During a recent trip to downtown Wendell, I noticed a flyer in the Helping Hand Mission storefront window. Next to a beautifully painted blue hydrangea read, “Watercolor Classes with Wendell Artist, Amy Richards.” “Hmmm. Watercolor Painting?” I took a moment to reflect.
I was intrigued. I took a few art classes in high school and loved it. As a child, I enjoyed watercolor painting and all things crafts. I also tried a ceramics course in college for my required art credit and genuinely enjoyed that. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Paula Reynolds, encouraged me to apply for Virginia Commonwealth University’s top-notch art program. But for various reasons, I took a different path and never really pursued anything artistic after high school other than doing interior design for my home.
Putting Creativity Aside
But I have always missed being artistically creative. The only thing I have painted in the past few years has been to touch up the spots on my walls created by my children’s handprints or flung food. For over two decades, I have said I have wanted to take an art class. But something has always taken priority over pursuing that. Work, school, more work, getting married, health issues, having children, etc. However, today I was strolling around with my son and feeling more like myself than I had in years. I decided to snap a picture of the flyer and look up more information later.
Later that evening, my husband Matt and I went out on a date night in Wendell. One of the stores we popped into was the Grey Tree boutique. As I was browsing around, my eyes fell over some pretty floral prints and some really fun greeting cards. I asked the employee about them and she told me that they were made by a local artist, Amy Richards. At that point, I knew I had to find out more information. It felt like taking a class with this woman was meant to be!
Who is Amy Richards?
Later that night, I went home and hopped on the computer. I wanted to find out more about the cost and availability of her classes. As I started browsing through Amy’s website, I fell instantly in love with her fun, pretty paintings of flora and fauna. Amy has over 20 years of experience as an artist and attended Kent State for a degree in Art Education.
She has a YouTube channel where she provides free tutorials or you can find her on Instagram. Amy’s website offers a variety of products including prints, original paintings, greeting cards, instructional books, and kits for the aspiring watercolor artist. She even has a children’s book! I took a look at her available workshops and knew I wanted to give the North Carolina wildflowers class a try.
Could I Afford To Do This (With My Time and Financially)?
While this particular class was scheduled from 10 am – 12 pm, that wasn’t the norm. The majority of her other live workshops listed were scheduled for 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. This makes them more accessible for those who work traditional daytime business hours. Another big Thank You to Mimi and Papa for watching the kids so I could go do this!
I was happily surprised by the affordability of her class. I had researched other art classes in the past and they were always multiple sessions and a few hundred dollars which was always more time and money than I could commit. But as of writing this post, her class was $55 and a single 2-hour session, which felt much more attainable for me. I grabbed my credit card and quickly signed up for the class. A sense of relief and excitement washed over me when I noticed that there were no more seats left. I had snagged the last one!
Enjoying my First Watercolor Painting Class
In the days leading up to the class, I received a few emails from Amy. One as a welcome and thank you for signing up and one as a reminder email that provided additional information about preparing for the class (which was essentially just, “Bring yourself- I’ll bring all the rest”. Phew, one less thing I have to worry about on my to-do list). As someone who always likes to know what to expect and to be prepared, I appreciated her level of communication.
The class was being held at the Wendell Community Center which is a quick 12-minute drive from my home in Knightdale and is right next to Wendell Park. I walked into the community center and was greeted by a friendly town staff member who pointed me in the right direction.
As I entered the room, Amy warmly greeted me and gave me a name tag. Approximately 12 other people were there, all women and all very friendly. I sat down next to a mother-daughter duo who was taking this class as a birthday present to the mom who used to paint but hadn’t in a very long time. There were also a few returning students and people who have worked with watercolors before. But I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only beginner there.
Everything Was Ready To Go!
Amy had everything set up for each student including a jar of water, a well palette with watercolor paint, a paper towel, a paintbrush, watercolor paper, and a copy of her step-by-step guide for this particular workshop. She also had set out a fresh bouquet of wildflowers in the middle of each table for inspiration.
