Painting while dogsitting

Two small dogs next to a small watercolor illustration by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Attentive Frank and Bella, with painting for scale

Earlier this summer I spent some time dogsitting with my daughter’s beloved dogs Frank and Bella (both females), shown at right; then more recently with another daughter’s dog Olive, shown below.

Olive is very affectionate and used to sitting on her owner’s lap. After playing ball with her I wanted to paint, so I pulled up a chair next to me and she laid her head on my lap with an occasional lick on my brushes and paint container. It is just like kids in the studio, better to let them be involved!

A small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog sits on a chair in front of a watercolor workstation

Olive (at bottom right of the photo)
at the work station

A small dog inspects a watercolor illustration by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Inspecting the results

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Wrapping up summer at Shalom

Multiple left and right footprints in purple and green paint respectively on a large sheet of white paper

What are the stories your feet can tell you?
Where have they been?

Watercolor painting of a chicken in the background with many colorfully painted leaves in the foreground by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Anticipating a colorful future for the leaves

To round out the Watercolor Playgroup series with our August session, we started by making prints of our feet using washable tempera paint in flat pans. Lots of giggles doing this, but so fun! While the footprints were drying we painted the ever-popular chicken, and drew around leaves and painted them with lots of color getting ready for fall.

As we gazed at our dried footprints, considering the lines and impressions in our feet that have carried us for so long, we began to find shapes and symbols, like seeing animals in the clouds. Class members imagined landscapes where they could add trees and people. We cut out our “feet” and added a little paint and markers and made cards. One participant sent her footprint to her beloved with the words, “I will follow you anywhere.”

For an artist or anyone, it’s powerful to try learning to see beyond the obvious. We can use many methods to look at things in new ways and strive to “see as God sees.” I enjoyed working, playing, and meeting with people at these summer sessions and look forward to returning to Shalom Spirituality Center, possibly for a two-day retreat next spring (check out their Newsletters page for upcoming events!).

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Scenes at Shalom

Exterior photo of buildings and shaded lawn at Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque, Iowa with watercolor painting of detail of the scene by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Using a viewfinder (white paper with rectangle cut
out) to select an area of focus from the larger photo

For our July Watercolor Playgroup at Shalom Spirituality Center, I took photos of the grounds outside, then using a viewfinder found a part that spoke to me rather than painting the whole yard. We painted the closeup area and added some chickens. The class wanted to paint larger chickens as one participant had chickens at home. In the painting at left below, we were outside celebrating and saw our shadows and it was joyful!

Watercolor painting of person with arms outstretched to play with making shadow by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Painting shadows is grounding and revealing

Sketch and watercolor painting of a chicken by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Always a favorite subject

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Watercolor playgroup

Members of a watercolor workshop at a table with watercolor supplies

Using our viewfinders to choose an area of focus

On June 26 I was at Shalom Spirituality Center in Dubuque, facilitating the first session of Watercolor Playgroup, a plein air retreat. Unfortunately for the “plein air” plans, it rained all afternoon, so we took our artmaking inside. We worked from photos and used viewfinders to focus on an area of a scene that spoke to us. I demonstrated technique in drawing and watercolor using a workbook emphasizing shadows which I developed for the class.

Photo of spring flowers in a vase with stark shadow behind, and a watercolor painting of the same scene by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Shadows are grounding in a drawing or painting.
On a rainy day I used a flashlight to get a distinct
shadow for this example for the workbook.

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Ready to get outdoors

Watercolor painting of a narrow street in the village of Saint-Victor-des-Oules, France by artist Jo Myers-Walker

A street scene from Saint-Victor-des-Oules in southern France,
painted for an earlier “staycation”-themed Zoom class.
At right, detail of the plein-air painters in the scene.

In the Spring an artist’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … plein air painting!* Online watercolor classes were a great way to escape the winter climate; as the weather grew nicer, my students and I were growing impatient to get outdoors. Zoom classes are on hiatus for now while I venture on to some other projects.

Pictured:  In Saint-Victor-des-Oules, France, some fellow artists and I walked up the road into town from our lodging on the outskirts and tucked ourselves into a little driveway to paint — the cars come up fast on these narrow streets! A beautiful part of travel is the “mindful moments,” being able to sit and absorb the wonderful smells of food and flowers and the sounds of people speaking French, paying attention and enjoying the senses and feeling “really there.” This scene brings to mind the scent of beef bourguignon floating to us through an open window.

