Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Feature: Helen Beacham

"Camelia Wonder" watercolor by Helen Beacham
Today I have a fabulous Friday Feature for you.  I became aware of Helen's work during Leslie Saeta's 30 in 30 challenge.  Her amazing sketches for lack of a better term caught my eye and I couldn't wait to see what she would do the next day.  After researching Helen a bit I found out that she lives in the same town as my Mom, pretty cool:)  So without further ado I will share Helen Beacham with you and her amazing watercolors:)

To see more of Helen's work:

Where were you born?
Montreal, Canada.  As a child, sketching was my favorite thing to do…like sitting in the back row of science class, sketching the backs of students’ heads while listening to the teacher!  I think, even then, I was multi-tasking!
"At the End of the Day" watercolor by Helen Beacham
How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?
When I moved from Canada to Memphis, TN (at the age of 28), I decided I wanted to take a watercolor class.  I studied with Brandon Bethea Brown who instilled in me a lifelong love for the medium.  Since then I’ve moved to the Charleston, SC area where I’ve been showing my work in galleries and teaching workshops of my own (not only in watercolor, but also in acrylics and gouache).

If you could live anywhere, where would you live?
Italy.  (I admit I have this thing for Italian cypress trees, and the golden light over there is like nowhere else!)

“Tucked Behind” (watercolor on Yupo) by Helen K. Beacham

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?
Trees & landscapes.  Whenever I travel, the first thing I notice are the different species of trees (the second thing are the clouds…you can tell where you are by how the clouds look).  I’ve painted trees realistically, and abstractly.  I never, ever get tired of them.  But other artists love to paint trees too, so there’s always the challenge of how to approach them from a unique perspective.

“Silent Shadows” (watercolor on 300# Arches paper ) by Helen K. Beacham

Could you talk about your painting techniques? 
I’ve moved from realistic depictions to a more intuitive style.  Lately, I’m enjoying painting on Yupo which is a synthetic material first manufactured for the printing industry.   I picked up some Yupo 5 or 6 years ago, and I absolutely hated it.  Then, 2 years ago, I pulled it out once more and fell in love (I evidently was in a different place in my artistic life…).  I now use mostly translucent Yupo, painting on both sides of the sheet.  Whatever I paint on the back glows through to the front and subsequently contributes to the final result.  You get an effect that you couldn’t get by painting only on the front.  You can also lift out very easily on this synthetic product.  The one drawback is that I’m relegated to the studio when I use it.  It doesn’t lend itself very well to plein air because you have to paint with it laying flat.   The water can’t soak INTO the synthetic, so you wait for it to evaporate (although, realistically, it probably doesn’t take much longer to dry than regular w/c paper). 

"Charleston Embrace" one of the 30 in 30 by Helen Beacham
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?
For thirty years, I’ve painted with mostly Winsor & Newton transparent colors.  I love all manner of blues and browns which, when used together, create beautiful granulation which always intrigues me.  About 2 weeks ago, to shake things up, I bought a new John Pike palette and squeezed out a whole batch of different colors that I’ve rarely used in the past.  Believe it or not, several that I introduced are opaque watercolor paints, and not transparent.  This might be a natural progression for me, considering I’ve also been painting in gouache on Masonite a bit more lately.  Some of my favorite w/c paints (new & older) are:
- Holbein Lavender, Blue Grey, Peacock Blue & Mineral Violet
- M. Graham Terra Rosa & Maroon Perylene
- Winsor & Newton Naples Yellow & Payne’s Gray (staples for 30 yrs)
There are really too many to mention here, but these are my latest faves.

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?
Top of mind, for many reasons, is Mary Whyte (  She’s here in Charleston, SC where I am, and she’s made a name for watercolor in a city that loves its oil painters.  I love her technical detail combined with her loose handling of those “supporting characters” in her paintings.  But my love of watercolor goes back much further.  As a young woman of 20, I bought my first original painting from a young lady selling her watercolors on a street corner in Montreal.  That painting literally called to me from across the street, and I still own it to this day.  

“Golden Silence” (watercolor on 300# Arches paper) by Helen K. Beacham

What have been some of your crowning achievements?
  1. Receiving a “Creativity Award” from The Artists’ Network for my painting “Jubilation” came at a time when I started experimenting a bit more.  It confirmed for me that I was on the right path.  Since then I’ve received recognition for many other paintings.
  2. I’ve been fortunate to have shown my work in wonderful galleries.  I’m currently represented by Lowcountry Artists Gallery in historic Charleston, SC.
  3. I’m fortunate to have a great student following which allows me to share my knowledge  & love of watercolor on an ongoing basis with them.
  4. My 4 grandbabies!  Their ages are 8 months to 4.5 years, all in the same family!  And they love to paint!

