20 Great Watercolor Teachers Offer Their Best Recommendations

Mary Alice Braukman
is an adventurer in the visual arts who shares her sense of exploration and discovery with everyone who views her work.  Her persistent pursuit of a path in the art world has led the artist to set goals that have been successfully accomplished throughout her career, the attainment of each goal opening new opportunities in diverse directions.  As an artist, teacher, juror, collector, and workshop administrator, Braukman smiles, accepts responsibility, and races ahead to even more creative' ventures at each new challenge.

Self-confidence and stubbornness have characterized the artist from childhood.  As a young girl, she refused to go to Sunday school because her teacher insisted that she color inside the lines.  Instead, every Sunday morning, she got dressed up, gathered all her materials, and conducted Sunday school on her porch with her grandmother, who allowed her to color any way she chose.  The budding artist's parents encouraged their young daughter to set her mind to a goal and achieve it, and throughout her journey, she has followed her inner need to paint.

The creative concepts Braukman established early in her career remain important underlying motivators of her current work.  The imagery itself has developed and expanded, but the inspirational source remains constant.  "My first love is realism," she states.  Her early paintings were of the waves and palm trees she saw daily from her studio in Florida .  As she worked on this subject matter, it became increasingly important to her to be able to describe the wind moving the palms and the motion of the waves.  This search for techniques to add more kinetic energy, depth, and substance to her work led Braukman to reach beyond the photographic image.  Although an inherently representational approach continues to dominate her work today, the viewer is treated to both the sensory impact of color and shape and the visual sensation of a blast of wind or the swell of a splashing wave.

Her stated search for depth initially led to a layering technique, a complex buildup of transparent and translucent surfaces that allowed the viewer to reach into the image visually, to go beyond the surface and see the effects of wind or waves.  In her current work, the artist has expanded this same search for depth to include her growing interest in manipulating surfaces in such a way that the image becomes three-dimensional.  The depth for which Braukman has consistently searched is now compounded to include not only surface imagery built in layers, but also a new spatial expansion into a sculptural relief.  These paintings are frozen into a form that exudes a sense of energy and motion.

Braukman has won numerous awards for her innovative paintings, and many of her artworks have been chosen for traveling exhibitions.  In addition, the artist's paintings hang in a number of private and corporate collections and have appeared in a wide variety of art books and magazine.

Because she is an explorer of new paths in art, she experiments with many recently developed art products that suppliers regularly ask her to evaluate.  These materials continually open up new avenues for her to explore, while her personal pursuit of expression remains rooted in her own artistic philosophy.  As Braukman integrates new products into her own painting, she also encourages her workshop students to experiment with innovative materials.  Several suppliers support her workshops by providing her students with materials: papers from St. Cuthberts Mill, Waterford Saunders, Crescent, M. Graham paints; acrylics supplied by Golden; and other pigments from Daler~Rowney.

Braukman's career as an art teacher began upon her graduation from Florida State University in Tallahassee with a B.S. degree in art education and fine art.  When she started teaching art at the high school from which she had graduated, the entire football team signed up to take her class--a challenge for any beginning teacher, but one that Braukman readily accepted.  She introduced the young men to working with clay and turned them into potters who were delighted to sell their creations at the school art fair.  After several years at the school, Braukman enrolled at the University of Colorado in Boulder to renew her teaching certificate and then became a consultant for the Cherry Creek School District in Denver , where she developed an art program. She also conducted workshops for elementary teachers and taught an advanced art class at Cherry Creek High School.  Then, in the midst of all this activity, she met Ernie Braukman, a young radiology resident, and in 1962, they were married.  Ernie completed his residency and accepted a position in Pueblo , Colorado ; she carried on her pursuit of realistic painting in oils and watercolor, studying privately with several instructors while continuing her studies at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo.

