S.C. Ag + Art Tour: Kalmia Gardens of Coker College

Members of the Wednesday Watercolor Group paint at Kalmia Gardens of Coker College in Hartsville as part of the S.C. Ag + Art Tour on Saturday, June 4, 2016. Photo by Jana E. Pye

Members of the Wednesday Watercolor Group paint at Kalmia Gardens of Coker College in Hartsville as part of the S.C. Ag + Art Tour on Saturday, June 4, 2016.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

By Jana E. Pye, Editor, editor@newsandpress.net

Kalmia Gardens of Coker College was the site for the Wednesday Watercolor Group that meets at Black Creek Arts Council each week to paint together. There are nine members in all, and four of the women gathered to paint plein aire during the Ag + Art Tour, Sue Brand, Gay Morrison, Frankie Bush and Judy Jacobs.

Frankie teaches the women techniques, and has been successful in converting two former oil painters over to watercolors.

A miniature by Gay Morrison, a work in progress on Saturday morning, June 4, 2016 as part of the S.C. Ag + Art Tour. Photo by Jana E. Pye

A miniature by Gay Morrison, a work in progress on Saturday morning, June 4, 2016 as part of the S.C. Ag + Art Tour.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

Gay Morrison is one of the converts. “They don’t let me use smelly oils anymore,” she said, as she prepared the miniature painting she was working on for the morning. She had blue on the trunks and other areas of the painting, which she said will “save her white” and will wash away when she adds water to it.

Morrison has been doing watercolors with the women for three years, and won Best in Show at a Lynda English show on miniatures for her work.

Bush explained that most of the women paint from photographs, and she takes the photos that she uses.

For that morning, however, Morrison was working from memory and Sue Brand, another oil painting convert, was working drawing on site. Brand was working on a watercolor of how it looks to look up from under a tree, and was using several of the fresh leaves for reference and to trace.

“Sue made the mistake of saying in public that she hated watercolors,” recalled Bush.

Sue Brand, one of Frankie Bush's former oil painting coverts, shares how she once declared, "I hate watercolors!"   Photo by Jana E. Pye

Sue Brand, one of Frankie Bush’s former oil painting coverts, shares how she once declared, “I hate watercolors!”
Photo by Jana E. Pye

“I had tried watercolors in college,” said Brand. “And I decided it was not my cup of tea! My husband still likes the intensity of oils. But I am a true convert.”

“I try to get my oil ladies to see that you can go as dark with watercolors as you can oil,” said Bush. “They get fearful because once it is down, it’s down. And they are just now getting there.”

Bush admits that watercolors are hard, and that most artist throw away their first hundred… but she is hesitant to turn people away from trying the medium. She is an accomplished artist, and was the key person instrumental in the genesis of the Black Creek Arts Council. She began working in watercolors around 1980, and fell in love with the medium.

“There is no odor, no mess, and you don’t mess up your house, clothing or furniture.”
Bush was working on a painting of a cotton boll from a close up photograph she had taken.

Judy Jacobs has been painting with the group for about five years, and was working on a cotton field painting. She explained that the gray areas on her painting were a rubber cement like material that can be rubbed off, and will preserve the white areas she will use for her cotton bolls.

Judy Jacobs with her painting of a cotton field. She has been painting with Frankie Bush for about 5 years. Photo by Jana E. Pye

Judy Jacobs with her painting of a cotton field. She has been painting with Frankie Bush for about 5 years.
Photo by Jana E. Pye

“We have a good teacher,” said Jacobs. “She practices it herself, and paints along with us. I truly love doing this.”

The women are part of a group that gives a donation for the studio space each week.
Bush said that aspiring watercolor artists may have a tough time finding a beginner watercolor class, but there are several DVDs that may be used for people to paint along to, stopping and pausing after techniques are taught. At that point, they may be ready for a more advanced class.

Mary Ridgeway, Director of Kalmia Gardens for Coker College, shared that she was thrilled to have the women there participating. The location has long been a mecca for artists to sketch, paint, or take photographs of the lovely botanical garden that stretches for 35 acres on Black Creek. The site is a former 19th century plantation and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The gardens feature the Thomas E. Hart House, built in 1820, with a large wrap around porch with a joggling board and several rocking chairs to enjoy a respite from walking the trails that circle around the grounds.

To learn more: S.C. Ag + Art Tour

Kalmia Gardens is open during daylight hours with no admission fee. Tours are available by appointment. For more information on Kalmia Gardens, call: 843-383-8145 or visit: Kalmia Gardens of Coker College See a slideshow of the photos below – mobile users please click link: S.C. Ag + Art Tour Kalmia Gardens

Author: Jana Pye

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