When people set out to learn an art form, they often think about the importance of discipline, practice and attentiveness to detail, all of which are often taught in a classroom or by way of a mentor. Yet, for Sterling-based artist Marni Manning, the process of finding her individualistic style was a free one, born from a need to fulfill her creative “compulsion,” as she calls it, while living abroad in South Korea teaching English.
“I had a culture pain, where I still couldn’t hack it or fit in and I was feeling really down,” explains Manning, who lived in South Korea on and off for five years with her now husband. “I needed to do something where I could devote time and feel peaceful, so I just decided to try painting with watercolor … I was terrible at first, but I made it a daily practice. I tried things, I failed and I slowly got better and more confident.”
While that was only four years ago, Manning has since turned self-taught therapy into a full-time business, creating folk-inspired artwork and prints of florals, wildlife and whimsical depictions of nature sold across the country. And, her teacher instincts have translated to her art too, with the inception of Watercolor Club, a monthly platform where artists can recreate Manning’s original illustrations from home.
Each month, the nearly 50 members and one-time purchasers receive a brush, a coloring page, a reference postcard and paint colors in the mail, as well as access to virtual tutorials teaching organic ways to practice the medium. All of the lessons follow a yearly theme. This year’s is wild, useful plants, and September’s offering is a chicory, which Manning describes as a simple, weedy plant that anyone can paint.
“Through this platform, I can offer an idea, a conversation or a feeling, and that’s all that art really is,” says Manning. “That’s more important to me than technique.”
Ensuring each lesson is accessible to artists of all levels is key to the concept, which Manning has kept in mind while curating the yearly designs. Next up for 2021? An array of butterflies, as colorful and inspiring as Manning herself. // $17 for one month, $15 monthly for six months