The WASH-OFF at Bloomington Theatre and Art Center

October 17, 2012


Above: Sketch ©2012 Amber Sausen—The artists work on the "Wash-Off" stage with a large screen above them projecting the work at one artist (rotating). 

Today I'm excited to share a guest post with you. Amber Sausen atttended the September 22, 2012 Wash-Off at Bloomington Theatre and Art Center. She sent me an email introducing herself and providing links to sketches she did at the event. I loved her sketches and I asked her to write about the event. Below is Amber's account. Please use the provided link to visit Amber Sausen's Flickr account and see more of her sketches and art. Thank you Amber!

The National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibition just wrapped up its stop at the Bloomington Theatre and Art Center (BTAC). In conjunction with the exhibit, The BTAC Watercolor Festival hosted a Wash-Off.

[Record scratch. Huh???]

A what? A Wash-Off.

What’s a Wash-Off? It’s an Iron Chef-style competition where three artists get one hour to paint the same still life. In Iron Chef the cameras zoom around the kitchen watching the chefs cook-off to create a meal incorporating a secret ingredient. It’s intense and appears to be barely-controlled chaos. The watercolor wash-off had less frantic action, but was no less entertaining.

The theater was a great setting for the event with cameras capturing the action and projecting it onto the large screen for the audience to see. So what if the projection was in black in white; it was a good test to verify that everyone’s color vision was still in working order!

The artists’ approaches varied greatly and their intensity was exciting to witness. Pat Undis kept layering on the glazes while managing to answer many audience questions at the same time. Dan Wiemer was the first to dig in with a big, fat brush for a quick value study before tackling the real deal with drippy abandon. Jim Turner managed enough witticisms to engage the audience while keeping a cool focus.

Emcee Roz Stendahl channeled Alton Brown, the host of Iron Chef America, with her extensive knowledge of the history and materials of watercolor. No one could have walked out of the event without having learned something new or having been inspired by the artists to try a new technique.


Left: ©2012 Amber Sausen—sketched Roz Stendahl, Dan Wiemer, and Pat Undis (at work painting) using a pencil technique she learned from Nina Johansson.

My sketches of the event tackled the full theatre and the black and white video projection (no irony intended in my grayscale sketch, really!) and the energy of the artists through use of a crazy pencil, inspired by Nina Johansson

I don’t even know which artist won the Wash-Off. But I suppose the winners were really all of us who were able to come together for such a fun and informative event.

[Editor's Note: Over 200 people attended this exciting event. There was a problem with the digital projector so the overhead view was in black and white—however the artists quickly and joyfully compensated by lifting their paintings up and turning them to the audience from time to time. Artist Jim Turner does not have a website. Dan Wiemer's painting was voted the fan favorite on the day. Three lucky audience members won the raffle and took home the framed paintings!]

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