I use the medium of watercolor to express my love of nature. I feel anchored by the earth and have great faith in its endurance with respect to our own brief life spans. For me, finding the beauty in everyday things provides the balance that allows me to enjoy life. I also enjoy painting the relics of human culture, from memorabilia to architecture. I work either in my studio at home or in “plein air” when the conditions are agreeable. I call my work expressive realism.
I have traveled extensively and compiled an archive of original photographs from which I develop dynamic compositions and, ultimately, finished works of art. I have lived my life behind a camera, a spectator, documenting and recording images that I find visually intriguing. The experience of painting allows me to explore the world in very specific and fleeting moments in which I render forms as they are defined by the changing light and the negative spaces that surround them.
Specific subjects I often paint include my garden in Montclair, NJ, flowers, ferns, houses, neighborhoods, chairs, rocks, rugged coastlines, and the landscape of the great American West. Most recently, I have been painting subject matter that is very complex: bird’s nests, gears, and picture hangers. I enjoy this as if I am doing a jigsaw puzzle but in watercolor.
I follow a few principles in my work. The first is deliberately choosing subject matter that is personal and evocative of an emotional response, either negative or positive. Often, I opt to paint a subject that I want to explore more deeply to find its edges and depths.
The second is paying attention to light, the way it defines the subject at any fleeting moment, the way it refracts and reflects, changing the colors that one perceives. Lastly, I emphasize attention to negative space, which is often as important as the subject that it surrounds. I prefer painting the negative spaces first so that I might better see my subject’s edges.
I grew up in a very creative household in Riverton, New Jersey. My dad was a commercial artist, and my mom was an art teacher. Both excellent artists, my parents took us on vacations that often meant stopping by a waterfall to dabble with watercolor or, at the very least, shoot a few rolls of film. My life of images started early. I began taking pictures at the age of five. Our house was always filled with science projects, piano music, and an odd hobby or two. Riverton was a great place to grow up, and I still have strong connections to the town and always try to visit from time to time.
After graduating from Riverton Public School, I attended Palmyra High School, graduating in 1972. I was active in student council, playing clarinet in the band while still playing the piano. During the summers, my dad taught me how to do paste-up and mechanicals to assist him in the compositing of print-ready artwork for catalogs, ads, and periodicals. We also used our darkroom to create camera-ready art to size. This was an era of drafting tables, t-squares, ruling pens, Letraset, friskets, rubber cement, and white-out! The skills I learned were as good as if I had gone to technical school.
I studied at Douglass College, Rutgers University and attribute my initial interest in painting to one of my more inspirational teachers, Philip Ayers. Though I originally majored in sociology, I was once again drawn back into art. I graduated in 1976 with a degree in American Studies and Studio Art. Michael A. Rockland and Angus Gillespie were very influential in my American Studies Independent major. John Goodyear, Reginald Neal, and Gail Nathan were notable art professors.
While at Douglass, I assisted in the art coordination of the New Jersey Folk Festival, including its debut year, 1975. I designed the first New Jersey devil logo for the festival in 1976, which still turns up on a banner at Eagleton Institute on the main stage.
In 1979 I moved to New York City and began working in the field of multimedia as an art director and project coordinator at Meeting Makers, Inc. Computers were not yet in common usage, so our visual productions were largely multi-media slide shows, often with twenty or more Kodak Carousel slide projectors running simultaneously, all pre-programmed and controlled by fledgling computers, some of which ran from a punch tape!
My most rewarding accounts included the design of several corporate business presentations held at the Hayden Planetarium using the full breadth of the media that was more typically used for presentations about the planets. I have to admit that I had the time of my life operating the Zeiss star projector during one evening performance, making the universe spin at my command!
Thankfully, the commercial art skills my dad had taught me attributed to my early success in this field, as did the ability to write logically and creatively, which I learned to do while composing numerous papers for my American Studies classes.
This was a very busy time for me in my fledgling career, and I began to find my inspirations to paint while on vacations to the coast of Maine and the canyons and deserts of the American West. Many evenings I studied at the International Center of Photography. I didn’t have a lot of time to paint, but I took thousands of pictures in various formats, including slides, which I still use as reference material for art.
Eventually, I became a freelancer in 1988. I continued working in multi-media through the 1980s and 1990s as the field became dominated by computer graphics and PowerPoint. My career grew into project management and creating storyboards for visuals to accompany speeches at business meetings. Besides Meeting Makers, I worked at Image Media, Jack Morton Productions, and directly for corporate clients like Nabisco and Sony. The field was no longer as fun as it had been in the 1980s (no more tigers or balloon drops) and included a lot of business travel and long hours on the road, but it was financially rewarding
and I was able to take more time off and travel.
For a long time, I tried to convince myself that I would never move back to Jersey, but “never say never.” In 1990 I married David Fucio (a fellow Rutgers alumni), already a long-time significant other, and we left New York City for the burbs/Montclair, NJ. Dave has always supported my artistic efforts, and I owe him a lot of credit for putting up with me because, without him, I wouldn’t have been able to stop my freelance work, from which I retired in 2003. But does a freelancer ever really retire?
In 1997 I studied with Betty Lou Schlemm (1934-2021), a well-known watercolorist I have admired for a long time. “Watercolor Secrets for Painting Light” Art Instruction Associates, 1996, is one of her best instructional books.
Since 2003, I actively began painting and exhibiting locally, accepting commissions for numerous house portraits and setting up my tent at outdoor art shows. My father moved to Montclair to live with my sister, Judy. We would gather on Fridays for painting sessions, setting up still life, or painting outdoors, often joined by friends and family.
I am still actively painting and exploring new media and subject matter. Most recently, I have written and created a lot of home-published children’s books for my grandnieces and nephews. It is a fun but time-consuming project that basically floods every flat surface in my kitchen, dining room, and studio with reference photographs, layouts and storyboards, sketches, and paintings in progress.
In the fall of 2022, I taught an online watercolor workshop via Zoom as one of the virtual events at the Palmyra High School Class of 1972 50th Reunion. It is really the first time that I have taught watercolor, and I find myself trying to emulate my mother’s nurturing style of teaching. I want to gently coax the fledgling creative artist/adults from their brain and heart while teaching easily learned drawing and painting basics as a foundation so that each individual can learn to express themselves and build confidence through successful early results.
On a more personal note, you can often find me on my back porch with David, feeding the squirrels and bluejays. Almost every day, I learn something new about nature through my own observations. Birds are a lifelong love. I plant a vegetable garden every year, which I share with the non-human species that pass through my yard, though I do attempt to fortify the garden fence, mostly to no avail. I still collect rocks and love anything about geology or volcanos. I love being by the shores of the Atlantic, whether in Maine or New Jersey or even the lake at Verona Park. But I do miss the “river way” walk along the Delaware River in Riverton.
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All photos are copyrighted and used with permission by Edith Munro