I remember that moment when I first re-discovered watercolors as an adult.  I was in my early 30's, taking a class at a local junior college.  The paper was very wet, and I was dropping color in with my brush.  Just playing.  I watched, chuckling under my breath, as the pigment bloomed across the paper, dancing to the invisible laws of water and gravity, over and over again, each and every time.  Damn...  That was sexy.  There was no learning to like it.  It was an easy joy to find, right from the get go.

I painted in fits and spurts over the next few years, almost entirely abstracts.  I started an art blog.  I was busy running a business and raising a family, but I painted when I could.  I had written extensively in my 20’s, but this was a different kind of creative process.  I wasn’t trying to resolve an inner turmoil, as had so often been the case when I wrote poetry.  Instead, I painted because I wanted to experience again that peculiar kind of freedom I’d found while playing with paint and water, sediment and gravity.  It was always about “play”, about an exploration, a dance between me and the water.

In early 2014, I found a quote- “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”  I felt ready. 

I started to explore other painters, the more famous ones (like Sargent, Zbukvic, Castagnet, Saego, or  Emile Nolde), and lesser known contemporaries (like Bjorn Bernstrom, Endre Penovac, Sergey Temerev, and Chien Chung-Wei). I started painting more regularly, in class and on my own.  A whole world was opening up.  I built myself a plein air set up in early 2014, and felt like Luke Skywalker, making his first light saber.  I laughed, but it really was exciting! 

Soon after, I found out Alvaro Castagnet was teaching in San Francisco for a week.  We broke the piggy bank, and I cleared my schedule.  I called in lots of babysitting favors.  For a week, we painted all around San Francisco, day after day.  I was not very good, honestly, but I loved it!  I commuted in on the ferry, thinking about painting as the city rose up in front of me.  I came home and talked about painting at dinner.  I woke up in the middle of the night (literally) thinking about painting.  Bit by bit, I improved.  For a week, I was breathing watercolors day in and day out.  When it was over, there was no going back!  :)

-Stephen Berry