* (with apologies to the source of the quote)

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April classes: Painting Monet’s gardens

Watercolor painting of Monet's garden at Giverny by artist Jo Myers-Walker, showing lily pond and trees in autumn color

The beauty of Monet’s gardens at Giverny resulted
from careful planning and a lot of work, both
originally and to restore them in modern times

For my Zoom watercolor classes in April we are painting Monet’s gardens, focusing on water, trees and flowers. We work from a photo, a value sketch, and a color palette before we start painting. See the Classes and Events page for more information, and send me an email ( if you’d like to join us!

Pictured: My traveling companions and I were at the gardens at Giverny in an October, just when the trees were turning. The still water reflections were stunning amongst the water lilies. Everything in the gardens was planned, from the times that different plants and trees would be in bloom, to the reflections in the water.

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Creating with Heidi

Hen and Chicks Studio logo

Hen & Chicks logo
(click image to visit website)

On Wednesday I had an enjoyable phone call with friend Heidi Kaisand, owner of Hen & Chicks Studio in Conrad, Iowa, for her show “Create With Heidi.” The show is broadcast each week on KFJB radio, AM 1230 in Marshalltown, and available from the podcast page of the Hen & Chicks website. The episode with my interview is titled “Passion for Painting.” Heidi and I talked about how we met, how I came to paint the doors that serve as room dividers in her retreat space “The Nest,” and about the experience of flow in the creative process.

To quote the website, “Hen & Chicks Studio is Conrad, Iowa’s premiere destination for quilting and scrap booking inspiration!” In addition to shopping for supplies, you can listen to the show each week for a bit of creative encouragement, catch up on past interviews, find many more events and ideas on the Hen & Chicks website, and check out Heidi’s videos on her social media pages.

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New class dates for March

Sketch and painting of medieval castle in Lussan in southern France by artist Jo Myers-Walker

The Château de Lussan is a medieval fortified castle, still in use today (pictured with another
classic, the Citroën). We used masking fluid on the birds so we could paint the clouds.

I’ve added March class dates to the Classes and Events page — send me an email ( if you’d like to join us! We’ll continue our “staycation” theme — above, I just could not resist adding birds to this view of the Château de Lussan in southern France (link is to Google translation of French Wikipedia page).

My classes have found that two hours goes by in a hurry! I’ve started a system of using the same subject two weeks in a row, with different warmup exercises each week, so class members can more easily complete a painting without feeling rushed. Those comfortable with finishing a painting more quickly can branch out with their own subjects.

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Visiting Lussan via watercolor

Sketch and watercolor painting by artist Jo Myers-Walker of a figure feeding birds beside an intricately patterned doorway in Lussan France

Feeding the birds in Lussan, a village in
the department of Gard in southern France

Colors labelled in preparation for watercolor painting

Warming up with our color palette

Both of these scenes are from the restored medieval town of Lussan in southern France.

Above:  I was fascinated with the door grillwork. These magnificent doorways were very old and imposing.

Below:  La Petite Auberge de Lussan is a small inn and restaurant, or B & B. The tall obelisk in the front is a type that’s on many street corners commemorating a saint or prominent townsperson. I came upon this inn while wandering around the area. Some of those wanderings gave me the best subject matter.

February’s Zoom watercolor classes continue our “staycation” theme, where we’re going abroad for our painting subjects on Friday afternoons (2 p.m.–4 p.m. CST) and Saturday mornings (10 a.m.–12 noon CST). See the Classes and Events page for details, and send me an email ( if you’d like to join us!

Pencil sketch of the inn La Petite Auberge de Lussan by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Sketch on perspective

Watercolor painting of the inn La Petite Auberge de Lussan by artist Jo Myers-Walker

La Petite Auberge de Lussan

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Current events

Ocean Drive, watercolor painting of South Beach street scene by artist Jo Myers-Walker

(Click image to visit IWS Members Show)

  • The Iowa Watercolor Society’s online Members Show includes one of my South Beach-inspired paintings. Take a virtual stroll through a variety of works by artists throughout the state!
  • February’s Zoom watercolor classes continue our “staycation” theme, and we’re going abroad for our painting subjects! We’re starting a new schedule with 2-hour classes on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Details are on the Classes and Events page; send me an email ( if you’d like to join us for any or all of the sessions.
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