Local watercolor artists show paintings at the Beaver Creek Reserve

Paintings on display and for sale at nature center


Photo by Kar Wei Cheng

All of the art show’s paintings were created by the Chippewa Valley Watercolor Artists, an organization founded by a former UW-Eau Claire professor.

The trail of watercolor paintings starts as a small stream, one by one guiding a gallery-goer down a creaking staircase and into sunlit room. There, rows of paintings transform the cream-colored walls into watery technicolor visions.

To an observer, each painting is a breath of life: Blades of tall grass brush against an aging tractor; a sunset echo against a lake framed by tall stones; flowers arrange themselves in a watering can, leaning against each other for support.

The Chippewa Valley Watercolor Artists (CVWA) debuted their annual exhibit and sale last Saturday at the Beaver Creek Reserve, a nature center north of Fall Creek. Thirty percent of the paintings’ sales go to the Reserve.

The artist’s reception was held in tandem with the Reserve’s French toast breakfast, as well free painting activities for children. CVWA also held drawings to give away donated artworks.

CVWA meets the first Monday of every month, said Joyce McManus, an artist with her work on display. During meetings, 15 to 20 painters work on pieces, chat and critique each other’s work. The group sells their paintings at art shows scattered around the Chippewa Valley.

“Oh my, how we’ve improved,” McManus said, observing a painting of vibrant oceanic fish.

For each show, artists try to produce new paintings.

CVWA was founded by Janet Carson, a former Art and Design Department professor at UW-Eau Claire.

The founder is very accomplished in the arts world: Carson’s watercolors have been selected for Wisconsin ArtsWest, a statewide art show. The Janet Carson Gallery of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center in downtown Eau Claire is in her namesake. McManus said Carson still makes her way out to shows, even in her old age.

McManus joined CVWA after retiring from being an art teacher, a profession McManus said gave her a baseline knowledge of painting. McManus said joining CVWA gave her a chance to focus on the medium of watercolor.

“Of course, I’ve become better — even just from watching people,” McManus said. “We kind of learn from each other.”

McManus pointed to a landscape painting of forest-green pine trees edging a tranquil river. The scenery for this painting, McManus said, came out of her head. Working at a steady rate, it took McManus around three days to fill the canvas.

However, not all of McManus’s paintings are set in fictional places. McManus said her depiction of springtime-green trees encircling a pond is a real place “around the corner.”

One observer, Jerry Peterson, said he also came from around the corner — Peterson is a member of the Chippewa Valley Astronomical Society and spends much of his time at Hobbs Observatory, across the road from the Reserve.

Though Peterson is not a part of CVWA, he said he is always searching for ways to improve his watercolor abilities.

“I come here once a year,” Peterson said, “I try to get some ideas, to look.”

The watercolors will remain at Beaver Creek Reserve until April 4. The Reserve is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.