For more than 25 years, a group of community members have been coming together to paint, exhibit and share creative insights, united by their passion for watercolor painting,
What began in 1993 as casual gatherings in individuals’ homes to paint and exchange ideas, organized by former art teacher Paula Dickey, led to the creation four years later of an organized nonprofit group, the Kachemak Bay Watercolor Society, dedicated to facilitating and promoting watercolor arts. Today, group members hold meetings, host monthly Paint Togethers that are open to the public, offer art classes, exhibit work in an annual Spring Show at Fireweed Gallery, and present an annual fall workshop with nationally recognized artists demonstrating and sharing their skills.
A current membership of more than 40 individuals includes a handful of dedicated individuals who serve as board members. One such member is Jan Peyton, board president. Peyton grew up oil painting alongside her grandmother. When she moved to Homer in 1978 and took painting workshops with artists like Judy Miller and classes through the college, she was introduced to watercolor, which has, for the past 45 years, been her primary medium.
“I like that watercolor does its own thing on the paper that you have no control over, that you can move the paint in certain directions, and that you often get accidents that you can turn into something you hadn’t planned, but that are really beautiful,” she said.
Exhibiting her work year-round at Fireweed Gallery and seasonally on the Spit, she helps to organize the Paint Togethers, the Spring Show and the fall workshop.
“Gardening and painting, that’s pretty much what I do,” she said.
Peyton is inspired by the natural beauty of Alaska, as well as the camaraderie provided through KBWS.
“The learning and sharing between group members means the most to me,” she said. “Being part of this makes me appreciate what other people have learned and have to offer.”
Donna Martin is board secretary and has been drawing since she was a child. It wasn’t until she moved to Homer in 1981 that her interest in watercolor began, taking college classes from former Halibut Cove artist Diana Tillion and Homer’s Dickey. When she retired in 2000, she joined KBWS and showed and sold her paintings for the first time in the Spring Show.
Martin enjoys watercolor for the way it looks and the way the paint flows together.
Inspired by the beauty around her, she paints flowers, mountains and the ocean.
“I paint as a hobby and I usually sell enough to pay for my art supplies,” she said.
Grateful for the group, she values how encouraging group members are to one another.
“The members are so supportive, sharing their knowledge and community members like Irene Randolph, owner of Fireweed Gallery who has been providing wall space for my work for so many years,” she said.
Lynda Reed is board treasurer and has been taking art classes since her twenties. She moved to Homer in 1988, met Dickey and other watercolor artists, and is a founding member of KBWS.
“Paula had a big influence on the arts in Homer right up until her passing in 2011,” Reed said. “Many of us keep the group going out of respect for her.”
The former owner of Picture Alaska Art Gallery and Homer Art & Frame, Reed enjoys painting people and animals, and shares her passion by hosting the monthly Paint Togethers and offering Second Saturday classes for beginners.
“I encourage anyone who’s interested in the medium to come out and have fun with watercolor,” she said. “Being an artist is seventy-five percent learned and twenty-five percent talent.”
A Soldotna resident, Melinda Hershberger has been watercolor painting for nearly 20 years, painting landscapes, flowers, people and animals. A KBWS member for 15 years and new to the board, she drives to Homer for the monthly get-togethers where she often provides demonstrations, and she is committed to growing the watercolor group in her own community.
“Having a watercolor community of like-minded artists who gather and share ideas allows me to delve deeper into my creativity,” she said. “I also believe that we should all be learning something new every day and art is a really therapeutic and inspiring way to do that.”
Michael Murray began painting watercolor while in grade school, majored in art education and industrial arts in college, and during his career as an elementary teacher in small schools, he included art as a critical part of the curriculum.
While a principal in Voznesenka, he was introduced to Dickey and KBWS through one of his students taking Dickey’s art class. He joined the group and began painting more himself.
“Prior to that, I was encouraging others, but less myself, and I’ve been painting ever since,” he said.
Well known for painting on-site anywhere people gather, Murray practices “painting our meals,” something he learned while studying under artist Judy Betts.
“She encouraged me to keep a sketchbook with me at all times, to paint at events or while sitting in my car, painting what’s around me, no matter where I am or what I’m doing,” he said.
For Murray, KBWS is essential for its social and learning aspects.
“It’s fun to get together with everyone and I learn a lot and grow as an artist from other’s expertise,” he said.
With a mission to promote the advancement of watercolor painters, KBWS accepts new members of all levels year-round. Interested individuals can sign up in person at Fireweed Gallery, which is also where the Annual Spring Show is currently on display through May, 475 E Pioneer Ave.
Reed hosts a beginner’s watercolor class on Saturday, May 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Homer Art & Frame and all are welcome at the June First Saturday Paint Together on June 3 when Peyton will host a demo. Details for the class and gathering are online at homerartandframe.com, in person at 4001 Lake Street, and on Facebook, Kachemak Bay Watercolor Society.