When Kathy Barton was about 11 years old, she said she read her favorite comic books on a convent terrace in Ferdinand, Indiana.
One day, Barton said a group of nuns came out with their sketchbooks to fill in their drawings with watercolor. She could not help but watch. They showed her how to work with the thin, swirling colors, and she instantly fell in love.
Barton said she went home and started practicing on her own. She painted throughout high school but put it on hold for her family and career. Now in retirement, she finally has time to return to her craft — watercolor landscapes.
Barton teamed up with three other artists in Bloomington to create Flowing Colors Studio, where the artists could work on their paintings in a public space.
The studio opened in November for the founders, local artists Barton, Patricia C. Coleman, Joanne Shank and Don Geyra. They are the only artists to practice and display in the space.
Their studios were previously in their homes, where they could not easily show people what they were working on. Now they are able to open their studio up to show off and sell their works.
“People are still getting to know that we’re there,” Shank said. “I want people to get to see a variety of work from the four of us on display.”
The studio is closed Sunday through Wednesday for the four artists to work but is open to the public every Thursday through Saturday. This Friday, the studio will extend its hours to accommodate the First Friday crowds and will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. The studio will also be open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Shank said she has been painting for most of her life and specializes in Chinese brush painting. She recently has started to move into watercolors and focuses on local birds and vegetation.
“Nature is endlessly inspiring,” Shank said. “I love the different seasons and colors. Everything is always changing and vibrant.”
Not only does the group create watercolor and Chinese brush paintings, but it incorporates other types of work by Shank, Barton, Coleman and Geyra as well.
The studio has small, handcrafted books or journals, acrylic paintings, folded origami with watercolor paintings on them, and oil paintings. The items are for sale at a range of prices depending on size, media and content.
In addition to the open studio, people can arrange to have an appointment with one of the artists if they want to further discuss their work or arrange to purchase a piece.
During the open studio hours, Barton said the four members are hoping someone will be demonstrating oil, watercolor or acrylic painting for crowds to observe their process.
Barton said she knows people find watercolor hard and frustrating but hopes to show people how the medium really works.
She meets with a group every week to go to different locations to paint. They can visit anywhere from a farm or someone’s garden and find inspiration for scenes. Her favorite is the T.C. Steele Historic Site in Brown County because she has found the most inspiration there.
“When I sit down with my watercolors and brush, things just kind of flow for me,” Barton said.
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