Welcoming autumn in Amana

Bottle of 2020 Oktoberfest white wine from Ackerman Winery in front of sketch for the label art by Jo Myers-Walker

Ackerman Winery’s 2020 Oktoberfest
in front of a sketch for the label artwork

I had the honor of painting the label artwork for this year’s Oktoberfest wine from Ackerman Winery in Amana, Iowa. The winery, in business since 1956, is known for their sweet fruit wines and adventurous varieties. They describe 2020’s Oktoberfest as, “This white wine is light and sweet with a delicate honey glazed fruit finish. It has a slight warmth to it that is reminiscent of fall.”

The label celebrates the much-anticipated opening of Hotel Millwright in Amana this fall, which was built by restoring and remodeling some unused buildings of the Amana Woolen Mill (this 2018 article on KCRG.com has a nice summary of its background). To research the painting I got to go on location to the construction site for Hotel Millwright. I had to do some explaining about what I was doing there, then the architect gave me a tour of the historic building in the photo below. It will be an events center and beautifully appointed, keeping the feel of the mill.

The smokestack says a lot about the mill, so I started there. With feedback from my clients at the winery we developed the idea through sketch and watercolor study to the final painting. They envisioned pumpkins and cornstalks with the smokestack on the label for an Oktoberfest feeling.

Site of the Millwright Hotel in Amana, Iowa during construction

The hotel under construction
during my visit this past spring

Label on Ackerman Winery's 2020 Oktoberfest wine with artwork by Jo Myers-Walker

Imagination provides people and
scenery for the finished label

(See my new Commissions page for more about the process of creating commissioned artwork.)

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Garden scene for Zoom class

Photo of a backyard garden in summer with flowers and patio chairs

Working photo

Update:  Check out the Classes and Events page for updated class times and prices!

I’ve been working on the sketch, first wash, and second wash of this backyard garden scene for my Zoom watercolor class. I send the images to the students in advance so they can copy the sketch and prepare to paint along with me.

Send me an email (jomyerswalker@gmail.com) if you’d like to join us for a future class!

Sketch of a backyard garden scene

A sketch helps plan the painting

Partially completed watercolor painting of a backyard garden scene

First wash, with masking fluid (in orange)
preserving lighter areas

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Watercolor classes via Zoom

Update:  Check out the Classes and Events page for updated class times and prices!

Previous post: 
I’m staying connected with students by offering watercolor classes online using Zoom! They are happening on a weekly basis; the day varies. I send out a black-and-white sketch, first and second wash before class. Then students can copy the sketch onto their 140 lb. watercolor paper and paint along with me. Students email me and I send them the link, along with where to pay.

Send me a note if you’d like to join us online (jomyerswalker@gmail.com)!

Progression of a watercolor painting of sailboats on a lake by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Clockwise from top left:
Sketch, value study (inset),
first wash, third wash

Progression of a watercolor painting of waterside deck with chairs and table by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Clockwise from top left:
Sketch, value study (inset),
first wash, painting

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Art on the square

Poster for Imagination Unbinds Hope exhibit of watercolor paintings by Jo Myers-Walker at Art Domestique, Washington, IA

Poster for the exhibit
(click image to view larger)

Art Domestique, “the gallery on the square” in Washington, Iowa, is featuring my watercolor paintings in the show Imagination Unbinds Hope (“colorful narratives to lift your spirits”!) through July 29, 2020. (Update: this exhibit has now ended. “Thank you” to Art Domestique for featuring my work!)

Art Domestique is “a fine art gallery that emphasizes artists from Southeast Iowa” — check out their website and social media to see what they have to offer:

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Adaptive cycling

Yellow three-wheeled bicycle with bright orange flag

One of the transportation
modes at my daughter’s

Last summer my family pitched in to help me get a new ride, a yellow trike with two big wheels in back and a basket with plenty of room for art supplies. This summer it’s residing at my daughter’s nearby, where my grandsons can unlock and bring it out to the curb for me while we all wear our face masks. So fun to tool around the cul-de-sac and watch people working in their gardens or the grandsons playing basketball. What a treat while self distancing!

