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Barbara Hope enjoyed showing some of her work at a recent exhibition at the Camas Public Library.

Many of us dream of having the time to paint and explore our artistic side when we’re no longer working full-time. It’s part of our desire to keep mental acuity as we age.

Here, we talk to three women who have found the joy of painting watercolor through the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, a nonprofit organization that helps artists boost their skills, share their knowledge and ideas, and reach new audiences with their work.

Marian Neumann

Nearly 20 years ago, Marian Neumann retired as a middle school secretary and took a watercolor painting class at a local community college. She liked the low cost of getting started and the more she learned, the more she liked it.

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Watercolor painting is “very beautiful,” she says. “There’s nothing like seeing the shading, blending and combination of colors. They blend and separate, and that’s what makes it so fun — the discovery and execution.”

Now age 72, Neumann has been a member of the SWWS for about 10 years, through which she’s met other artists, gained advice, ideas and encouragement — and improved her painting.

“It’s a real community of people,” she says.

Neumann paints at home, creating artwork that depicts landscapes, flowers and portraits. One of her favorites is of a grandson, now a music major in college, conducting a band when he was in high school.

“I really enjoy painting family,” she says.

Marilyn Salter

Marilyn Salter was often encouraged by her father to explore her drawing talents, and started as an art major in college. She later switched to home economics and worked for a utility company, but got back into art when her children were in high school.

She took an oil painting class at Clark College, and tried her hand at pastels and acrylics, but found her passion in watercolors. She enjoys painting portraits, animals, plants and flowers. Painting is relaxing, her “get-away time.”

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Being a member of the watercolor society “keeps you in the loop, and painting,” Salter says. “It’s been a very supportive group in terms of challenging me and other artists.”

Barbara Hope

Barbara Hope, president of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, likes the organization’s emphasis on “artists helping artists.” About a year after relocating to the area from her native southern California, Hope got involved with its shows.

Volunteering, she says, is “a good way to meet people and make friends.” She led two community art groups in California before taking on the local role.

Hope, 73, says she’s drawn to such leadership positions because she likes meeting and talking with people, and has a knack for delegating and getting “things done.”

As for watercolor painting? “It’s my passion,” she says. “It has a magic I can’t find anywhere else.”

Hope’s experience with watercolors is a testament to perseverance. She recalls being drawn to watercolor paintings at museums, but was discouraged when she tried it on her own. “I thought, ‘This isn’t for me,’ and I put it away. I had no help.”

Several years later, she took a watercolor class with a friend and was surprised and encouraged by the experience.

She painted a landscape scene, and was happy with the results. “I came out of (the class) with something I thought was decent,” Hope says. “I was pleased. I pursued it and wanted to do it more.”

Like many artists, Hope tends to be highly critical of her own work. But, “I learned to forgive myself and my shortcomings.”

Today, she finds watercolor painting therapeutic.

“I really love it,” Hope says. “You get an idea, you start to put it down, you step away from it and say, ‘I kind of like that.’ You keep developing it until you’re done. Sometimes it’s frustrating, then I come back and say, ‘I can fix that and make it better.’” ☸

Of note

The Southwest Washington Watercolor Society offers two types of membership, including associate levels, open to all artists 18 and older. To become a juried member, associate members must have their artwork judged by a five-person committee.


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