Return to the country retreat

Artists at a workshop near Nevada, Iowa, looking for subjects in nature to paint

From the workshop in May, looking for what to paint
(Photo on the left courtesy of Mary M. de Baca)

Sketchbook on table with view of farm home's yard through a window

View from the Coverdales’ window

During our workshops at the “Coverdale Art Institute” Mike says he hears a lot of laughter as people are relaxed and following along. We begin looking at the yard with a view finder, noticing the light on trees and flowers, birds etc. This is the meditation part to bring us into the moment of the Coverdales’ beautiful yard and letting go of our daily lives.

We start painting with a sampler of the techniques we will be using for the day, usually involving chickens to show color mixing on the paper, then trees with foliage, lifting out fences, tree limbs, finding the big shapes in the flower garden and individual flower techniques. The artists go home with a painting they are proud of.

(Photos are from the May and July workshops.)

Watercolor techniques demonstrated in sketchbook

A sampler of watercolor techniques

Watercolor painting of yard in the countryside by Jo Myers-Walker

A painting of our surroundings

Artists at work around a table during watercolor workshops near Nevada, Iowa

Around the table in May (left) and July (right)
(Photos courtesy of Mike Coverdale)

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Following the shade

Sketching on the ped mall in Iowa City, July 2017

Sketching on the ped mall in July weather, we kept moving back into the shade ’til
it just got too hot and we stopped into Heirloom/Java House for lunch and sharing.
(Photo on the right courtesy of Mary Maxson)

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Another window view

Watercolor street scene of downtown Iowa City seen from above by Jo Myers-Walker

(Left)  Window view with Chauncey building construction
(Right)  Detail:  My imagined rooftop café will have a great view of the park

Another window view, painted when I was supposed to rest the knees. I am watching the construction of the Chauncey building which will be next to the parking ramp shown on the left. Staging for the construction has taken over Chauncey Swan Park, the closest part of the area next to the ramp. It will be redeveloped as a park space when the building is done.

The scene is very active as the brick building shown on the right has been a French café, dance studio, Realtor office, piano studio, and now houses the Community Foundation of Johnson County among other offices. For this painting I invented a rooftop café, then found out there have been two different cafés on the second floor, so I wasn’t too far off! The roof just seemed liked wasted space. When the redeveloped park is finished across the street, a movie screen may be put up on the side of the parking ramp, so I thought what a great way to sip wine and watch a movie.

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Plein air in June

Fellow path pedestrians watch Jo Myers-Walker sketching in Iowa City

On location with my walker

Artists sketching en plein air along Iowa City path

Artists sketching along the path

A group of us got together to sketch en plein air in Iowa City, following along a walking/biking path through the east side area. We could see from the path into the back yards as neighbors were gardening. I gave the others a viewfinder with these directions:

“Sketching” is a grace filled moment, a time to see the natural world that surrounds us. We see the birds, the plants, and even the stones as they come alive to tell stories and memories, reminding us who we are and what we value. Note everything is not perfect; there is a crack in everything, and that is how the light gets in* to illuminate the beauty. This is how we learn to truly see and be in the moment, letting the daily care be set aside for a bit.

My knees have been affecting my mobility so I am using my walker as a sketching surface. It is great as I can wheel around carrying sketchbook, a little paint, brush, and water in the seat and then stop wherever to draw/paint.

* (From lyrics by Leonard Cohen, and an earlier quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Plein air drawing and painting in Iowa City

My walker as easel

Watercolor sketchbook and written reflections

Sketchbook and thoughts on plein air

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Window on the world

Detail of watercolor Iowa City street scene by Jo Myers-Walker

Detail with “bird man” on the
sidewalk in white coat

When I’m at home I do my morning meditation at the window. It is so peaceful and a great way to get in touch with nature from the 11th floor, where I see the snow, rain and birds, helicopters, planes, people working on the rooftops or entertaining, students walking/ talking/ arguing.

This past winter I often saw the “bird man” who came out in a white coat and whistled for the birds who flew down for their feeding. I painted him and the birds into this view of the city from my window.

Photo and watercolor of street in Iowa City seen from above, by Jo Myers-Walker

Window view, in photo and watercolor

Posted in Studio Snapshots

The “Coverdale Art Institute”

Artists painting at a watercolor workshop facilitated by Jo Myers-Walker

Painting with the group  (photos courtesy of Mike Coverdale)

These photos are from our retreat at the Coverdales’ farm home earlier this month. The “Coverdale Art Institute” all started with Mike giving Judy a Christmas present of painting with me for a day. Their home was a retreat for me out in the country, and we had such a fun time we decided to try it as a location for workshops.

