Art Isn’t Just About Pretty People

New Year. Milliner, Atlanta, Georgia by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 2009, 22 1/2 x 29.
New Year by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting of a milliner
from Atlanta, GA; 2009, 22 1/2 x 29.

Sometimes I get so sick of people calling a painting or
drawing 'art' because it has a good-looking person in it. Who wants to hang out
with Barbie or Ken all the time? Not me. I'm inspired by the story of
people—their character, personality, and the imperfections that make them real.

Mary Whyte paints people so that you want to know their
story. Her latest watercolor paintings and sketches are portraits of people who
make up the backbone of the American South and whose ways of life are declining
or going away altogether—a mill worker and farmer, a shoeshine man, shrimper, milliner, and ferryman among others.

Mary paints her watercolor portraits so that the figures
aren't just shown as their physical selves alone; you see them in their
element, amidst the objects and in the environment of their livelihoods. And
the paintings are amazingly done. The watercolor portrait painting techniques
she uses to render skin tone and texture astound me. But Mary's works are also
thoughtfully composed to have a strong impact, and that power comes from having
done a lot of painstaking sketches.

Mary isn't the type to wing it. She believes preparation and
study are crucial for successful paintings. She makes small, quick watercolor
sketches, just 3 x 4-inch thumbnails, and returns to these again and again as
source material, enlivening finished paintings with the nuance she captures in
these small format studies. She also uses reference photos, mainly to recall
specific details about a scene, and more sketches to determine her composition
for each piece.

Trap by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting
Trap by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting of a crabber from
Pinpoint, GA; 2008, 30 3/4 x 38 1/8.

As an instructor, I've found few who are better than Mary.
She is articulate, passionate, and skilled. In her DVD Mastering Watercolor Portraiture, Mary makes the complexities of
the human face seem so accessible. She brought me through it step by step, so
that I feel like I came away learning the basics of
watercolor and how to build on them.

And this summer, Mary is making another instructional DVD on
watercolor, which is where you come
in! In a special bonus feature on the DVD, Mary is taking your questions and
answering them on the air
. So leave your questions for Mary here in a blog comment for the chance
to have your name and question read and answered by her in her new DVD
!
Enjoy!

 

 


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