If you're thinking of taking Mary Whyte's workshop at ArtCenter Manatee later this week, you're out of luck.
There's room for 20 students in the two workshops from the famed watercolor artist. Not only are those spots filled, but there's a waiting list of 22. Lots of other people have been turned away. People are coming to Bradenton from all over the country to meet and study with Whyte.
"It's been full for six months," said center executive director Carla Nierman. "Someone from Vienna, Austria, tried to get in and was very upset that they couldn't. Whyte, obviously, is a very big deal in the art world, and particularly in the world of watercolor painting."
Even if you didn't have the foresight to reserve your spot for the workshops before last July, you can still meet Whyte and experience her work.
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On Wednesday, Whyte will be at ArtCenter Manatee for an event titled "An Intimate Evening with Mary Whyte." It's open to the public, and it includes hors d'oeuvres, wine and beer as well as great art and a unique opportunity to meet and talk with Mary Whyte and to hear her discuss her paintings. Tickets for that event start $75.
Nineteen of her watercolors will hang in the center's Kellogg Gallery through Feb. 12 in an exhibit called "Mary Whyte: A Portrait of Us." About half will be on sale, with prices upwards of $10,000.
Most exhibitions at the center are free, but there's a $5 admission for Whyte's show. An opening reception is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Jan. 14.
Whyte specializes in large paintings, much larger than typical watercolors. Her
subjects are often working-class men and women, often African-Americans in scenes from the Southern United States.
"I've painted people of note, university presidents and so forth," Whyte said in a phone interview from her South Carolina home. "I'd much rather paint the people who clean their offices."
Whyte said she fell in love with watercolor as a child, thanks to a teacher in an after-school art class.
"She took my brush and my hand in her hand and said 'Like this!'" Whyte said. The teacher helped Whyte make a bold swatch of color that she still remembers. "It was such a thrill the way it settled on the paper, the way it glistened and sparkled."
She has painted with oils, but prefers the quality of watercolor.
"It's much more conducive to skin tones, I think, because it's transparent and skin is translucent," she said.
Whyte's paintings are usually much larger than most watercolors, and the ones in this show measure mostly about 4 feet by 5 feet, but she has others much larger than that. Other watercolor artists do smaller works, because they paint with their surface flat, so their limited by their arm's reach. Whyte uses less water in her paint so she can work with her surfaces upright on easels.
"Her paintings are very interesting because she has a photo-realistic aspect to her work, so your eye knows where to land," Nierman said. "But then it blends into abstraction."
It's a major coup not just for ArtCenter Manatee but for the city of Bradenton, she said, to be able to attract an artist of Whyte's caliber. The show has been touring the country, but this is its last stop, and it will be Whyte's last show anywhere in the country until a private exhibition in 2017.
"For you and I to be able experience her work in this way, it's such a rare opportunity," Nierman said. "She doesn't do a lot of personal appearances."
Details: 5-8 p.m. Jan. 13, ArtCenter Manatee, 209 Ninth St. W, Bradenton. Tickets: $75 for ArtCenter Manatee members, $100 for non-members. Information: 941-746-2862 or visit artcentermanatee.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.