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Local Watercolor Artists Find Support, Inspiration in Each Other

Patricia Harris

Monday, November 21, 2011 • 2:44pm

MILLBURN, NJ – A group of local artists agree that painting on their own can be lonely work.

That’s why they meet weekly in one member’s kitchen to paint together, share techniques and give one another honest opinions.

“We help each other,” said Short Hills resident Linda Brosterman, who opens her home to the group, which calls itself Waterworks Artists. “Working in a group has helped all of us develop as artists.”

The group, which consists of about nine regular watercolorists, has mounted its second exhibit in the lobby of the Millburn Free Public Library. The show, “Fall Exhibit 2011,” features works from six of the most active members and will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 29.

On Tuesday morning, five artists gathered in Brosterman’s kitchen. Four of them worked at the large center island, while one other sat at the kitchen table. Their papers, paints and brushes, as well as artworks for inspiration, filled the space.

They talked about the origin of the group, their interest in painting and the importance of getting feedback.

The core group started about five years ago at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit. Several of the artists had been taking classes with W. Carl Burger, whom they call their mentor and said continues to be inspirational.

When Burger found he could no longer teach the class, the students decided to continue their association and moved to Brosterman’s home. Over time some of the original artists have dropped out, and others have been invited to join.

Lyle Brehm of Summit said she discovered the joy of painting later in life, beginning acrylic and water color lessons in the mid-90s as she was thinking about retiring from the business world.

“I never had art in my education,” she said. “I always had the urge, but I had children and my work, and I never had the time.”

The final impetus came when “my husband said 'You’re not getting any younger,'” Brehm added.

Maria Sibilia of Murray Hill majored in fine arts, but mostly taught Spanish and English as a Second Language in the Summit public schools for nearly 20 years. She also worked as a studio potter and ceramics teacher at the Visual Arts Center.

In the 80s and 90s, while pursuing her master’s degree, Sibilia began painting watercolors. She said she draws every day and often uses her drawings and photos as suggestions for paintings.

Ann Pierkarz of Berkeley Heights said, “I’m painting because I just like color.”

Also retired, Piekarz said she didn’t start creating artwork until she was 37. Her sister gave her a box of paints when she was about 16.

“I never used them, but I never threw them away,” Piekarz said. “I always had a niggling in the back of my mind.”

Piekarz has traveled to England and Spain to study with other artists.

Brosterman said art had always been something she looked forward to doing sometime in the future, when time permitted. About seven years ago—after a career in teaching, accounting and personnel—“it became someday,” she said.

Brosterman looks to the group for help especially when she believes a piece is nearing completion.

“The hardest thing with watercolors to know is to know when you’re finished,” she said.

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