“Jubilation” (watercolor on 300# Arches paper) by Helen K. Beacham

What are three things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)
  1. Enter more competitions (& win some!).  I’ve spent most of my life painting for my galleries.  As soon as I finish a painting, it gets framed and hung and hopefully sold.  I never wanted to hold it back for a competition.  That’s going to change.
  2. Gain signature status in national societies.
  3. Teach more workshops overseas.  I have a great one coming up in Venice, Italy (October 12-20, 2013).  My friend, Kelly Medford, will be teaching the oil & acrylic painters, while I teach watercolor, gouache, pen & ink and graphite.  
"Glow" one of the 30 in 30 watercolor by Helen Beacham
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?
  1. If you have a full time job, take advantage of even 15 minutes at a time to paint.  Don’t keep putting it off.  It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 15 minutes, which then motivates you to get back to it as soon as you can.
  2. If you’re more than a beginner, enter competitions.  Pushing yourself makes you a better artist.
  3. Ask for feedback…from your artist friends, a trusted teacher, even your family.  They all see things through fresh eyes.  It’s up to you to sift through it and use what you want to.
  4. If you’re a more accomplished artist, mentor a “younger” artist who will surely benefit.

"Luscious Lime" on e of the 30 in 30 watercolor by Helen Beacham

What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
Make time for plein air painting to round out my studio painting time.  

Chocolate or vanilla?

Your dream vacation spot?
Italy.  I’m not a big beach person although I live only 30 minutes from the ocean.   I thrive on culture and the quiet life that Italy offers.  I could live there, taking evening strolls with my arm through my man’s!

Book or movie?
Book – The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Movie - The Piano

Favorite author?
Barbara Kingsolver (and literally a slew of others)

Romance or comedy?
Comedy, but good ones are few and far between.

Favorite dessert?
Anything with lemon in it.

Night owl or morning person?

Thank you so much Helen

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday: Friends

SOLD "Friends" 5.5" x 10" original watercolor by Carrie Waller

And here is where I forgot to take picture:))  Ooops!

Monday, March 25, 2013


"Friends" 5.5" x 10"original watercolor by Carrie Waller 
Thought I would bring a little spring into everyone's life today.   Can not believe this weather, ugggh!  We didn't get the white stuff but it sure is cold out there.
"Bunny O'Hare" 6" x 6" original watercolor by Carrie Waller

SOLD "All My Eggs in One Basket" 6" x 6" original watercolor by Carrie Waller

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Feature: Watercolor Wrap Up

Last weekend I held my 3 day watercolor workshop in Mt. Vernon, Illinois at the Shrode Art Center.  I had a fabulous group of students and just like every workshop and any time you get a group of artists together ideas were flowing.  I always think I learn just as much as my workshop participants.

We started on day 1 painting pears.  First in sepia and then in color.  This exercise gets everyone playing in their paint and working on getting strong values.  I also begin the day with a presentation.
Me demoing the green pears.  I paint from my ipad now.  I think I  have a couple converts in the class now:)

On day 2 we began the day talking about my process and how I set up my till life set ups.  I showed a step by step demo of the painting we were going to be working on.  We painted "Spin the Bottle".  Everyone did a fabulous job painting glass, getting their values established and creating the 3 dimensional bottle.
My demo.  Love painting from my Ipad.
Close up of me painting the bottom of my bottle.  Thank you Tracy for taking pictures:)
Me painting "Spin the Bottle".  

Day 3 I talked about my favorite tools and websites, talked a little marketing and favorite books.  We worked on painting ball jars.

Everyone watching me work on Ball Jars:)  Such a great group of students!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Feature: Ester Roi

Ester Roi in her studio
Prepare to have your socks knocked off.  This is some amazing art for this weeks Friday Feature.  Ester's work is mesmerizing.  I would love to watch her in action, and who couldn't love an artist that has a swing in their studio.  

To see more of her work check out her website, blog and facebook page.

How did you get your start?  What’s your artist journey so far?

I had an incredible art teacher in junior high school back in Italy. He was supportive, inspiring and very handsome. I had the biggest crush on him and produced an enormous amount of art in those three years. Professor Agostini was the first person in my life who appreciated and encouraged my artistic talent. He even came to my house to convince my parents they needed to send me to art school. Unfortunately there wasn’t one in my town. I was sent instead to a scientific high school that focused on math, chemistry and physics but I also studied art history, technical drawing and chiaroscuro rendering. However on weekends my art spirit would live vicariously through a Venetian boyfriend who sold his paintings to the tourists. 

In my early twenties I came to the United States and began taking art classes in college while learning English. Eventually I worked as a graphic designer until I started having children. I then became a frustrated oil painter never having enough time for my art. In fact I did give it up for a while until I picked up a box of colored pencils. After finishing my first drawing I was completely hooked. 

"Appassionato in f minor" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi

Where were you born?

In Vicenza, Italy, a town in the Po Valley with Venice to the East and the Alps to the North. Growing up in Italy exposed me to a culture where art is an integral part of life; you can’t avoid it, it’s everywhere and one can easily take it for granted. 