The class started promptly and she had us all introduce ourselves. We then give an icebreaker (What was your favorite popsicle flavor as a kid?) Amy went through a quick orientation of the class. She discussed what type of paint we were using, cleaning/storing brushes, and then had us all gather around her. Amy then started her watercolor painting demonstrations.
She described and demonstrated different brushstroke techniques and how to practice them. Each time she discussed and introduced a new concept, she showed it to us. We then went back to our seats to practice. Amy walked around and provided 1:1 guidance for those who wanted or needed it. We practiced painting each type of flower and received feedback on each one before moving on. Eventually, we painted all the flowers at once for our final creation.
Some of the things that stood out to me throughout this class were Amy’s positivity, honesty, and openness as to who she was as a person and an artist. She discouraged any sort of negative self-talk and kept reminding us all that the beauty in watercolor was the imperfection and fluidity of it. She also reminded us that we were trying to capture nature, and nature has a lot of beautiful imperfections. It reminded me of the concept of Wabi-Sabi that I had learned in my ceramics course years ago- the beauty of imperfection.
Learning Beyond Watercolor Painting
Amy was also very open about certain aspects of her personal life. She is a resident of Wendell, enjoys gardening, is an animal lover, and has a few dogs of her own. A student asked her if she does the “sip and paint” classes where you bring wine and drink while painting. Amy proudly shared that she is nine years sober. She also shared that she has perfectionistic tendencies. But she is working on them, which was why she fell in love with watercolors.
As Amy opened up about herself and her vulnerabilities, other people shared personal aspects of their lives in passing conversations. It felt like a very positive and supportive atmosphere with people just being real. It truly was a breath of fresh air.
So, How Did I Do With My First Watercolor Painting?
I was amazed at what we were all able to make in such a short amount of time. I went from clumsily slopping paint and water on my paper to actually being able to create something. By the end of the class, I felt like I created something I was proud of. Look at that progress!
Amy was very patient with all of my questions (especially since she had 12 other students to attend to). I found out that she also does custom watercolor painting art pieces and pet portraits, “Just no people” per Amy. I couldn’t help but think of what a wonderful gift it would be for someone who is a pet lover or gardener to have a personalized portrait of their garden or beloved pet.
Amy’s Artwork in the Community
On the way home from class, I went right across the road to the Wendell Community Garden. Inside the garden behind the rows of planted vegetables is a garden shed. This is where Amy has painted a mural titled, “Community Garden” for the town to enjoy. It is such a beautiful addition to Wendell’s mural trail.
An Endearing Children’s Book
Before the class, I emailed Amy about her children’s book, Buddy Worried. I went ahead and purchased a copy ahead of time and she brought it to the class for me. She shared with me that she wanted to create a book that allowed adults and children to open up a conversation about the challenges and concepts of anxiety. As I personally live with anxiety, I was touched by her openness. I wanted to make sure I added this book to my children’s library.
I read Buddy Worried to both of my children yesterday. It is filled with beautiful illustrations. It has a sweet story about a dog Buddy and his adventure and challenges with his favorite toy. My children both immediately loved it, particularly the pictures of Buddy (“DOGGY!!! HOORAY!” per my 2-year-old son) and the butterfly (“Oh Mama, look at that beautiful butterfly!” per my soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter).
They both enjoyed the ending. I won’t give any spoilers, but their faces light up at the turn of the last page. It really is such a treasure to have such a beautiful book on their shelves from a talented local artist. Not just because I want to support local, but because I can show my daughter and son that a real, live person that I have met has created something like this, and if they want to and they work hard, one day they can too.
Coming Down Off Of My Creative High
When I got home and showed off my painting to my husband, he said it looked great and then asked me if I was going to hang it up. I thought for a second. Would it go with my home decor colors? Do I really want to put up something that I didn’t get a chance to sit and perfect? But then I realized that this watercolor painting wasn’t just a picture to hang up, but a representation of me practicing self-care and finding joy in something that I had buried deep down for a long time. It represented me letting go of perfection and just enjoying the process along the way. So Yes! It will go up on my wall, and I have found the perfect place. <3