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Month: July 2017

World Watercolor Month Project

July has been World Watercolor Month, so we wanted to share a step-by-step project that is easy to follow and fun to do! This project has only seven steps and was inspired by Frederick Warren Freer’s Boat on the Beach, a watercolor painting from 1892 that is a beautiful addition to the Museum’s collection of Freer’s artwork.  Anyone unfamiliar with basic watercolor techniques can find reference to those used in this project (Dark to Light/Feathering, Wet on Dry, and Wet on Wet) at the very end of this post.

We hope you enjoy creating your own watercolor painting, and please post your projects on Facebook and tag us with #MMFAWorldWatercolorMonth @MontgomeryMFA!


Materials needed:

Two sheets of heavy paper/watercolor paper, piece of cardboard larger than paper, blue painter’s tape, scissors, glue, pencil, eraser, ultra-fine Sharpie marker, watercolor paints, watercolor paint brush, cup of water, and paper towel.


Before you begin painting, firmly tape down one sheet of paper to the cardboard by stretching the blue tape along each edge. This is important to keep the paper from buckling (wrinkling with the weight of the water) too much. It also creates a nice, clean border on the finished product, so keep in mind how wide of a white edge you want (tape in further for a wider border).


Step 1. Create the Sky

Begin painting the sky using the Wet on Wet technique. Paint clean water onto your paper, to about halfway down the sheet. Then get the desired amount of blue pigment on your brush and quickly paint this into the dampened paper. The color will rapidly spread in uneven amounts, but we are trying for a cloudy sky so this is good! If you like, swirl the paintbrush around to create fluffy textures.


Step 2. Create Horizon

Next, create the initial horizon line and base for the ocean water using a Feathering technique. Begin with a damp brush saturated in blue paint, and make a horizontal brushstroke across the center of the paper. Gently dip the brush in the water to wash away some of the paint, then paint the next line underneath but touching the first. The color should become lighter and lighter with each new brushstroke. Continue feathering for a few strokes, but make sure to leave room for the beach!


Step 3. Create your Sandy Beach

Before beginning the beach, thoroughly rinse the paintbrush. Paint the sand in below the ocean all the way to the bottom edge of the paper, using the same Wet on Wet technique used to paint the sky—just with yellow paint this time. You can lightly add in brown to create a more realistic sand color.


Step 4. Finish your Horizon

If desired, you may add some darker blue to the horizon line now to strengthen it visually, and paint in some wavy lines of blue to better distinguish waves in the ocean. After the background looks how you want, set it aside to dry.

Step 5. Draw a Boat


Next, draw the little boat on the new sheet of paper. Using simple lines, create the body of the boat, beginning with a pointed arch, and then add the rest to signify its shape. This is designed to be a sketch, not a perfect drawing, so do not stress too much about making it look like a real boat! Outline the drawing with the Sharpie, then erase away the pencil marks.

Step 6. Paint the Boat


Using a Wet on Dry technique, paint the boat as you like! Dampen the paintbrush and get the desired amount of pigment on it, then paint in the various sections of the boat. To create some visual depth, focus on painting the walls of the boat the darkest, the floor of the boat a little lighter, and the edges and seats the lightest.

Step 7. Finish Your Watercolor!


When your boat is dry, carefully cut it out with the scissors. When the background is dry, carefully remove the blue tape strips by gently peeling each piece back and away from the paper (pulling straight up quickly can cause the paper to rip). After all of the tape is removed, decide where on the beach to place the boat, add a little glue, and stick it down. Congratulations, your picture is complete!


If you do not want to draw a boat, you can leave the scene void of objects, or add anything you want. One variation may be a beach ball! Simply trace a circle and paint it however you desire.


That’s it! We hope you enjoyed creating your own watercolor painting, and please post your projects on Facebook and tag us with #MMFAWorldWatercolorMonth @MontgomeryMFA!