If you could live anywhere where would you live?

Right here in Southern California. Although my original family still lives in Italy and I visit whenever I can, I absolutely love it here and I wouldn’t move back. I’m an American citizen and proud of it.

What’s your favorite thing to paint and why?

In my youth my father, a teacher, used to take me with my brother and sister to weekend outings in the Italian Dolomites. He was an avid naturalist. Together we explored the wilderness while learning to name all the flowers, birds, rocks and fossils we’d find along the way. Some of my favorite subjects are indeed the same ones I learned to love in my childhood.

In the last several years I have been painting flowers and rocks and their interaction with water. I study them above and below the surface, and observe how their visual characteristics change and relate to each other. Nature is indeed my muse and water my canvas.
"Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi
Could you talk about your painting techniques? 

When I resolved to take my lifelong passion for art to a professional level, I put my oil paints aside in favor of colored pencils. I was somewhat familiar with this medium since I had used it as a child and as a student in college. My interest was focused on a technique called "colored pencil painting" which aims to achieve the same level of color saturation and density that is characteristic of acrylic or oil.
While searching for methods that would facilitate the blending and burnishing of my wax-based colored pencils, I decided to experiment with heat. I soon discovered how remarkable the effect of heat was on my colored pencils and decided to build a heated board that I named “Icarus Drawing Board”. In spite of the many shortcomings of my first prototype, I persisted and became a true believer in this new technique.

As my experience and enthusiasm for the Icarus Drawing Board continued to grow, I embraced other wax-based media beside colored pencils.  Oil and wax pastels and artist crayons have allowed me to work larger and faster.
The Icarus board is a portable, electric board which features two working zones, a warm zone and a cool zone. In general, I use the warm zone for mixing, blending, burnishing, and reworking; the cool zone for line drawing, layering, detailing, and finishing touches. The heat helps soften or melt the waxy pigments so they can be easily manipulated and blended in a painterly fashion. When finished, the paper or un-stretched canvas is mounted on a cradled board, varnished and shown without glass.
"Impasse" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi
Do you have go-to paints/colors, what are your favorites?

Blue is my favorite one, especially cobalt blue. I only did one painting in my life that didn’t have any blue and I still cringe when I look at it. I’m attracted to primary colors, vibrant and saturated. I play cool colors against warm ones while shadows are always an excuse to introduce complimentary colors. Although I depict realistic subjects, my use of colors is anything but. Like Claude Monet, I can testify that “colors are my day-long obsession, joy and torment”.    

Do you have a favorite artist?  Who has been your biggest inspiration?

There are so many artists who continuously influence and inspire me; impressionists and post-impressionists for their revolutionary use of color; even the Fauvists left a mark on me with colors that definitely ruled supreme; Georgia O’Keeffe for looking at flowers from a magnified perspective and using them to express emotions. But if I have to pinpoint a single person as my biggest inspiration, it would be my junior high school art teacher.
"Preludio" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi
What have been some of your crowning achievements?

I’m proud of having been an exhibitor in the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts in 2012 and having been accepted in the Laguna Beach Art-A-Fair Festival for this coming summer; that my artwork is featured worldwide on the cover of the largest box of Prismacolor Colored Pencils and on the cover of the French magazine Pratique des Arts; of receiving the Colored Pencil Society of America prestigious EXPY Best Of Show Award and First Place Award in The Artist's Magazine's All-Media Competition.
"The Butterfly Effect" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi
In my private life my crowning achievements are my two amazing sons and a happy 27 year marriage to the love of my life.

What are five things you would like to happen in your life in the next five years? Dream big here:)

To become a sought-after artist in California 
To continue to get accepted in the Laguna Beach art festivals
To increase my collector base until everything I produce finds a good home 
For the Icarus board to become a mainstream tool for artists worldwide
To make enough to build my dream studio
What is your advice for other artists who are just getting started in their career?

Put passion in everything you do. 
Hard work can often compensate for talent, even in art. 
Once you get there, be generous and kind to your fellow artists. 
"Effervescence" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi
What is the best advice that you have received as an artist?
When I feel like I’m not accomplishing enough, I read this passage from Archbishop Oscar Romero:
“… We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete… We cannot do everything, and there’s a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and to do it well…” 
"The Lightness of Being" original colored pencil painting by Ester Roi


Chocolate or vanilla?


Your dream vacation spot?

The Snake River in Wyoming

Book or movie?


Favorite author?

Dante Alighieri

Favorite movie?

Pride and Prejudice

Romance or comedy?


Favorite dessert?

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting 

Night owl or morning person?

Definitely a morning person; those quiet hours alone, when night becomes day, are irreplaceable. 

Makes me want to pick up my colored pencils again.  Amazing work!! Thank you Ester.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday

"Spin the Bottle" 8" x 8" by Carrie Waller watercolor on 260lb Arches

Here are my work in progress pics:)