Artist of the Month: Classes Become a Way of Life for SaddleBrooke Artist

Sue Wilson shows a watercolor she completed in an online class during our stay-at-home season.

Sue Wilson shows a watercolor she completed in an online class during our stay-at-home season.

LaVerne Kyriss

A little more than 20 years ago in an RV park in Tucson, Sue Wilson walked into a watercolor class for the first time in her life. “I asked if there was room in the class. I told the instructor I have no paper, no paint, and no brushes, but this is always something I’ve wanted to try,” the newly-retired nurse said. “He gave me a list of supplies to buy and told me to come back the next week. My first painting was a rose. The instructor was wonderful.”

“From that moment, I was smitten, even though I had purchased student-grade materials,” she added. “As a first-time student, I didn’t want to spend a lot on supplies for something that I wasn’t sure I was going to pursue.”

“As I continued taking classes, I soon discovered that I should buy the best quality of supplies and materials,” Wilson explained. “Paper is important. I use 140 lb. cold-pressed paper from Arches. Good brushes will last for years. Classes are so helpful because they can help you identify what you need, what supplies and materials other artists use, and where to find them. Now, I can often get exactly what I want online from Cheap Joe’s or Dick Blick’s. But I also patronize local suppliers, such as Arizona Art Supply. I recently took a Chinese brush stroke class through the guild and got my supplies in Tucson. Someone in the store helped me get just what I needed,” she noted.

“Classes over the years have helped me branch out, try new things, and keep me fresh,” Wilson said. “We were in the motorhome for three winters and I had to keep my paintings small because of our space limitations. Then we moved to SaddleBrooke in 2001, and I immediately signed up for painting classes.

“The guild offers such a variety of resources. I especially appreciated that I could learn to paint so many different things—rocks, cacti, mountains, skies, clouds, flowers, you name it,” she said. “I also learned to identify my colors. After you begin painting, you can see which color holes are empty,” Wilson laughed. “These are the colors you continue to buy. That’s your palette.”

And while Wilson is no longer a beginning artist, but an experienced water colorist, she still takes classes. “I take classes to be with other people who speak like I do. I get inspired when I do new things. It gets my creative juices flowing and I get excited,” she explained. “I don’t focus on any one subject too long and I like to try new things.”

Even in this stay-at-home season, Wilson has found a way to take classes using technology. “My Chinese brushstroke class got cut short when our facilities closed, but I was able to go online and find several YouTube videos that helped me continue to work on this skill. I already had the supplies and we had finished the introductory lessons. This is helping me continue to loosen up my style. My advice to everyone is to try a class or two wherever you can find it.”

For more information about classes and other SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild activities, visit