The three wheels give me confidence that I won’t fall over into the bushes if my knees don’t cooperate. One of the cards in my “Family and Friends” collection features two more kinds of adaptive cycle. Tandem cycles make it easier for people with different strengths to ride together. With a side-by-side tandem, they can have a conversation as they ride along the bike path.

Looking west along Iowa Ave. in downtown Iowa City past the handlebards of a three-wheeled cycle

From last summer, finally
making it up the hill downtown

Watercolor painting by artist Jo Myers-Walker showing two styles of tandem bicycle ridden along a bike trail

See the post Card to help fight ALS
for information on this card collection

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Watercolor process demo

Check out my painting demonstration on YouTube! I recorded myself working at home, and media consultant Devin Walker (my son) gave me technical advice and edited the video into its final form. As I’m painting I describe the process of creating a commissioned work of art, how I work with a client to turn their photos and memories into watercolor.

  • Update:  See my Commissions page for more about the process of creating commissioned artwork.

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Safe at home

Marisa, handmade paper sculpture of a young woman by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Marisa self quarantined
but happy to watch me paint

Marisa is home safely from Muscatine and sheltering in place, where she can watch me paint (and I can talk to her!).

She had been part of the “Hard Won, Not Done” exhibit at the Muscatine Art Center, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

With art centers and galleries closed for safety, many of them are coming up with fun things to do on their web pages and social media accounts, and creative ways to have events online. (Marisa may show up in some future teaching videos!)

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Surviving creatively

Face masks made from colorfully patterned fabric alongside sewing machine

Sewing face masks

Artist Jo Myers-Walker wearing a homemade fabric face mask

Staying safe while painting

I like making things, something to keep my hands busy at night while watching Netflix. Living alone I miss human contact in these social-distancing days, so making face masks was a way to connect with people from a safe distance. Giving them to people in my building made me feel good, like I was saying “I care about you.” I could use up pretty colors of fabric I had on hand, but elastic is not so easy to find, with many in Iowa City making masks. I had to have another sewer smuggle in elastic to me, keeping six feet away while I wore my mask, like a contraband transaction.

I am staying in except for walking outside a bit, just the skateboarders and me on the empty streets. I’ve attended virtual Mass, watching the Sisters with their amazing voices sing, and keep in touch with family through a phone app. The people in the paintings I’m working on are becoming my imaginary friends.

On Easter Sunday my grandmother clock started chiming in to keep me company — she hadn’t chimed the hours since my move to Iowa City! The sound brought back memories of a favorite ISU study room with a wonderful clock in it.

Empty streets in Iowa City viewed from above

Empty streets and sidewalks
except for skateboarders

Grandmother clock in the studio of artist Jo Myers-Walker

Easter chimes and my resourceful T-square used for a TV antenna

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A sketchy start

Sketches for a painting of family members at a Florida dock by artist Jo Myers-Walker

Arranging the characters to tell the story

By the time a painting is finished, I’ve done a scene three times. I start with a sketch, moving and overlapping shapes using tracing paper to plan the composition. Here I’m experimenting with the arrangement and gestures of a family at a dock in Florida, and perspective for the boats on the water.

See my Commissions page for more of the story!

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Radio interview

Logo for KHOI community radio, 89.1 FM in central Iowa

KHOI logo
(click image to
visit their website)

Update:  I was honored to be interviewed by Carole Horowitz for a segment of her radio show “KHOI Previews the Arts” on Thursday, April 16.

KHOI FM is a community radio station where I volunteered in my Ames/Gilbert days, which produces a variety of locally-produced programs. Some central Iowans can listen on the air at 89.1 FM (map of broadcast signal area), and everyone can listen to its shows (including Carole’s!) online from KHOI’s web streaming and podcast page.

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