Artists at a watercolor workshop show their work

Students worked from my painting “Summer,” shown at bottom right  (photos courtesy of Mike Coverdale)

This workshop started by painting watercolor techniques on a pop-up card, something to remind the painter of the lessons taught. St. Francis came along with us and became a swish of paint in many colors to demonstrate value, keeping it simple. Then we were ready to paint from one of my paintings (“Summer”) and I showed them how to start with a loose and juicy background and coming forward with the farm house and more detail. By then we were laughing about the farmers and chickens, having fun.

Artist showing watercolor painting of trees; a tree's shape suggests a dragon

Left:  Painting from nature  (photo courtesy of Mike Coverdale)
Right:  We saw a dragon in the shape of this tree  (photo courtesy of Bonnie Dix)

One of the artists painted some trees from looking out the window, so we all decided to get up and go outside to study subjects to paint in May when the buds will be on the trees with the far-away farm up the hill.

Followup:  We had such a positive response that we had two more retreat days, one in May and one in July. Many thanks to everyone who participated!

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Scenes around the city

Street scene in front of Prairie Lights Books in Iowa City, watercolor painting by Jo Myers-Walker

I painted this for the couple on the left,
shown walking to one of their favorite places,
Prairie Lights Books.

Watercolor painting of skywalk on Dubuque Street in Iowa City by artist Jo Myers-Walker

I walk by this skywalk all the time on the way to church; there is always a student in there studying.
(”Skywalk on Dubuque Street,” 22″ h x 30″ w)

Cute little dog next to shower curtain digitally printed with watercolor street scene by Jo Myers-Walker

My daughter’s dog Bella, with their shower curtain showing a Linn Street scene.

Watercolor painting of the Johnson County Courthouse in Iowa City, Iowa, by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Johnson County (Iowa) Courthouse in Iowa City, commissioned for a retirement gift.

Posted in Studio Snapshots

Our Lady of the Prairie

Evening view from Our Lady of the Prairie retreat house

Evening view from Our Lady of the
Prairie retreat house

Watercolor journal and paintings inspired by nature

Artwork from Our Lady of the Prairie workshop, Sister Moon and Brother Sun focusing on care of the earth

I traveled to Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat near Wheatland, Iowa to facilitate a workshop on Contemplative Prayer in Watercolor, as part of a Winter Sabbatical for Religious Sisters. It was a restful day of painting and writing in our journals using contemplative creative images. We took the risk to be vulnerable to the challenge of not knowing what to do next, just seeing what God sees. We had the humility to be an instrument of God’s design and it freed the Spirit of Creation to move through our humanity. It is called the “flow” and we discover glimpses of who God is in the freedom of the unburdened watercolors of goodness, truth and beauty. The Sisters were on Sabbatical from the United States, Canada and Australia.

Our Lady of the Prairie Retreat is a ministry of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary and is located in rural east central Iowa on a 200-acre native grass prairie woodland along the Wapsipinicon River.” Its grounds include trails and a labyrinth for walking meditation.

Posted in Studio Snapshots, Travelogue

Retreat day out in the country

Judy Coverdale and Jo Myers-Walker with their watercolor paintings at the Coverdales' farm home

(Photo courtesy of Mike Coverdale)

When I was in central Iowa recently, I was seeing my daughter’s family but also teaching at the farm home of Judy and Mike Coverdale. Judy and I spent two days painting and we came up with the idea to offer watercolor retreats at their home near Nevada, Iowa.

The Coverdales have a beautiful setting to paint, out in the country with a creek, trees and gardens. We can focus a bit on drawing and composition and move into painting. Bring along your ideas and photos and we will help you paint them.

Followup:  We had such a positive response that we had retreat days in March, May, and July. Many thanks to everyone who participated!

Posted in Studio Snapshots, Travelogue, Upcoming Events

Eastside art

Artist Jo Myers-Walker with shower curtain digitally printed with her watercolor art

Demonstrating the shower
curtain in action

Artist Jo Myers-Walker with slumped-acrylic sculpture of a shoe

With a shoe sculpture

I continue to meet more of the arts community in Iowa City as it is thriving here. In December I was pleased with the turnout at the Eastside Artists Annual Show and Sale (shown above). Besides my shower curtains and pillows, I had some slumped-acrylic sculptures and wrapped horses — I wanted to use up my supplies and had been meaning to do these little projects for the show. Would you believe I have saved these small plastic horses for 25 years, only to still be inspired to cover them with bright fabric and fine wire and wear them on my coat.

Slumped-acrylic sculpture of chicken and fabric-wrapped horse figure by Jo Myers-Walker

Colorful chicken and fancy wrapped horse

Plastic toy horses with one fabric-wrapped horse figure by Jo Myers-Walker

The rest of the horses are raring to go

Posted in Studio Snapshots