Branching Out During the Pandemic

Renee Pearson sits at her work table in her home studio.

LaVerne Kyriss

Renee Pearson is known for vibrant, larger-than-life floral, plant, and still life watercolors, but the COVID pandemic led her to branch out into other subjects to paint. “The SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild worked hard during the pandemic to keep members engaged, even though we had to remain isolated most of the time,” she explained. “The Guild organized two contests for all members that involved interpreting a photograph in your chosen medium. The rules required including at least one major element from the photo in your submission.”

In the most recent One Image, No Limits contest, Pearson won Best of Show for her entry featuring a cowboy about to fall off a bucking bronco. “I don’t do rodeo paintings,” she acknowledged, “but it was fun to do something different. My piece was a pretty realistic depiction of the photo.” Gail Kolenda, fellow Guild member, provided the photographic inspiration. “She gave us an excellent subject. I only moved a couple of elements around, because I focused on one aspect of the composition.”

Pearson explained that several years ago, she took a class from Barry Sapp, one of the Guild’s instructors, in which students learned about painting horses and rodeo scenes. “I was able to draw on the skills I learned there as I worked on this piece,” she noted. “I learned some different techniques. Painting different subjects feels different. You can use the same approach and paint in the same way, but the result is different,” she added. “For instance, I always start with light colors and build up layers. I wait for each layer to dry and then build up the colors. I like to catch the reflected light and use a number of techniques to make the image more interesting. This approach can make the painting glow, but it comes out very differently when painting a floral as compared to a rodeo scene.”

“I really liked the action in the photo of the horse and rider and decided on that as my focal point,” Pearson explained. “From there, the painting just came together.”

Pearson noted that she paints for the fun of it. “I’ve been painting for 40 years, and while at one time, it was my business, today, it’s strictly for enjoyment. Today, I’m also experimenting more with portraits and am working on several pieces for upcoming shows. I have some ideas in the works,” she said.

For every contest, Pearson explained that it’s important to carefully read the requirements and understand what the judges will be looking for. “It’s also important to try to paint something different, so they’re not looking at 50 interpretations of a sunflower,” she noted. “Also, don’t try to match a judge’s style. Use good composition and go by the rules of good painting.”

In addition to painting for fun, Pearson shares her love of painting by teaching a few classes for the Guild. “I encourage everyone to try out an art class. Take the Guild’s introductory ‘I can’t draw a stick figure’ class to get an idea of what you might like to explore, and take a basic drawing class, and then begin taking classes in the medium you’re interested in.”

For more information on the SaddleBrooke Fine Arts Guild, classes, and activities, visit them online at or stop by the Topaz Room in the MountainView complex.