Q&A with Judy Brown, co-owner with Carolyn Kosabeck of Three Generation Watercolourists

Local artist Judy Brown at her studio

How did you get started as an artist?
I have been interested in arts and crafts for as long as I can remember. My mother was very creative and artistic, so I grew up with her as a model and teacher. As a child I did a lot of sketching and drawing, and when I was about 12, my father suggested that I make up a portfolio. He took that collection of pieces to a professional artist and asked him to critique my work. The artist did a wonderful job, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses in my artwork very seriously. His encouragement gave my work a validity. My mother began oil painting about when us kids began to leave home, and she used to come to visit us from Toronto during her spring break and with my dad in the summer. We would paint together in oils. When Adult Further Education offered a course in watercolour I was very excited to try it out. Once I did, I was hooked. I bought my mother a brush and some paint, and we both lost ourselves in the wonder of watercolour.

Who are the three generations?
The Three Generations are my mother, myself and my daughter, Carolyn Kosabeck. My mother and I had two women shows for many years. Carolyn began painting when she was very young and grew up surrounded by and experimenting in art. When she started showing her work with us, people commented on the three generations and the name stuck. Unfortunately, my mother passed away three years ago in May at 90 years old. She was still drawing and painting right until the week she died. Although there are just the two of us now, I guess we still have three generations of experience in art altogether. Carolyn and I are partners. We show together and team teach.

It says you are a watercolour artist, but you also work with other mediums. What is your current favourite medium to work with?
My favourite medium is still watercolour. There is so much to learn, so many skills to develop in watercolour. The challenge and the wonder of the paint mixing and moving on the paper depends on so many factors, the particular paint, the type of paper, the brush, the moisture, the tilt. Every painting is a beautiful experiment. Skill and practice can improve your painting, but there is still that element of not knowing exactly what will happen. I always say watercolour is the thinking person’s medium. You have to plan ahead, have to have learned what might happen and then work with the surprises. Watching the colours mix and mingle is fascinating.

What is the most difficult medium you have worked with?
Watercolour is the most difficult in that it requires a lot of knowledge and skill. But, to me, it’s the most satisfying. Painting with alcohol inks is also a challenge because, again, the paint moves on its own.

Where do you get your inspiration?
Carolyn and I paint from our own photos. The amazing world around us is our inspiration.

Do you offer custom paintings?
Both Carolyn and I have done commissions.

What other mediums do you work with?
Over the past few years, I have begun working with fibre – felting, weaving and spinning wool. I love the feel of the wool and felting has some of the same elements of excitement, surprise and satisfaction that watercolour has. You make a plan and have an idea, but what you end up with is not always what you had envisioned. The artist’s job is to work with the qualities and vagaries of the medium. Felting is matting and condensing wool. It is like sculpturing either three-dimensional objects or two-dimensional pictures, wall hangings or items like scarves. I needle felt miniature animals mostly and wet felt hats and scarves. Some pieces, like felted paintings, are a combination of the two techniques.

My basement studio has class sets of just about every medium you can think of. We teach acrylic, watercolour, pen and ink, pastels, alcohol ink, scratch board, felting, drawing, sketching, sculpture and other media.

How often do you teach classes?
In Spirit River we usually teach two sessions of six week courses a year in the fall and in the spring. We usually offer Kid’s Art for six- to 10-year-olds and 10- to 14-year-olds as well as an afternoon adult class and an evening adult class. Each class is two hours long, and the course includes a variety of media. All supplies are included so that the students can try out various kinds of art.

We also teach workshops in Spirit River and the surrounding communities, including Fairview, Dawson Creek and possibly Beaverlodge in the future. We volunteer at the local schools when we are asked and have the time. During the fall and winter, we teach a weekly watercolour class for seniors at Pleasant View Lodge.

Carolyn has taught the drawing and painting part of Fairview’s Artist at School Program and their banner program for over 10 years. I am her assistant for that.

Is there a maximum number of people you prefer in each class?
Because there are two of us and we are used to teaching full school classes we can handle 20 or more students. A class of 12-15 is best for the space we have in our basement studio.

How do you get people to bring out their “inner artist”?
Teaching a foundation of basic skills and knowledge of the medium allows the students to experiment and create. We encourage students to enjoy themselves and try to instill the confidence to try by breaking the process down into manageable steps. Our motto is, “There is no wrong way to do art. If it pleases you, it is right.” Art is done for the enjoyment, entertainment, creativity and self-satisfaction it gives the artist first and then the audience. We enjoy watching students surprise themselves with their own creativity.