We’ll occasionally showcase new and notable instructors at the Plein Air Convention & Expo, starting with a person who was a ceaseless advocate for a stronger watercolor presence at PACE: Baltimore artist Stewart White.

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“Quarry Sketch,” by Stewart White, watercolor

White is not your typical watercolorist — or typical artist, for that matter. He finds beauty in the gritty. Or perhaps we should say he does not discriminate between scenes, so long as the light is right. White paints wonderful pictures of quarries, and his background in architectural illustration shows up in bright pieces of busy harbors, cranes, and mills. He is the only instructor on the PACE website shown wearing a hard hat. 

The artist finds a link to past painters in his examination of unconventional scenes. He cites Sargent’s pictures of quarries and Daniel Garber’s depictions of stone as examples of artists who found the play of light on simple rock fascinating. Yes, Stewart also likes painting farmer’s markets, horse country, and more traditionally beautiful sights. But a demo or Q&A session with him is likely to lead artists in a new direction — that’s what’s in store for PACE participants.

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“Baltimore Penn Station,” by Stewart White, watercolor, 20 x 14 in.

And then there’s the watercolor aspect of his offerings. Stewart sees some oil painters approach watercolor in a way that doesn’t take into account the unique nature of the medium. “You can’t be controlling with it,” says Stewart. “You have to be in a state of listening. When you make a mark, it is still moving when you take your brush off the paper. There are the elements of time and gravity, viscosity and absorption in watercolor painting that you don’t have to pay attention to in oil painting. It takes everything you can bring to it. After two hours of painting in watercolor you really feel like you’ve been in deep meditation. I have to really concentrate; I can’t talk or listen to music.”

White says he’s excited about participating in PACE. Each year the faculty is different, making the experience new. Some of the instructors are available only in very small-group situations the rest of the year. And the social component is hard to overstate. But the artist is clearly most excited about being a part of PACE’s bigger watercolor track this year.

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“Idle Warship,” by Stewart White, watercolor, 12 x 15 in.

“For a while, I’ve been championing watercolor as the most appropriate medium for going out and observing nature,” he says. “It certainly is the handiest. If you get some facility with it and overcome some of its challenges, it becomes a really handy tool for traveling. Sometimes I feel that it doesn’t get the kind of attention that oil paints do. It may be because a lot of people may not approach watercolor painting in a different way, and it requires a different approach.

“A lot of people are very nervous about painting en plein air in watercolor. I can demonstrate how to get over that and get a lot more confident about the materials.”

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