From September 29, 2018 through February 28, 2019, the Lois & Richard England Gallery at Iona will be exhibiting watercolors by the Northwest Neighbors Village Artists. This dynamic group of artists meets regularly to develop their talents, and create colorful and delicate still life watercolors. Though they are all amateur artists, their mastery of watercolor is clear. Their dedication to craftsmanship inspires us all to keep learning and creating.
Read more from the curator and artists below.
Joey Mánlapaz, Curator
Professor, Corcoran at The George Washington University
I teach ongoing watercolor classes under the auspices of Northwest Neighbors Village at Forest Hills of DC where a diverse group of women combined their artistic talents to produce this colorful array of paintings.
A few of these ladies “claim” not to have had much experience in art, but these works prove otherwise. Watercolor is indeed a difficult medium to learn. Water is stubborn and unpredictable. Water can be unforgiving and undoubtedly will make a mess. But with patience and adherence to careful instructions, each artist lavished their paintings with love, delicacy, and emotion. They cajole, make a statement, tease, pull you in, and invite. In the end each piece is a testament to craftsmanship and originality.
I took my first watercolor class sometime in the mid-eighties, after my first child was born. I wanted to experiment with dripping and spattering and creating blooms of paint, but most of the class sessions were devoted to learning how to mix colors to create brown.
Twenty-five years later, after my children were almost out of the house, I began to think about life in retirement. I planned to write poetry but, realizing I am someone who works best on multiple projects at the same time and feeling that painting would offer a stimulating wordless complement to poetry, and sensing too that I would love watercolor despite my initial dismal introduction, I started taking watercolor classes again.
For three or four years I worked with Gina Clapp, who encouraged me to spatter and drip and sponge and wipe and look at how other artists put their paints on paper. After Gina moved out of town, I tried other classes and workshops. Then I found Joey Manlapaz and I have been taking classes with her for the past three or four years.
Joey’s teaching style is challenging but supportive; she urges us to draw carefully, to measure distances and attend to shapes of objects and between objects, and to begin painting by noting the myriad colors within objects and their reflections and shadows. Under Joey’s tutelage, during a recent class review of past work, I suddenly realized that I had developed a definitive style, that I had found my artistic “voice.” With wild enthusiasm and a great sense of urgency (for “at my back I always hear/ Time’s winged chariot hurrying near”) I look forward to merging my two voices, text and image, poetry and watercolor.
I introduced at my first class with Joey Mánlapaz by saying that learning to paint with watercolors was on my retirement bucket list, but also that sadly I couldn’t draw or paint. That was almost two years ago. I’ve come a long way since that first class and loved every minute I’ve spent painting.
Everyone who knows me is aware of my love for the outdoors, especially hiking and cycling. I’m an avid traveler and am working on traveling to places now that might be inaccessible to me as I grow older. This year I cross-country skied in Colorado, spent time in Nice France, cycled on the Algarve Coast in Portugal, walked a portion of the Portugese Camino, hiked in the Cascade Mountains, and completed the 192 mile Wainwright Coast to Coast trek across England.
When I’m not traveling, cycling or hiking you can find me with my four by-coastal grandchildren – Washington, DC and Seattle, Washington. I love to read, see plays and movies, cook and spend time with my friends and family. I love being retired!!!
I joined Joey’s art class in August 2016. The last time I had drawn anything was in 7th grade. I thought it would be interesting to do something together with my mother that we didn’t have to fight about (we both were professional musicians). I had also heard how good it was for your brain to learn unfamiliar skills.
It is heartening to learn and improve a brand new skill at any age. My mind is totally absorbed by this activity so unlike my second career as a lawyer, and happily not involving a computer, but materials that engage the senses. Learning how to see form and color, as though for the first time, miraculously relaxes me and sheds my abundant worries. And afterwards, unlike music that vanishes once the performance is over, I can look at my work, no matter how unskilled, and say, “I did that!!”
