Watercolor Comes to Life at the CAS

By: Jennifer Deligne


Watercolor Masters of New Jersey is an appropriate title for the exhibition being shown at the Center for Academic Success’s Karl and Helen Burger Gallery until Nov. 3. The curator, W. Carl Burger, searched for these New Jersey masters to create a compilation of art pieces based solely on the watercolor paint.

It might seem like a simple concept since we’ve all experienced watercolor art in our younger days, but these artists marry water and paint in new, complex ways. Ann Piekarz, Charles McVicker, Edward Baumlin, Harry I. Naar, Joan McKinney and Lucy Graves McVicker each elegantly express their use and their own special take in watercolor art.

No two artists carry even an inkling of similarity in their pieces. All use varied techniques, colors, moods, subjects and even different canvases for specific reasons. Piekarz paints on synthetic plastic paper so it seems as though the paint is fresh and “dancing on the surface.” Her rich pink flowers do just that, pronouncing their existence in the piece.

Because of its proneness to running or mixing, painting with watercolor can be a difficult task. C. McVicker, however, poses life-imitating pieces which are almost palpable. His rich use in color and linear painting create a very real depiction of nature.

“The moods of nature have been my primary concern, but I do not wish to portray them in a literal fashion,” said McVicker

Instead, she uses bold colors to convey the feelings and moods of nature, without giving definite form and leaving interpretation to the viewer.

Baumlin presents a more realistic approach to nature and introduces animals in realistic settings. His pieces are light and crisp with drops of dark colors to add dramatic effect to trees and shadows. Baumlin explicitly shows the watercolor in his paintings. The blending of the colors stands out and shows the gradients that need to be made in order to achieve shadowing in certain places.

Technique will always be a distinction point between any two artists, and Naar makes his distinction with lines and marks that create a bigger picture. Various tones of green swipes of a brush create moss on rocks before the sea. In other pieces, intense black outlines make up the landscape of trees, with very subtle-colored paint in between.

McKinney uses everyday sightings, a chair and archway, and makes them royal. Her sharp use of the watercolor dramatizes dark-colored objects and softens the background of her pieces.

“My days are filled with images that I want to record— my husband’s flower garden, the winter snows and travel scenes of landscapes,” said McKinney.

Not only have these six artists mastered watercolor and its complexities, but they have also mastered their individuality and take on the medium. They give the viewers a new outlook on a non-traditional art form by being precise, expressive and real.

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