Basic Watercolor Techniques

Light to Dark/”Feathering”: Feathering simply means the paint color is washed out more with each connecting brush stroke. After wetting the paintbrush and getting the desired amount of pigment, make an initial stroke (in this case horizontally) across the paper. Dip the brush back into the water, slightly rinsing away some color and making it a lighter pigment, then paint the next brushstroke below but touching the first line. Repeat this step down the paper to carry out the feathering. It is important to let each new line gently overlap, as this is what creates the cohesive lightening of the paint.





Wet on Dry and Wet on Wet: Each of these techniques are exactly what their titles describe. Wet on Dry means to dampen the paintbrush and get the desired amount of pigment on it then paint directly on to dry paper. This technique is good for when you want more control over the paint—for example, to paint in an object or make a specific shape. Wet on Wet is the exact opposite. Wet the paper with clean water first, paint on desired pigment, and watch the color quickly spread!

MMFA Director Retires After 23 Years

The Board of Trustees of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and Mark M. Johnson, Director of the Museum, announce his retirement effective August 15, 2017. Johnson served for 23 years, by far the longest tenure of any director in the Museum’s history.

Johnson is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and received a BA in art history/studio art from the University of Wisconsin, and an MA in art history/museum studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. He then joined the staff of the education department at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later worked as a curator of art history at the Cleveland Museum of Art, before accepting the position of Assistant Director at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Subsequently, he was named Director of the Muscarelle Museum at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia.  He joined the staff of the MMFA as Director in August of 1994.

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is Alabama’s first art museum, founded in 1930. It is nationally recognized for its collections of American art, Old Master Prints, and regional works from the American South.

During Johnson’s tenure, the museum welcomed over 3 million visitors and acquired 1,700 works of art. Among the notable acquisitions were paintings by American masters including George Inness (1825–1894), Mary Cassatt (1844­–1926), Max Weber (1881­­–­1961), and Thomas Hart Benton (1889­–1975). He inaugurated the collection of American Studio Art Glass that now numbers more than 50 works. He also oversaw the growth of the Museum’s Old Master Print Collection and an expansion of the collection into traditional African art. The Museum undertook three major renovation or expansion projects during his tenure: the creation of the Weil Graphic Arts Study Center in honor of Adolph “Bucks” Weil Jr. in 1998, and the expansion of the education wing/ARTWORKS gallery and creation of the Margaret Berry Lowder Gallery in 2006. In 2014, the Museum broke ground for a sculpture garden presently under construction on the eastern side of the Museum.

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees held June 27, 2017, the Board acknowledged Johnson’s long tenure and accomplishments, and accorded him the honorary title, Director Emeritus.

At a subsequent meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, the Board announced the appointment of Edwin C. Bridges, Ph.D., as the Interim Director of the Museum. Dr. Bridges is the former Director of the Alabama Department of Archives and History, serving in that position from 1982 until his retirement in 2012. He has agreed to serve as Interim Director while the Museum’s Board of Trustees conducts a national search for a permanent director of the Museum.

Since his retirement, Dr. Bridges has continued to be involved in historical research and has completed a new general history of Alabama entitled Alabama: The Making of an American State, published in 2016 by the University of Alabama Press.  He has also been actively involved as a volunteer working for Alabama’s upcoming Bicentennial. Dr. Bridges comes to the Museum after a tremendous career as the well-respected director of one of Alabama’s most important historical organizations, and will be acting to insure a continuation of the Museum’s mission as well as a smooth transition for new leadership in the future.



Margaret Lynne Ausfeld
Curator of Art

Photograph of Ed Bridges courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History in Montgomery, Alabama.


Creativity and Imagination: 2017 MMFA Summer Art Camp

During the almost ten years I have worked in museum education, I have seen my share of summer art camps. Every year summer arrives with a little trepidation about the preparation, registration, and arrival of young artists excited about getting their hands—and inevitably their clothes—messy. At the MMFA, summer camps have been a well-oiled machine for years, and I was so glad for that coming in as a newcomer in January.

