The water's edge

Workshop aims to broaden watercolor painters' palettes

Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2007


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Washes, glazing, lifting off, dropping in color, these are all terms related to the techniques of watercolor painting and were used by a wide range of artists known for their watercolors: John James Audobon, Paul Klee, Georgia O'Keefe, Vincent Van Gogh and Andrew Wyeth.


This sampling of artists ranges in style from expressionism to realism, with subjects from birds to boats to flowers. All are tied together by the effect of water.

"You have to learn how the water flows and how fast it dries and how much pigment to put in it" in order to learn watercolor painting, according to nationally known artist Charlen Jeffery Satrom.


Charlen Jeffery Satrom

In her five-day workshop at the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center, Satrom will offer participants new ways to think, as well as instruction in mixing color and the use of proper tools and materials for painting. The watercolorist must learn to think from the end to the beginning, Satrom said.

"It's unique in that, with oils, if you want highlights, you put them on last. In watercolor, you have to save the white paper. ... You have to think ahead and leave the paper clear if you want highlights," Satrom said.

"Watercolor is very painterly. It is detailed, but things happen with water. I think it's a very creative medium. ... You're always kind of adjusting, and the colors are a challenge — to get them to be colorful because they dry lighter."

Satrom's love for painting started early, as did her love of Alaska subjects. One of her first paintings —at age 5 — was of two sled dogs. She works in oils, watercolor, pastels and other media.

Satrom trained in art and education at Seattle Pacific University, where she had the same classes as Byron Birdsall, another notable Alaska artist. Her portrait of Rep. Don Young hangs in one of the national legislative buildings in Washington, D.C.

She came to Alaska in 1976, then married and moved to Ohio. Satrom has returned to the state and teaches workshops around the state. She has a nonprofit organization called Brush with Adventure that provides art workshops in prisons, juvenile and mental health facilities.

"That's really rewarding because I think it builds self-esteem. It makes them feel good about themselves. It's a creative outlet, and it brings beauty into their lives. They're so thrilled with their paintings when they're through. It just does my heart good," Satrom said of these unique teaching experiences.

She has taught students of all ages, from kindergarten to college. She's been teaching since 1960 and taken workshops from several well-known artists over the years. For her, teaching and learning are one and the same.

"Teaching, you know, you learn so well. You learn a lot when you teach," Satrom said.

She and organizer Joann Odd encourage artists of different experience levels to attend the workshop. Odd has taken Satrom's workshop in the past and said she enjoys seeing the end product of even the newest artists.

"We always have one or two who have never picked up a brush that end up with two beautiful paintings" Odd said. "If I can do that, anyone can do that."

Satrom limits the number of students who can participate to be certain each artist is getting enough individual attention. They walk through each painting, step-by-step. In the workshop, Satrom will take participants through two Alaska-themed watercolor paintings, start to finish.

"We're going to do a watercolor. It's going to be a winter theme of Mount

Redoubt. In the background, it's sunset, and ice on the water in the foreground," Satrom said, describing one painting.

This will be the first time Satrom has taught on the central Kenai Peninsula. Odd organized the workshop and said she hopes it will go well. If it does, she hopes to hold future events in the area.

There is more to taking an art class than learning to hold a brush or choose colors. Satrom looks at the experience as an opportunity for people to open their world while opening their eyes to see in new ways.

"Taking an art class from anyone is really good, because it educates your eye to see your world around you, that you really don't stop to think about until you start painting," Satrom said. "Realizing that there's shadows and highlights, reflections and just all the other things you didn't think about before."

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