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‘Layers’ by Rosemary Washington

Botanical watercolors at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library

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Layers (Washington)

Photo courtesy of Rosemary Washington

“Layers,” an exhibit at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library by local artist Rosemary Washington, features a series of the artist’s watercolors of natural and botanical subjects. Creating art since childhood, Washington — a self-taught painter — decided to start painting again for fun and creative fulfillment after her daughter left for college. Finding most of her inspiration in the natural world, Washington began by painting from photos and tried to replicate her subjects with detail and realism, and after retiring, made a commitment to herself to paint every day.

The Miller Library has been showing the work of local artists since 2005, and this is Washington’s third exhibit there, according to Rebecca Alexander, manager of reference and technical services at the Miller Library. 

“The artists we show here create work that in some way deals with plants, gardens, ecology, and nature,” Alexander wrote in an email. “We seek out artists whose work will complement the library's own special focus, and do so in a unique way.”

The exhibit contains variety in both the size and subject matter of paintings. Some have a smaller focus, such as a small pile of shells or a cluster of daffodils; others depict more expansive scenes, like a twisted tunnel of trees.

The paintings are displayed amidst the library’s bookshelves, inviting visitors to peruse books while they take in the art. Washington’s paintings are characterized by vibrant colors, ranging from jewel tones to autumnal hues. While her meticulous attention to detail is clear, the paintings still feel spontaneous and lively. 

“With the ‘Layers’ exhibit, one of my goals was to work out pretty joyful, colorful compositions that were harmonious,” Washington said. “Because I was applying the paint in layers, the overlapping layers would create a new color, so I had to be aware as I was going along that I wanted something that wasn’t jarring, and I was also conscious of the values going from light to dark as I was painting.”

For this series, painted entirely during the pandemic, Washington did not paint from photos, which she said is a departure from her usual practice. Rather, she built each piece from her imagination by starting with a few shapes.

“Painting was such a refuge because it was a way for me to be centered and grounded during this kind of time when everything was so uncertain,” Washington said. “I couldn’t physically travel anyway so it was like creating a retreat at home, to have this little painting space on my dining room table.”

Washington said she hopes her paintings bring joy and color into the lives of her audience and that her story of passion and commitment can inspire others.

“My advice to anybody would be to follow things in life that make you feel more alive, and give yourself permission and time to pursue those things even though other people might not see the sense in it,” Washington said.

The “Layers” exhibit will be on display through Oct. 29; admission is free. 

​​Reach writer Kate Companion at Twitter: @kate_companion

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