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Q&A with Award Winner Marilyn Milici

In “Color Sphere,” on view in The Art League Gallery through Monday, November 5, Marilyn Milici’s painting La Banda won the Sid Platt Watercolor Award, with the juror praising its strong graphical quality and contrast between light and dark.

We had a chance to talk to Marilyn about the “very shocking” award, and she told us about the unique “pouring” method responsible for the striking contrast.

“It’s an adventurous way to paint,” Marilyn said, running through the process: drawing the picture and assigning values, masking out the whitest white, mixing three different colors — red, blue, and yellow for La Banda — wetting the paper, and pouring the colors out. After the painting dried, she masked out the next lightest layer in turn, repeating the process, and six layers later, “you have this big gloppy disgusting mess,” she said.

“La Banda” by Marilyn Milici.

Marilyn said you can’t really tell what you have until you take off the masking at the end. In this case, she had a winner. “I think this method of painting works well with simple compositions with a strong light source and value contrasts,” Marilyn said. “All us watercolorists are crazy about saving the whites, but here you need to save each successive mid tone also.” (Empty Easel has more information on pouring watercolors.)

She also told us about the origin of the painting, in a recent trip to the Andes.

“We were on a trip to Ecuador, high in the Andes (9,000 feet) when we passed numerous people hiking along the Pan-American Highway on their way to visit a religious sanctuary deep in the mountains,” she said. “At the crest of a steep incline we came upon this motley band of musicians, spurring on the obviously exhausted pilgrims. The light was beautiful, the air was thin and spirits were lifted by their enthusiasm, if not their talent.”

Marilyn said she’s worked exclusively in watercolor since starting 15 years ago, taking classes with Art League instructors like Gwen Bragg and Susan Herron. Though she’s been out of the habit of painting for about a year, she said she is trying to make herself paint.

Of Sid Platt, a longtime Art League member who started painting after a career at National Geographic, Marilyn said he was “a wonderful old crotchety coot” as well as a very bright and gifted artist. The Sid Platt Watercolor Award was endowed after his death in 2010 from donations and the proceeds from a sale of his work. Marilyn said she was honored to receive the award named for a hero of hers.

More interviews with past award winners can be found here.

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