My first contact with art was when I was eight years old. My elementary school in Korea invited a famous artist to give a lecture. Out of the thousand students attending, I was one of two students that he picked for a private lesson. Although the lecture went in one ear and out the other, the concept of art impressed itself in my consciousness even though I later chose to pursue a career in music.
In my late twenties, when living in Singapore, I became friends with the Chinese painter, Georgette Chen, and studied drawing in her class at the Nanyang Academy of Arts. When I settled in Washington DC in 1965 and subsequently taught piano at the George Washington University, I continued to dabble in art, painting oil portraits of family members. I always had the intent to study more, as I felt I needed basic training.
That is why I joined Joey’s watercolor class. It is the highlight of my week, and it allows me to revisit long-ago paths not taken.
Erica H. Ling
For as long as I can remember, I have loved to draw—first people, then roofscapes, and now still lifes. In high school I took many art courses, including watercolor, and wondered how to combine my love of the arts and the sciences. My college counselor suggested medical illustration as a career but curiously never mentioned architecture. Once in college, after a dismal encounter with chemistry, I abandoned my ambition to study medicine, and luckily discovered architecture, which neatly encompasses my disparate interests, as a field of study. Inspired by art and nature, I now have been practicing architecture for some 35 years, seeking beauty and order in our messy world.
When I first moved to DC thirty years ago, I took a stimulating sketchbook class from Peggy Parker at the Torpedo Factory. Alas, once the class was over, I rarely made the time to sketch on my own for pleasure. I, however, did encourage our now adult daughter to draw, paint, and make things from the time she was very little. Once in awhile we would draw together while on holiday.
As an architect drawn to color and to light as it renders form and illuminates space, I delight in taking photographs, often thinking how I would like to be able to paint such a scene. Ever since joining Joey Mánlapaz’s engaging watercolor class in the fall of 2015, I have been enjoying the quest, often elusive, to capture a particular quality of light or to depict form and space using watercolor. I value this opportunity, with Joey’s unfailing encouragement, to observe closely and work to create something of beauty and was so happy when our daughter was able to join the class. Watercolor requires patience and persistence, but it is so rewarding to get something just right.
Andrea W. Selvaggio
I grew up in a large family who encouraged their artistic members to get a day job. My great grandfather was a tailor and my uncle was a New York City fireman with a sculpture studio in the basement of the firehouse. Taking this advice to heart, my BS degree was in art education from State University of New York at New Paltz. As I begin my third year teaching art to junior high school students, I decided to use my creativity in a different way – I applied to law school. Georgetown Law welcomed students with different backgrounds andI found myself studying law with a former ballerina, a professional baseball player, a saxophonist, and many former school teachers.
I enjoyed my 33 year career as an attorney but, by the time I retired, in 2011 from the Treasury Department, I was ready to get back to art. I had taken Joey Manlapaz’s drawing class at the Corcoran School of Art while I was still practicing law. When I saw she was teaching a classes with the Northwest Neighbors Village, where my husband, Sal and I are volunteers, I signed up.
For me, drawing and painting is a form of meditation. It enhances my ability to really see the world around me. We joke in class sometimes that trying to capture the colors and shapes in the still life in front of us is making our “ brains sweat.” I believe this is a good thing. Recent brain research suggests that the brain, like our muscles, benefits from being challenged. While my brain might sweat while creating these paintings, my goal is for the finished works to trigger calm and peaceful feelings, something we all need in our busy lives.
I always wanted to paint but was intimidated by color. So I drew and threw pots and printed textiles and learned calligraphy and found other creative outlets. Finally, when I turned 50, I said to myself, “Just do it! If it’s no good – so what? Who cares?” And I started painting.
It has become my therapy, brought me both joy and frustration, and become my favorite pastime. If it brings joy to someone else, I’m glad.
Painting gives me space to become centered and ‘in the moment’. It helps me really notice what is around me. I’m grateful for the gifts that painting has brought me.