Winners Words

February 11, 2020 4:37 PM | Ksenia Annis (Administrator)

Artists, who won ribbons in February 2020 show, are sharing their thoughts and inspiration for creating their winning paintings.


I am a hopeless soft-hearted sentimentalist. I cry in the movies, when I read books or listen to great music, so when I saw this month ’s theme, I was thrilled.  THIS I can paint. 

I trolled through many photos asking myself, “What touches my heart”? Peace, quiet, serenity, my daughter, my family, my friends, my pets. I found a photo that spoke to me and I felt,  “This is the one I want to paint”. Robin Avery once told me,  “You like things up close and personal, like you are having a conversation with the subjects.” She is SO right.

I cropped in close and once transferred to the watercolor paper, after much drawing and grumbling, as noses are difficult for me, I started with my usual light washes, underpainting and glazes. I played with phthalo blue instead of ultramarine blue as I am finding it lets me layer more often despite being a scary pigment to play with. I layered darker and darker for shadows and tried to balance that with the light. I was frustrated with the fur on the cat in the early stages, but persevered and used a clean damp brush to soften it when I felt the hair was too stiff. 

I could hear Carla Gauthier in my ear when I painted the nose,  “A little warmth on the end works.” I messed up one of the eyebrows twice and thankfully because I work on 300 lb. Arches paper that can take some scrubbing, I got it in the right place. 

I hope  “Unconditional Love” is shown in my precious daughter and my beloved cat. Know that I am thankful for the gifts from the teachers and fellow artists at WAS-H. You all help me to become a better artist. 


“Hornet's Nest” was inspired by a nest I harvested from one of the eaves of my summer cottage in Nova Scotia. Removal caused the nest to break open revealing the cavity in such a way that it resembled a heart right down to the inner chambers. The cottages in the area are known for accommodating as many strains of familial relations as exist; parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, cousins, second cousins, in-laws, significant others and friends of significant others. With all of the various personalities inhabiting such a small space, things can get thorny. “How fitting?” I thought. “

This is the perfect metaphor for the cottage, based in love, with all of its attenuating complications.”


My painting “Gone with the Wind” was inspired by the classical movie with the same title. This movie marked my childhood a lot. I remember watching it several times. - Ah!!! how I wanted to be strong, brave, rich and beautiful like Scarlet O’Hara!

Recently, after watching it again, I decided to paint it. The most memorable scene for me was the one which shows a landscape with strong orange sky in the background and a huge oak tree at the front. They were the two things I wanted for sure to be part of the painting.

As a figurative painter, I need people in my art, so I remembered that about 8 years ago, one of my nieces had posed for me over an oak tree nearby. I looked among the photos I had, and I selected a few to use as a reference for this composition.

The house is supposed to be “Tara” the house in the fiction.


“With an Open Heart” - Botanicals are a favorite subject for my watercolor works. I find overlapping layers of pigment, in a delicate dance with water, and the paper surface a rewarding, meditative experience. I enjoy both growing and painting the many stages of the grand herb’s fronds, fruits and blossom. I use the live plant, several reference photos, a simple 3 value sketch, and a palette of 5 or 6 pigments, 300 lb. arches and a lot of patience to create the design, depth, richness of pigment, and textures.


My favorite paintings are usually ones I paint when I have the most fun. In fact, when I teach, my #1 priority is to create an experimental atmosphere for students to have FUN because the fun almost always shows up in your paintings. The opposite is also true--when you work hard, often your finished product looks laboriously stiff. Just think about the idea of "executing" a painting. Executing?! I don't aim to execute anything - I'd rather give birth to something fun to paint and enjoyable to view.

Without giving away too many surprises I have used unusual tools to create my painting, traditionally painted, the fun began when I started breaking rules! To begin I put a large blob of fresh Chautauqua Nocturne”, which was painted as a demo in my summer water media class. Although the underpainting is Mars Black on my palette. Then I applied my paint with tools that were entirely experimental. Now that I've discovered this technique, I love to surprise my students with a similar demonstration. I look forward to February's Paint-in, February 20 Senior Class and upcoming classes to reveal my secrets.

LES MCDONNALD - Honorable Mention - “BARNYARD”

“Barnyard” is a scene from a trip to Mexico about 25 years ago. We were there on a quail hunt. We had come in that morning, had lunch and were not going out until later that afternoon. I took the opportunity to walk around the little town, Santa EnGracia, and shoot some photos. The whole little village was pretty rustic, but I took some amazing scene photos. It has turned out to be a wealth of reference material.

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