After her first child, Howard, was born in 1967, and Stacy, her daughter, arrived in 1968, the artist put her career on hold for several years.  But when the family moved to Florida in 1972, Braukman's determination to succeed as an artist resurfaced.  Her husband suggested that rather than returning to teaching, she should accept his offer of 900 seed money and try to make her art pay -- another challenge that she readily accepted.  She began creating stationery and mini-paintings featuring seabirds and seashells, which Disney bought for its gift shops.

By the early 1980s, Braukman's paintings were being accepted into state and regional exhibitions, and her work was often juried into national exhibitions, with awards and signature memberships becoming regular occurrences for her.  Another example of her commitment to success came in 1991, when, as president of the Florida Watercolor Society, Braukman developed the first trade show and symposium, over the objections of a divided board, many of whom said it would never work.  She chose speakers and workshop teachers-Betty Lynch, Ed Betts, and Stephen Doherty--and the first year attendance approached 300. The endeavor was a success, and the following year it featured artists Glen Bradshaw and Nita Engle and 700 attended. The Florida Watercolor Society continues to hold the event annually.

Braukman's career as a workshop teacher began in 1990 when she was asked to teach three-day and weekend workshops sponsored by a local arts organization in St. Petersburg.  Not one to ignore an opportunity, she saw possibilities in the growing art workshop industry and aligned herself with Jean Grastorf, Nancy Greenhall, Ann Perrillo, and Marilyn Toner to develop a corporation they named Watercolor Seminars. Bringing in nationally recognized artists to teach each year, the business flourished and, though presently under new ownership, is still in operation today.

Braukman now teaches workshops in experimental watermedia painting and collage for intermediate and advanced students across the country.  She describes her workshops as "an adventure in risk-taking."  Emphasizing design, composition, and individual style, she encourages personal creative expression, the use of new and varied materials, and a love for the process.

Evelyn Verduin, the originator and director of Kanuga Watercolor Workshops in Hendersonville, North Carolina , invited Braukman to teach there in 1991.  After Braukman had taught at Kanuga for four years, Verduin asked her to become its director, a post she assumed in 1995.  The 2003 session offers classes with 11 nationally recognized instructors.  With Braukman's husband now retired from the medical profession, he works with her in managing this business venture, which attracts approximately 250 student artists and spouses annually.

In addition to her work as an artist and teacher, Braukman is frequently asked to be a juror for art exhibitions.  She has developed her own "Twelve Commandments to Jurying an Exhibition," as she calls them, an approach that assures artists that they will receive an evenhanded appraisal of their work.

Braukman is also a collector of artwork.  As she and her husband travel around the country, her eye is always open to the work of artists whose paintings excite her.  The first painting she bought was by Al Brouillette, with whom she had studied a number of times.  Currently, the money she receives from the sale of her own paintings is reinvested in the purchase of work by artists whom she admires.

As guest editor of this issue, Braukman found several common denominators among the artists she chose to feature: each works in series; each seems to be pushing the boundaries of mixed watermedia; and some use their paintings to translate or transform ideas and images into other art forms.  She discovered the work of these artists in Gallery, art magazines, show catalogs, and workshops, responded to their work, and then tried to learn about their thought processes.  She has enjoyed the opportunity to introduce readers to these talented artists and, in so doing, finds pleasure in the thought that she is repaying the opportunity given her when Gerald Brommer included her work in his books.

Braukman lives in a world of art, where she has been able to create many divergent paths within that larger landscape.  She is an innovative and creative artist who works continually on new ways to present images that evoke a sense of motion and dimension.  She is a much sought-after teacher who is incredibly generous in sharing her discoveries with students.  As a successful workshop-business administrator, she manages to keep students and instructors excited about the opportunities available to them at Kanuga.  She is also a thoughtful and perceptive collector and is committed to juried state and national exhibitions several years into the future.  One of her most successful accomplishments was to find a wonderfully encouraging and helpful critic with whom to spend her life.  Her husband looks at her work with a practiced eye and says, "That will be good ... when it's finished."

Watercolor - An American Artist Publication
by Danie Janov
Winter 2001