May 16, 2013

The business of art

Ann Pember racks up awards, exhibitions; leads workshop


---- — KEESEVILLE — Artist Ann Pember is a master of watercolor and marketing her art beyond her Water Edge Studio here.

Her awards this year include a Patron’s Fine Art Award for “Pansy Perfection” from the Watercolor Society of Alabama 72nd National at the Hartselle Fine Arts Center and an Art Academy Award for “Story Time” from the Western Colorado Society Rockies West National in Grand Junction, Colo.

“I got in another show, the Vermont Watercolor Society Juried Awards Exhibition,” Pember said. “They have a couple of juried exhibitions each year. For people to become a full member, you can put their initials behind your name. You have to be selected for three exhibitions. There are a whole bunch of them. I have memberships in 19 of them. This makes number 20.”

Twice, her work has been selected for the prestigious American Watercolor Society International Exhibition held annually at the Salmagundi Club in New York City.

“I’m still going for that third time. Hopefully, it will happen soon,” she said.

It’s a challenge for her to keep track of each exhibition.

“I have a list of when all the shows happen and when you have to enter. It gets expensive. You pay a fee to enter. If you’re lucky enough to have a painting selected, you get to pay a handling fee and a FedEx charge for shipping each way. It’s really costly. It’s a way to challenge oneself. It also gets my work seen by more people,” Pember said.

Most exhibitions are sponsored by watercolor societies, art groups or museums. 

“They are held in very nice venues. There are probably 15 or more I enter every year. Last year, I was fortunate to have work selected into 16,” she said.

She taught herself the business of art.

“I did commercial work initially. That gave me a sense of having to work for deadlines and work under the gun,” Pember said. 

“I’m a fairly organized individual. That has helped. It’s a matter of making myself ‘keep’ files. When I complete a painting, I write on a 4 (inch)-by-6 (inch) card when it was completed, what kind of surface it’s painted on and its size. Each time it gets in an exhibition or gets an award, I put that on a card so I can track what has happened to it.”

Pember began to draas soon as she could hold a pencil.

“Drawing was a very big part of my life for quite some time,” she said. “When I discovered watercolor, I came home. It was something I felt I had to do. It feels strange if I don’t do that for a while.”

Gardening keeps her away from her easel in the summer months.

“I don’t get to paint as much. It (painting) feeds your soul. It’s that creativity. It’s a way to connect with spirit. I think that comes through as you work, hopefully,” Pember said.

John Singer Sargent’s quote: “To work is to pray” is tacked on her bulletin board.

The immediacy of watercolor inspires her. 

“It can be very quick. If you want to do a little each day, you can do that, too, without getting into a big mess. Many people enjoy it as a means of stress reduction, unless your painting isn’t going well,” she said.

Water can be applied to the painting surface first, and one or more colors added.

“The paint will merge and things will happen, and that can be fun,” she said. “The main thing I like about watercolor, it’s transparent. That helps give you a quality of light that’s harder to achieve with other kinds of paint or mediums. Color mixing in watercolor can happen right on the paper instead of on your palette. That gives you a very beautiful color because it happens on the white paper. That’s my favorite look with watercolor.”

She knows one artist who builds up 100 layers in each painting.

“You also run the risk of ... coming up with some very dirty color (when that technique is done),” she said.

From Monday, July 22, through Friday, July 26, Pember will lead a watercolor workshop at the Peru Community Church Fellowship Center. She will share a variety of techniques as well as things to avoid from her experiences.

“The workshops, they’re slanted for anyone, from beginner to advanced,” she said. “Some folks just want to paint for fun. Some people really want to do this full-time and enter juried exhibitions. Depending on what your interest level is in the workshop, I may guide the person to channel their attention to certain things. If their goal is to enter into shows, they have to be a little more serious. It means honing your drawing skills for anyone painting.” 

Drawing is less important for the beginner.

“There is so much to learn initially if you have never worked before. I start out with a simple subject for them, so it does not require a great amount of drawing before they get to paint. That may turn them off. It’s more fun to get to the painting part,” Pember said.

She will teach workshop participants to paint dynamically using light and shadows.

“So basically, each painting is developed by the light patterns that are created. This will involve painting on more than one surface so they can see the difference between them. If I was setting out to paint rocks and water, a woodland stream or something, I would choose a very smooth surface. It helps to support a technique I’m going for,” she said.

For a floral painting, she would select a traditional watercolor paper.

“I choose the surface to go with the subject. You don’t want to choose something that you are fighting. Some folks start out painting and will choose paper that’s not very good, and then they’re fighting with it every time,” she said.

The same is true of selecting a brush that will not point.

“It’s fighting you,” Pember said. “The same is true with paints. I have chosen certain colors. Some help you make yucky-looking mud. If you steer clear of those, you can wind up with really beautiful color. Only by having done that in the beginning, back in the ’70s, painting with colors that make mud, it taught me to not use those or use those differently.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: Watercolor workshop with Ann Pember. WHEN: Monday through Friday, July 22 to 26. WHERE: Peru Community Church Fellowship Center, 13 Elm St., Peru. CONTACT: Call 834-7440 for more details, or visit