Ben Steele And Watercolor Painting….
I wasn’t much of an artist and was fortunate to get an
art scholarship to Eastern Montana College from West
High. Phil Bell got the other one and he went on to
become a Master photographer. I lived off campus and
my tuition was reduced to $67 per quarter because of
the scholarship. It wasn’t long and it was obvious that
instructor Ben Steele was the guy to line up with to
learn how to draw and paint. I took every quarter of
instruction that was offered and was privileged to be
able to look over his shoulder as he inspirationally
demonstrated the fundamentals of watercolor. It was
during these days that I concluded that watercolor
painting would eventually be my thing. During all of the
classes and quarters of watercolor instruction, there was
a rule(In my mind, it was “Ben’s Rule”): In transparent
watercolor painting, you Never use white paint. NEVER.
It was only towards the very end of a student’s
participation in all of the watercolor quarters that there
was a hint of the possibility that white paint might be
used. But it was only after there was a good
understanding of the medium and after many, many
paintings had been successfully completed. I had been
painting watercolors full-time for a living for about
fifteen years and Ben came to my annual showing in
Billings. I had about 60 of my newest watercolors on
display and he looked at them carefully. If you know
him, you know that he’s not loud, not a “gusher” so I
wasn’t surprised when he didn’t say too much while he
looked. At the end of his viewing, he gave me a passing
grade when he grinned a little and said, “ You can use
some white paint now if you want to.”
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