My Favorite Teachers and Mentors

One of fourteen living legends in American Watercolor, as dubbed by the American Artist Magazine in 1983, Edward H. Betts, N.A., A.W.S. is a man that I was fortunate to be able to study under. My first opportunity was a workshop sponsored by the Anchorage Community College in 1980. Subsequently I traveled to two more workshops held at the Mendocino Art Center, Mendocino, California. He became my mentor and advised me by mail for several years. His only rule for mentoring was that I not submit slides of paintings for critique until I had completed at least 50 new works. His advice was always the same; paint, paint, paint. You learn by doing. We corresponded for over 20 years, and his letters are an important source of inspiration to me, even today. His text book; “Master Class in Watercolor” published by Watson Guptill in 1975, battered and dog eared, still occupies my reference book shelf. The second and third editions of the book are titled “Master Class in Watermedia”.

I took many workshops and classes in the 1980’s, but few stand out like the one that artist Barbara Nechis taught for the Alaska Watercolor Society. Although our work is at the opposite ends of the earth in similarity, she inspired me to reach new levels. My Masters Degree Thesis advisor, instructor, and director of the Independent Study School of Illustration at Syracuse University, Murray Tinkelman, had the greatest impact on my life and my ability to make a career from my art. His undying support, enthusiasm, and ability to attract the top notch instructors made my late-life attempt to gain a degree successful. I am forever grateful to Murray and his staff for waiving the required Bachelors Degree and accepting me into the Masters Degree program where I graduated with honors in 1995.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of studying and learning from gifted professional artists and teachers. God Bless our teachers!

More tomorrow,

Gail Niebrugge, Original acrylic and watercolor paintings

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