IF YOU GO
What:
Ann Smith workshop on watercolor painting

When:
9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11 to 13

Where:
Quality Center for Business at San Juan College, 4601 College Blvd.

Fee:
$165

Registration:
Call 505-716-7660 or stop in between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at Three Rivers Art Center, 109 N. Allen Ave.

More info:
Call Three Rivers Art Center at 505-716-7660.

FARMINGTON — While hiking with friends, Ann Smith often stops to bend down and touch the lichens growing on rocks.

It's a way for the watercolor artist to examine the textures around her.

"I'm the person on the hike that's always looking at the ground," Smith said.

What she see when hiking often shows up in her watercolor artwork.

On Thursday through Saturday, Smith will lead workshops at at San Juan College that focus on layering. Students will begin with drawing and progress into painting.

Smith plans to use a large overhead mirror during the workshop, which will allow people to sit 20 feet away and still see what she is doing. It will also make it easier for people who are unable to stand for a long period of time to see her work.

"My favorite way to work is to start without a plan," Smith said.

Smith describes paintings as if they have their own emotions and plans for what they want to become.

"Most of them want to turn into flowers," she said.

However, Smith's paintings also turn into birds, women, fish and various other scenes. Her most abstract paintings are generally color fields that suggestion southwestern landscapes.

Because watercolor requires working lighter colors first and then moving to the darker colors, Smith said she usually starts with a yellow wash and adds blues and reds.

Smith doesn't work on just the small canvases that many watercolor artists prefer. She enjoys painting on 4-by-5 foot canvas. That does present some challenges, starting with how to wet the paper. Watercolor requires the paper to be damp before paint ever touches its surface. Large canvases require either a bathtub or a garden hose to wet, Smith said. Then, it's a race against time to finish the painting before the paper dries.

"All the technical challenges of doing a watercolor are magnified," Smith said.

Smith started her work as an artist with a bachelor's degree in biological illustration from the University of California at Los Angeles. She said she loved the major because she has a passion for both biology and art.

For a while, Smith drew black and white drawings of snakes and fossils for a herpetologist and a paleontologist. But she grew restless.

"I was hungry to use color," she said.

Plus, she wanted to work for herself. So Smith left the biological illustrations behind and immersed herself in art. After seeing a traveling exhibit of nationally recognized watercolor artists, Smith decided to start experimenting with the medium. She tried different styles, ranging from realistic to abstract, and she found her own style somewhere in between.

Since then, Smith has had her paintings published in art books throughout the world. Next year, she plans on traveling to Hoorn, a coastal town in the Netherlands, where she will be presenting a workshop.

Hannah Grover can be reached at hgrover@daily-times.com; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter@hmgrover.