On Saturday afternoon, I drove an hour east (Wade insists I drove south) to the McNaught Homestead, a historical site just outside of Beaverlodge, Alberta, to paint with members of the Peace Watercolour Society and to present my portfolio to them as a potential new member. The Peace Watercolour Society is made up of members from the Peace region of British Columbia and Alberta, among others Suzanne Sandboe, Dale Syrota and Robert Guest.

Euphemia McNaught (1902-2002) was more than an early settler in the region; she also contributed greatly to the arts community in the west. She studied art with the Group of Seven and founded more than one Alberta art society. She was also an active member of the Peace Watercolour Society.

I had never been out to the Homestead, and while waiting for other members to arrive, wandered the grounds. Rhubarb grows in profusion in the old garden site (really, how much rhubarb can one family use?) and a fifty-year-old apple tree (plum? cherry? we debated.) bloomed flamboyantly alongside. Wade would have remarked on on the lovingly maintained barn and the massive pump rusting in the pump house.

I hadn’t planned to stay long, but the meeting portion of the afternoon was delayed, so I borrowed a travel palette, two brushes and a sheet of Arches from member Judy Brown and parked myself under the apple tree. I rarely paint outdoors and the few times I have, I’ve found that wind and sunlight can affect reaction and drying times considerably. Knowing this, I didn’t worry about the results and just set out splashing paint and water about, trying to capture the colour and life of the branches above. And I was pleasantly surprised with the finished sketch, especially considering I was using an unfamiliar palette. Note to self: buy green gold watercolor paint!

“Apple Blossoms” watercolour, 9″ x 12″

One thing I didn’t realize I was missing was the company of fellow watercolourists. We talked framing, paint, brushes and technique, and it was so hydrating. When my portfolio was reviewed, I received some very encouraging feedback (it helped that I was all too willing to point out perceived weaknesses in my own paintings for them to agree or sometimes disagree) and I especially appreciated the remarks of Marjorie Henn, one of my watercolor heroes.

The final outcome of the meeting is that I’ll be exhibiting with the Peace Watercolour Society as a guest artist at their show this fall. Following that, the members hold a vote to accept me as a member. I’m excited about the prospect; I’ve wanted to join the PWS for many years and am glad the time is finally right to do so. I’m really pleased with the direction my paintings are taking, and the number of exhibition opportunities I can be part of this year.