Local Watercolorist Bonnie J. Becker Unveils

‘Bloomin’ Hot!’ at August’s Art After Hours

Bonnie J Becker pic 3Bonnie J. Becker finishes a watercolor painting called Just Another Tequila Sunrise in her studio.
photos Jeanne e. Fredriksen

By Jeanne E. Fredriksen


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 Bonnie J. Becker’s latest show, “Bloomin’ Hot!,” opens Friday, August 8, at the Wake Forest Art & Frame Shop during Art After Hours. The local watercolorist’s entirely new exhibit promises to showcase a different side of her already popular painting.

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“I love having Bonnie here as a resident artist,” gallery owner Beth Massey said. “Her watercolors have such vibrancy and amazing attention to detail. I’m in awe of her mastery over such a challenging medium.”

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Becker, a Wake Forest resident since mid-2011, has become an annual favorite featured artist with exhibits in 2012 (“Viniculture, Floriculture and a Critter or Two”) and 2013 (“Begin Again”). This year’s exhibit will be primarily florals in a blooming hot triadic palette.

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When asked about her upcoming show and its palette, she said, “Although I have been referred to around town as ‘The Grape Lady,’ my focus lately has been on florals. For some reason, I have been drawn to the warm side of the color wheel. Maybe it’s a reaction to the green and purple grapes!

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“Most likely it came from painting ‘Red Velvet,’ my large red-orange iris. I hadn’t done much in red, and became a bit obsessed with its vibrancy and versatility. In this case, ‘Bloomin’ Hot’ isn’t so much a reference to the weather as it is to the excitement of those red hot colors.”

During the 35 years that Becker taught art in a suburban Chicago middle school, her constant desire to present new projects to her students helped her stay fresh in the classroom and to challenge her students. She retired in 2009, which allowed her to paint full-time, yet, true to form, she never allows herself to rest solely on tried-and-true techniques when it comes to her own art.

“Looking for innovative ways to enhance my art stimulates creativity and helps me to see things from different perspectives,” she said. “Whether it’s the subject matter or the method, I love learning and trying new ideas. I also embrace the opportunity to continually evolve through engaging in experimentation, working with challenging images, participating in workshops, and networking with fellow artists.”

She works in traditional and non-traditional watercolor methods to achieve her vision. Transparent watercolor requires the white of the paper to show through rather than using white paint. A technique called “pouring” is the literal pouring of paint onto the paper after masking off strategic sections that will be painted in later. Glazing is the layering of thin see-through colors. Wet-on-wet watercolor is the act of applying wet paint on wet paper. She uses all of these methods depending upon the subject and her intended outcome.

While she has worked in many different artistic media over the years – Prismacolor, oil, pencil, pastels, etc. – she has developed a deep affinity for watercolor because there are so many factors that lead to scores of discoveries.

“One of the challenges of watercolor is that so many physical things affect the outcome,” she explained. “Surfaces are different, and that changes how the painting will look. Brushes have different shapes for different purposes and different types of hair, synthetics and blends. The paints are another challenge. Some are transparent, some are semi-opaque, some have sediments, some are permanent, and there are different levels of light fastness. It’s just an incredible medium.”

Becker has a bachelor of science in Art Education from Northern Illinois University in De Kalb, and earned a Master of Arts degree from Governors State University in University Park, Ill. She is a member of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the Watercolor Society of North Carolina and the Fine Arts League of Cary, and she serves on the Board of the Wake Forest Guild of Artists. She is scheduled to give watercolor demonstrations during the Guild’s Tour of Artists on September 6 and 7.

Art After Hours is held in Historic Downtown Wake Forest every second Friday of the month. For more information, go to wakeforestartandframe.com/art-after-hours/

“Bloomin’ Hot!” will continue through September 9. See Becker’s work in a variety of media on her website at bjbeckerwatercolors.com.