By Aila Boyd
Botetourt artist Vera Dickerson was recently awarded the bronze medal in the Southern Watercolor Society’s 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition for her painting titled “Blue Gown Waltz.”
“I was just so pleased. Especially now, receiving the award was just such a wonderful thing to have happen,” she said.
The annual event is held every spring and involves artists from the 13 southern states.
The event was shifted online due to concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally, it was to be held in Clarksville, Tenn.
“No matter how good a photograph is, it’s not like standing in front of the real thing,” Dickerson said. “You can get a good idea, but even with watercolor, which doesn’t always have strong brushstrokes, you can still see the surface of the paper and you can see the way the paint has worked on it. The buildup and the little parts that show through are important. That doesn’t show up particularly well in a photo.”
Mark Mehaffey, one of the jurors, said he enjoyed seeing the visible progress of the painting. Dickerson explained that he thought the “pentimento” of layers, the veils of grays over early brush marks, and the lines where the drawn marks of the artist’s hand gave a direct quality to the painting. Mehaffey noted that while there was a great deal going on, the painting had just enough quiet spots to balance.
Dickerson described the painting as “pretty nonobjective” because she didn’t start out with an image in her mind. Instead, she used shapes, colors, and drawn lines. She used watercolor crayons on the painting, which she said allows her to wipe things off that she doesn’t like with a wet paper towel.
“I like working with strong contrasts between warm and cool, specifically between blues and reds. I use neutrals to add in quiet areas,” she said.
As for the name of the painting, Dickerson said that an image of a blue dress started to emerge in the center of the painting. She explained that the dress provided the painting with a sense of focus. “The title ‘Blue Gown Waltz’ really came from that,” she said. “The waltz comes in because there are little bits in it that made me think of the curving, circling, and dipping that occur when you dance the waltz.”
Dickerson noted that she feels strongly that paintings relate to dancing and movement. “If I have a painting in it that has movement in it, I feel that it is successful,” she said.
Since social distancing guidelines were put into place, Dickerson has been teaching her classes at The Studio School online. She explained that her students normally email her images of her paintings, which then allows her to use a tool to draw on the digital image. She also sends her students critiques.
The Southern Watercolor Society was founded in 1975 as a non-profit corporation with the goal of elevating the status of watercolor and to educate the public to the significance of watercolor.
Dickerson also recently received news that one of her paintings has been accepted into the 2020 National Watercolor International Juried Exhibit. She, along with two other Virginia-based artists, are among the 108 artists from across the world that were selected.