes you take the time to think and he thinks most in the drawing/planning stages after the initial pours are drying.

The demonstration and talk by Stephen Blackburn was most informative, very interesting and exciting. Letting the paint move and merge on its own, without brushwork, really creates some beautifully bright and pure-colored paintings! This is a real plus to those of us who sometimes get muddy paintings by over-brushing the paint.

So many members were fired up and wanted to try this technique that we had 13 members stay to paint-along after the main program. Thanks to Steve for his willingness to share his technique with us today in the demonstration and in the paint-along!

For those members who couldn’t attend this meeting, you really missed a great program! I hope the notes help you feel like you have enough information to try this technique on your own.

This is one of Steve’s finished paintings he shared with us. He has a portfolio of wonderful artwork and also brought magazines that have featured his work, including International Artist, Oct/Nov 2002, International Artist, April/May 2001, and The Artist, July 2005. You may be able to get some of these magazines through backorders if you’re interested in seeing more of Steve’s work.

In May, you can view Steve’s new article on You can also sign up for his monthly newsletter at to get more information about his technique.

MINUTES, continued, of our Administration Reports

At 10 A.M. Shirley Knollman initially opened the meeting with this quote:

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

Mary Jane Noe (Membership) welcomed seven guests and asked them to stand and introduce themselves. We had two guests from Dayton, OH, who drove down to check out our group, a recently retired principal who just got into watercolor and is loving her free time, and a guest from Germany who is just now exploring watercolor.

Carol Rekow (Treasurer) reported a balance of $9,739.68 and a current membership of 106. We have 100 returning members and 6 newcomers to the group. Eleven members had to leave for either health or scheduling reasons, but all who left had very positive comments about the group.

Shirley reported that the scholarship award recipient has been chosen and will be announced at the June meeting. The recipient will attend the next meeting and we will have a cake to celebrate.

Evergreen Show – May 2008

Deb Ward reported on the Evergreen Colorburst show. She thanked all the members, by name, who volunteered to either hang or sit the show. She brought extra postcards that could be picked up on the back table, reminding us that the show will remain another 5 weeks, so more postcards can be mailed out to family and friends. Deb asked that whoever sits the show do a walk-through and check that all the tags are on the walls (some have been falling off). Lois Schaich asked for volunteers to sit the show on June 8 and June 14.

Sharon Roeder suggested that future publicity of the show be held by someone on the leadership team so there is consistency in knowing when items need to be sent to newspapers, etc. She said she did send an email with information to Sara Pearce of the Enquirer, and asked that she report on our show. If you do a Google search for the show, you need to type in Colorburst, not Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society, in order to find it.

Art Shows & Workshops

Marilyn Bishop is teaching two workshops this summer. The first, a watercolor/rice paper collage workshop, will be held Monday, Art Shows

June 2, and Tuesday, June 3 from 9 am to 2 pm. The cost is $50 + $12 (for supplies). The second workshop, on watercolor printmaking, will be held Monday, July 7, and Tuesday, July 8 from 9 am to 2 pm with a cost of $50 + $20 (supplies). Both workshops will be held at the Mt. Washington Recreation Center, 1715 Beacon Street, Mt. Washington. Contact Marilyn for more information or to register.

Sandy Maudlin is hosting St. Louis artist Carol Carter, for a 3-day workshop August 8, 9 and 10. The workshop will be at Sandy’s Greentree Studio and cost $345. Contact Sandy for more information or to register. Spaces are limited to 15 students. If you love color, you will love Carol Carter’s work!

Sam Hollingsworth is teaching a summer session at Baker-Hunt Center starting June 9. You can take either Basic Watercolor or Intermediate Watercolor and it’s only $100 for 8 weeks of lessons. To sign up, visit the Baker-Hunt website at or call 859-431-0020.

The Colerain Artist Group will be showing their work at the Pendleton Art Center on the Final Friday and Saturday in May.

Ann Enright, co-proprietor of the Freedom House Gallery in New Richmond, OH, will be hosting an open house May 18th from 1 pm to 4 pm.

All information about member art shows can be sent to Sandy Maudlin to put on our blog (

Reminder: Minutes will no longer be sent to each individual member through email unless you ask for a copy by emailing Rhonda. A few hard copies will always be available at each meeting for those who need them, but please DO NOT take a hard copy if you can access the blog, where Sandy will have the updated information each month.Other Business

Dot Burdin announced that the scrapbook, which was started in 2005, is now up-to-date. She had the book available for members to look through. Susan Grogan will take over this job and will keep the scrapbook up-to-date.

Kay Worz announced that the Cincinnati Art Club website master, Jan Polk, has created a link to the GCWS on their website. Kay, the southwestern representative for the Ohio Watercolor Society, asked that any information that would go into their newsletter be given to her. This includes any bragging rights about awards or shows you are going to be in.

Critique Session

Joyce Friedeman led the critique session. Four paintings were submitted for critiques.

Howard Krauss shared his landscape of a barn and a lovely golden field with us. He also commented during the meeting that he was out painting en plein air two weeks ago and had his painting purchased right off the easel! He was thrilled, and praised the critique sessions for helping him become a better painter. It has been a joy to see Howard’s progress, and we share in his excitement over his sale.

Ginny Hall shared two portraits, companion pieces of a brother and sister. They were very well done with similar color schemes that will make them very appealing when hung together.

Janet Vennemeyer put up a soft, feminine still life of flowers in a vase on a glass stand.

There was little to change on any of these wonderful paintings. Only a few small adjustments were suggested, and it’s great to see the progress and the style of each artist. Remember, the critiques are open to each member and guest. All we ask is that you bring only one painting that is unframed for the critique.

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