St. Paul artist leading watercolor workshop this weekend at OAC

Zulma Davila, an accomplished artists in several media, will make her first appearance in Owatonna this weekend as she leads a watercolor workshop at the Owatonna Arts Center Saturday and Sunday.

Her background is in graphic arts and illustration — she graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City with a major in fine arts and minor in journalistic illustration — but “was always painting,” and in retirement, Davila returned to her “love” of watercolor, she said. “I fell in love with watercolor, the fluidity of it.”

She focuses on color and capturing light, and watercolor “is really well-suited for that,” she said. Davila favors landscapes, but “I do anything, really.”

“She’s very good with color, which is one of the things most of us are most frightened of working with,” said Silvan Durben, creative director of the OAC. “We’re afraid to be bold with color, in general, and, especially with watercolor, just to get that first mark on the paper.”

Davila paints quickly, and her work “is loose,” she said, so she calls her style “representational expressionism.” While not all artists can translate their skill to instructing others, Davila teaches with aplomb.

Though “hesitant at first, I think I have a talent for teaching,” she said. Davila has taught art to children at the Minnesota Museum of Art, watercolor to sixth graders in St. Paul Public Schools, and many adult friends and acquaintances in her downtown St. Paul studio.

“I carry through my passion for watercolor, and I want (students) to feel the love I have for the medium,” she said. “I want to share with them what I know.”

Too often, instructors leave color for last, but “I start with color, because artists respond to color naturally,” she said. “There’s an emotional connection there, and that’s how I get them excited.”

Davila also emphasizes “pure pigments,” she said. “When mixed, you get bright colors, not mud.”

This weekend’s class is for beginners or those seeking a basic refresher course in watercolor. Each class will begin with a topic followed by a demonstration and exercises designed to reinforce skills.

“It’s exciting to get (a new instructor) and to have an adult watercolor class, because we have a number of individuals in our community who work in watercolor,” Durben said. “These classes refresh and reenergize them.”

Students usually “have heard that watercolor is really hard, but you have to accept you’ll make mistakes,” in watercolor or any other medium, Davila said. “The way I teach, they have fun, and it opens them to explore more.”

Managing water is paramount, she said. “Water is the medium of watercolor, and if you control that, the fear goes out of it.”

The workshop runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and the cost is $100 for OAC members and $125 for non-members. Workshop size is limited to eight painters, and registration can be accomplished through the arts center.

Students will need to bring myriad materials for the class, as well. For that list, contact the arts center at 507-451-0533.