This summer, we had two art camps: a youth camp and our first ever art camp for teens ages 13-18. Although the teen group was small, they were dedicated and engaged throughout the week learning about alternative photography techniques and creating both individual artworks and group installation pieces. Following our successful teen camp were three youth camps that each week focused on a different theme: portraits, still-life, and landscapes. Having such a quality camp roster is due no doubt to the high caliber instructors that teach each session, all current and active in the art education field in Montgomery. The teachers were Amanda Ingram, Sarah Gill, Sara Woodard (featured above), Donna Pickens, and Sarah Struby,  and we were lucky to have them share their expertise and creative spirit with us.


The campers ranged in age from 6-13 and had a wide variety of interests and levels of exposure to art at the beginning of the camp. Campers experienced painting, printmaking, ceramics, mixed media and sculpture to just to name a few media as well as spending time in the galleries looking and discussing the art in the Museum’s collection. Within each medium campers learned about tone and shading, perspective, color, form and other basic elements of art. Each week ended with a student art show where the campers hosted a reception and exhibition of their work for their families. Families were delighted to see a variety of projects  ranging from Wayne Thiebaud inspired ceramic cupcakes to still-life works painted from real live cacti and sculptures made from paper clay exemplifying their children’s grown-up aspirations. The artworks that were created during all of our summer camps not only exemplified our campers’ creativity and imagination but also the level of learning and enrichment that happened throughout the week.



So as the last week of camp begins, the slight apprehension I felt before my first MMFA camp has been replaced with both a renewed enthusiasm for museum education and pride for art education at the MMFA.  As elementary schools lose art programs throughout the region it is imperative that organizations like the MMFA continue to offer these invaluable classes, camps, tours, and programs for visitors of all ages.  Art camp is only one of the many opportunities for children in the area to experience the visual arts both in the gallery and in the studio setting. Learning to look and discuss art is as important as getting to create art, and for those who participated in this year’s summer art camp they definitely got their fill of both.


Kaci Norman
Assistant Curator of Education, Youth, Family, and Studio Programs

“Volunteer Voices” Part II

The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts has lots of wonderful volunteers and docents who donate countless hours to a variety of programs year in and year out.  In the first “Volunteer Voices” blog post, volunteers and docents answered the question  “What drew you to the museum to share your time and energy?” We received so many wonderful answers, we decided to continue the blog posts and create a series. This second installment of “Volunteer Voices” is dedicated to the question  “Do you have a favorite or most rewarding moment with visitors of the museum?”

Take a look at some of the responses from Docents and Volunteers below on their favorite or most rewarding moments at the MMFA, and leave some of your own in the comments!


“When the Uribe exhibit was here recently, I captured several people and took them to see the exhibit.  They thanked me profusely.  The same is true for other exhibits.”  Frances Durr, Docent


“Several years ago I was giving a gallery tour to a 1st grade class and right before they were to leave the entire class gave me hugs!!!” George Jacobsen, Docent (featured right)


“I have had lots of great conversations with visitors about lots of different exhibits.”  Meili Wang, First Impressions Desk


“I enjoy seeing children learn.” Penny Thompson, Docent


“The kindergarteners’ insightful observations, seeing the excitement as they explore a piece of art for the first time.” Frank Gitschier, Docent, After a Cakewalk gallery tour (featured right)


“I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping visitors that come into the museum.  If I can provide information that enhances their visit I have done my job.”  George Childress, First Impressions Desk


“Any time a kid walks into the museum.” Liz Land, Docent (featured below)


“I like it all. The best part of volunteering for the museum is working with staff and other volunteers to help the patrons have a good experience when they visit.”  Luigi Edwards, Special Events Volunteer




We look forward to your stories and the next installment of “Volunteer Voices” very soon!

Meg Hall
Volunteer Coordinator

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