"Venice Canal VII," by Keiko Tanabe, 2010, watercolor, 8 x 11 ½ in. Collection of Poppy Balser

Nova Scotia artist Poppy Balser is partial to watercolor—her chosen medium—but she is also partial to demos she’s seen painted in person. There’s one other trait that attracts her to a piece she is considering for her collection.

“The art that moves me is made by people who are good at simplifying scenes, and those who make well-composed paintings,” says Balser. “You sense that they made this painting about one thing. They made a statement about it. I do like to buy demos as well. Those pieces serve as a visual textbook from a workshop. I remember what they said while painting a passage. That’s helpful.”

"Delphinium," by Renee Lammers, 2012, watercolor, 5 x 7 in. Collection of Poppy Balser
“Delphinium,” by Renee Lammers, 2012, watercolor, 5 x 7 in. Collection of Poppy Balser

The first piece Balser describes is one by noted watercolorist and instructor Keiko Tanabe. “This was the first painting I bought,” she says. “I was following her blog, and she offered a Valentine’s Day special—it was on sale. That was the first time I bought an official piece of art online. What drew me to this one was the water. I liked how it looked like it was in motion. It looked really freshly painted and–it looked like water! It looked right. She didn’t put the bumps and lines in the undoubtedly ornate windows in this Venice scene. She didn’t need that in the painting. So she simplified the buildings in the background. I like how the boats push you into the painting. I haven’t been to Venice, but I sure have been around a lot of boats, so the subject matter appealed to me.”

"Englishtown Harbor," by Christopher Gorey, 2012, watercolor, 7 x 11 in. Collection of Poppy Balser
“Englishtown Harbor,” by Christopher Gorey, 2012, watercolor, 7 x 11 in. Collection of Poppy Balser

Next is a painting by Renee Lammers. “I met Renee years ago when I was on my way through the part of Maine where she lives,” Balser recalls. “She is a very prolific artist who paints on copper, and I think that is a really neat idea. She is painting a part of Maine that reminds me of Nova Scotia, my home. I like the way the light falls on the petals, the way she captured the volume of the buds at the top. They just glow, and it really caught my eye.”

"Coastal Path," by Poppy Balser, 2017, watercolor, 11 x 15 in. Collection the artist
“Coastal Path,” by Poppy Balser, 2017, watercolor, 11 x 15 in. Collection the artist

Finally, a piece by Cape Breton painter Christopher Gorey. “Christopher and his wife moved to Cape Breton from the United States,” Balser says. “He runs a gallery with his wife; she’s a potter. They raised a family with that gallery. I met him at a watercolor symposium in 2009. I like that there’s no fiddly brushstrokes. He just catches it–that’s what I like about his work in particular. This painting was a demo that he did at a symposium in 2012. I watched him paint this and I remember the editorial decisions he made. I saw that the foreground didn’t need more, and he stopped there. That’s a lesson I need to remind myself of. We are painting friends.”

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