Mary Whyte is the watercolorists’ equivalent of the four minute mile. At least for this watercolorist, she is. I’ve admired her work since I first saw it in the Artists Magazine in 2002 when I quit my job to do this thing called a full time art career, but it wasn’t until last month when she actually visited the area (Woodbine) that she and her work really had the barrier breaking effect on me.
For a long time I have been struggling with an issue that I have witnessed in the art selling realm- that of the discrepancy of pricing between oil /acrylic paintings on canvas and watercolor and other works on paper, with works on paper coming out at the low end of the pricing structure. I’ve seen it in art galleries locally and across the country. I’ve even seen articles on the web advising people not to invest in watercolor, but to buy oil paintings! I’ve talked to people who switched to oil painting because they told me “it was easier and much more lucrative” (I’m not sure about that). I have non art people question me all the time as to why I only do watercolor and not oil, as if real artists paint in oil. Even John Singer-Sergeant didn’t “just” do watercolor.
This is disturbing to me, because while a star medium in its own right, watercolor still suffers a second hand status. Many still see it as a medium to do a study for a finished oil piece. Ever since I was young, I was always drawn to its fresh, vibrant, light quality. I loved how the paint flowed and moved and stayed transparent. I wanted to do that! So I have been working in watercolor for about 12 years, in spite of its sometimes lower earning potential.
Then enter Mary Whyte. In the art world she is equivalent to a rock star. Not only is she the best living artist whose work I’ve now had the honor of seeing, she is very down to earth and humble. When I met her I wanted to tell her how much her success meant to me as a watercolor artist and how much I think it means to the value and validity of the medium as a whole. She simply referred to how great Andrew Wyeth was. This woman whose paintings sell for in excess of $70,000 apiece was not at all self-centered or prideful.
What she is, though, is a role model of success. It can be done, and is being done and that is the all important thing. It is a thing possible to achieve. Because of that, I feel like I’ve renewed my love for the medium and what it can do. I just can’t wait to get to my art table these days and put brush to paper. Not that I am ruling out dabbling in oils, mind you, but for right now I have some watercolors to paint.
The link below is a blog talking about the psychology of the 4 minute mile: http://www.nomeatathlete.com/4-minute-mile-certainty/
This link shows a good amount of Mary Whyte’s work (enjoy):