Learning Watercolors from Helen Dealtry
In recent weeks, I had the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the world of watercolor artistry at the Abstract Flower Watercolor Workshop with the highly esteemed artist Helen Dealtry. Hosted at her studio in the picturesque town of Hudson, New York, the workshop proved to be a transformative journey into the realm of fluidity, expression, and the nuanced art of watercolor florals.
Discovering the Artist, Helen Dealtry
Before I even knew Helen by name, her captivating watercolor florals had already woven their way into my aesthetic consciousness. Hailing from the U.K. and now firmly rooted in the artistic landscape of the Hudson Valley, Helen is renowned for her fluid watercolor florals that adorn surfaces in the realms of both home decor and fashion. I stumbled upon Helen Dealtry’s Instagram profile in 2017, and was captivated by her confidence. The decision to attend her workshop became inevitable when I realized she lives under an hour away from me.
Navigating Artistic Influence
Learning from an artist with such a distinctive and strong style often poses a delicate balance for an aspiring artist. There’s a natural inclination to emulate the mentor’s work, yet the ultimate goal is to infuse one’s own identity each piece. The workshop became a deliberate step in this journey of self-discovery and artistic evolution with an experienced guide.
The workshop provided valuable insights into negative space, layering, and creating depth through opacity—lessons I could adapt to my loose and playful style. The small class size, with around 11 participants, allowed for a more personalized experience. Helen’s demonstration spanned about four hours, providing ample time for experimentation.
Helen’s choice of techniques, demonstrated in four distinct stages, served as a comprehensive guide for participants:
- Brushstrokes: A detailed breakdown of Helen’s frequently used brushstrokes, predominantly employing a 1” filbert brush provided to each participant.
- Wet into Wet Technique: Starting softly on wet paper, the technique evolved into more defined brushstrokes as the painting dried.
- Wet onto Dry Technique: Beginning with a light sketch, participants outlined compositions and dark value areas using dirty water.
- Large Floral Piece: A departure from the usual small and tight paintings, this exercise encouraged participants to break out of their comfort zones.
Embracing a Fluid Process
A recurring theme throughout the workshop was Helen’s encouragement to engage the entire body in the painting process. From observing reference flowers to translating them onto the canvas, the emphasis was on fostering a fluid, intuitive approach. Participants were urged not to become overly fixated on achieving a predetermined look. Instead, Helen encouraged us to embrace the evolving nature of the creative process.
Active Engagement and Feedback
Helen’s active involvement in the painting process was a standout feature of the workshop. She traversed the room, offering insights, answering questions, and providing constructive feedback. Complementing her presence was a dedicated studio assistant, adding an extra layer of support and guidance.
The Art of Reserving Whites
A pivotal takeaway from observing Helen’s own work was the art of reserving whites in watercolor. Helen often leaves parts of the flower unfinished or just paints behind the flower to define it. As a result, the negative space enhances the overall composition and structure of the floral arrangements. This nuanced technique, which I started incorporating into my work, introduced a newfound sense of spaciousness and depth.
Reflecting on the Investment
While the ticket price for the workshop was steep (at the time of this writing it was $400 and has since gone up to $450), the experience proved to be a worthwhile investment in both my artistic business and established creative practice. All necessary materials were generously provided, and participants were treated to light refreshments. As a thoughtful gesture, everyone received flowers and a thank-you card from Helen’s recent collaboration with Heartland Brooklyn.
In summary, the Abstract Flower Watercolor Workshop with Helen Dealtry transcended the realms of a typical artistic training session. It was a transformative exploration of my individual style. Helen was a great guide into the intricacies of watercolor techniques. I enjoyed the collaborative experience with a diverse group of fellow artists. If you can make the investment, in time and money, this could leavie an indelible mark on your artistic journey. Grateful for the artist, Helen Dealtry, for opening her studio to us and her teachings.
Applying Her Teaching To My Work
Afterward, I was eager to get the paints out. Here is a process video of a piece I did directly after the workshop. You can see how I was inspired to work at a larger scale and with fluidity.