Artist of the Month: Train your eye to see

Mary Bubla pauses with an award-winning pouring and several in-progress pieces in her studio.

LaVerne Kyriss

When Mary Bubla was growing up in Neillsville, Wisconsin, she had two loves, math and art. As the only girl in her senior math class, she decided on math teacher as her preferred career path. But dissuaded by a guidance counselor who told her there was no career in math for a woman and to go into art, Bubla studied art education at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. From there she taught elementary art for five years, took a break to raise three children and spent another 15 years teaching junior high art, all in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Fast forward a few years to retirement in 2003 and a move to SaddleBrooke with husband Mike. Bubla finally had time to explore art for herself. “I began with classes from the Guild from a variety of teachers. I tried watercolor, pastels, colored pencils, acrylics, pocket sketching, as well as basic drawing classes and several other fun explorations,” she said. “I also created assemblages with mixed media and refined my skills in Scarabocchio—that’s Italian for doodling—done with a ballpoint pen,” she explained. “My junior high students always loved Scarabacchio—even those who said they couldn’t draw. I find it fun to create these unique, detailed designs.”

“Several years ago, I took a class to learn how to create a watercolor using a pouring technique and that’s become one of my passions,” Bubla said. Pouring is done with a sheet of wetted watercolor paper. You then pour yellow, red and blue watercolor onto it, allowing the paints to mix and run together, making new colors where they interact.

“When this first layer is dry,” she explained, “you use Frisket to mask areas that you don’t want to get darker or increase in intensity. You repeat the pouring process with the same three colors in darker values four, six or more times, drying the paper between each pouring and masking as desired to maintain specific values and colors. The end result is luminous, exciting transparent layers of color.”

Other than on-location pocket sketching, she always works from photographs. “All of my pourings start with a photograph for reference, usually of nature scenes. Some are of plants and flowers in my yard and neighborhood, some from a landscape I’ve seen during a hike or walk. Except for assemblages and collages, I really don’t do abstract work.”

Bubla also teaches art classes at her church and with the Guild. “I seem to always have several projects going on. I’m working on a couple of animal paintings from a lesson, illustrating a children’s book my husband Mike has written and am partway finished with a watercolor of an iris. And then there’s a new pouring I want to start. I’m challenged to fit everything in and still have time for the grandkids, all of whom live nearby.”

“I’m always experimenting and encourage others to not be afraid to try new things. If you can see it, you can draw it. I learned that from one of our great teachers. Observe. Look for details. Train your eye to see,” she advised.