Sunday, January 15, 2012

Museum of Arts & Sciences

Chere Force and her husband Rory sent out an invitation to local artists to join them on a trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach. About six artists answered the call and we all decided to meet in Altimonte Springs and car pool from there. The morning we left it was incredibly cold for Central Florida, down in the 30's. The main reason for the trip was to see Reflections II: Watercolors of Florida 1835-2000, from the Collection of Cici and Hyatt Brown which is on exhibit through March 25th of 2012. I was particularly excited to see work from Andrew Wyeth. I piled into the back of the Force family van and was soon joined by Dotti Stickly. Dotti and Chere are both members of the Central Florida Watercolor Society and they have exhibited work in the same shews. The rest of the artist drove to Daytona in another SUV.

At the museum, we all split up and explored the museum on our own until it was time for lunch. I spent the morning examining all the watercolors up close. The Wyeth was a bold image in black and white washes of a pirate on a beach. Andrew was just 13 years old when he did it and his father's influence was strong. Humbling and inspiring work. I was disappointed that only one of his watercolors was on exhibit.The large room with warm yellow walls had perhaps a hundred pieces on exhibit. I was excited to find a painting by Thomas Moran, a Hudson River School artist whose work I admire. The painting was called Solitude, Fort George Island. All the paintings were done in Florida. One of the highest prices paintings was a study of Spanish Moss in Tampa Bay by Winslow Homer done in 1886.

After examining all the watercolors I walked out of the gallery and was immediately confronted by this Volusia County Giant Sloth skeleton. Time to sketch. This 13 foot tall skeleton is the best preserved and most complete fossil of this species in North America. It has been in the Museum of Arts & Sciences for the past 30 years. Chere remembered seeing the Sloth as a child. Children who saw the Sloth for the first time would stop in their tracks shouting out "Whoa!" They would scamper around the base trying to see the beast from every angle while mothers waited patiently. Before lunch, we took a group photo in front of the Sloth.

For lunch, our group went to a Tai Restaurant where I had a fabulous Pad Thai. I was suffering from post holiday starvation and perhaps I had been staring at bones for too long. I was famished. When we returned to the museum we were given a tour of the watercolor exhibit by a docent named Tom Davis. The exhibit showcased work from artists over a 168 year span. 23 women artists were represented and three living artists. Tom was a painter himself and much of the time he outlined the differences between oil painting and watercolor. The obvious difference being that watercolors are painted from light to dark while oils are painted dark to light. I'm not sure he understood he was talking to a room full of artists. I sat in a leather chair in the center of the gallery and spun around following his progress. I had already seen the work up close. He did say something that I have since been experimenting with. He pointed out in one landscape that there were essentially only two colors, red and green. To get darker greens, red washes were applied over the green. I've started applying this principle of applying complimentary color washes over areas to build up darks and it is a quick effective way to build a sketch. There was some amazing work in the exhibit and some work that didn't have strong enough value changes to have a solid punch. Watercolorists have to be fearless because changes can't be made after a wash is applied. I use the medium because I can fit the palette in a pocket and sketch anywhere.

A mother walking with her children dismissed the exhibit saying, "Oh, those are only watercolors."

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: