Hillary Parker says watercolor painting can seem intimidating but is “misunderstood by folks who have never tried it or who have tried it and failed, without an understanding of the basics.”

by Leslie Milby
Photos courtesy of Hillary Parker

Painting at last year’s Waterfowl Festival, naturalist and award-winning watercolor artist Hillary Parker, is returning this year for the festival’s Wine and Watercolor class, “Dogs of Distinction.” Parker said commissioned dog portraits are very popular with both her clients and students.

When most people think of watercolor, it may be hard for them to shake the notion of the kiddie version where it seemed like all you made was colored water flow across your page in a puddle — not a method of making a detailed, full-of-life masterpiece.
But “paint night” events that have popped up at wineries and businesses throughout the area have worked to make even the most un-artisitic feeling participants come away with something worth hanging on a wall.
Talbot County’s Waterfowl Festival is getting in on the act with it’s new “Wine and Watercolor” class offering, watercolors are all grown up while still retaining all of the youthful fun, with a beautiful end-result, even for the most self-acclaimed “unartistic” visitors.
Have you ever watched gymnastics on television and when you stood up felt so inspired to do flips and tricks?
After strolling through the amazing artwork in downtown Easton, many visitors were feeling the same about easing into art, and so this class was created for those who want to learn … with a little liquid courage, if necessary.
Be sure to register for the class that suits and see what else the Waterfowl Festival has to offer at www.waterfowlfestival.org.
Leading the aspiring artists for the class will be Hillary Parker, a naturalist and international award winning botanical watercolor artist.
This is her second year venturing to the area from her current hometown of Coral Gables, Fla., where she paints and teaches from her studio and at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.
Last year, Parker taught the festival’s “Master Class,” and this year she will be leading the Advanced Level course, “Dogs of Distinction,” for budding artists with advanced familiarity with the watercolor medium.
That course, made possible in part by a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council, will be offered Wednesday, Nov. 8 and Thursday, Nov. 9 of Festival week and will help students hone in on the skill and detail of capturing a dog’s “vitality, individual personality, and soul,” as Parker finds commissioned dog portraits to be very popular for both her clients requesting them and students wanting to paint them.
“Watercolors have a reputation for being ‘unforgiving’ and ‘really hard’ because it is a transparent medium. That means that if you make a mistake, you cannot just cover it up by painting over it,” Parker said. “Unfortunately, it is misunderstood by folks who have never tried it or who have tried it and failed, without an understanding of the basics.”
In the relaxed setting, Parker will go over the learning the four variables of watercolors; water, pigment, brush and paper … and of course, there’s wine.
So what will the subject of the masterpiece be? Something you can hang in your home … in the back of the garage?
“I include subject ideas on the table to inspire creativity,” Parker says. “We create watercolor note cards which gives each person multiple opportunities to play and experiment. I tell everyone, ‘If your painting turns out great, tear off the back portion of the card, frame it and hang it on the wall. If it is a beautiful disaster, then write a handwritten note on it and mail it to your mother or your best friend, they will love it.’”