Children have not been the only people learning online during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Social media is full of photos and stories about how-to classes that people have taken during the past 13 months — knitting, wine-making, canning and painting come to mind. The group experience is still there and the students are safe, at a remote location. 

Recently a group of novice watercolor painters Zoomed into “The Virtual Watercolor Workshop: How to Paint Flowers” presented by the founder of The Art Studio NY, artist Rebecca Schweiger.

But this was more than a workshop, it was also a benefit for the Connie Dwyer Breast Center Foundation (CDBCF).  CWI.DESIGN President and Principal Designer Rachel Kapner, who sits on the CDBCF advisory board, hosted the fund-raising event with her husband Gary.

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THE CDBCF seeks to support uninsured, underinsured and low income and minority women who have no or limited access to medical care. The first Connie Dwyer Breast Center opened its doors at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark in 2005. Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $15 million to create a state-of-the-art Breast Center. In 2018, the second Breast Center was opened at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth. There are three mammography suites, the newest one of which offers 3D imaging, thanks to the foundation’s fund-raising activities. The center provides education on prevention and detection of breast cancer, surgical biopsy, and more. See a complete list of services provided by the center here.

Connie Dwyer is the President and Founder of the Foundation, and her two daughters are on the board. Becky Dwyer Morano is Vice President and Maureen Dwyer Griffith is a board member. They each have strong ties to Summit and each has a home there. 

Many of the workshop participants came to the CWI.DESIGN showroom to attend the workshop. When they arrived, long tables decorated with pink gift bags awaited them. Inside each bag was an assortment of art supplies — watercolors, brushes, and paper — and a copy of Schweiger’s latest book, “Release Your Creativity: Discover Your Inner Artist with 15 Simple Painting Projects” among other surprises. Everyone who attended the event — from home or at the CWI.DESIGN showroom — received a gift bag. 

Schweiger taught the class from The Art Studio NY. She began with a blank sheet of watercolor paper taped to a wooden board on an easel. She put everyone at ease when she said, “With painting in general, there is no right or wrong way to paint … It’s about your own self-expression.” 

She picked up her watercolor kit and rubbed her hand on the colors. “If I wipe my hand across the paint, nothing happens.” It’s only when someone dips a wet brush into a color that the color transfers. “Watercolor without water is nothing. Watercolor with water is paint,” she said.

She dipped her brush into clean water and made puddles on the open lid of the kit, which became her palette, then picked up some paint with the wet brush and added the paint to one of the puddles.

“Think of what color palette excites you,” then start with one color, she advised. Schweiger chose shades of red, pink and purple. She drew three circles on the paper, explained the circles were going to become flowers, then began filling in the circles with colors — some bright, some light. 

Watercolor painting is all about layers, she said, as she continued to add different shades of red, purple and pink to the flowers and to apparently random areas of the paper. 

Then came the leaves in shades of green and yellow. As she worked she would explain different types of light brush strokes, from dashes to squiggles to figure eights and then splashes from softly hitting the brush while it is poised above the paper.

“Tap into your creativity ... Painting is a process,” she said. Remember to think of the process, not the product, and “enjoy what you are doing."

If paint dripped down the paper, and she didn’t like where it went, she mopped it up or, with the addition of another layer of watercolor, transformed the long drip into a leaf or a shadow. From time to time she would move her laptop closer to the painting, so students could see the details on their own screens.

She answered questions, checked on everyone’s progress and soon time was almost up. After some minor additions of color here and there, and another swipe with a paper towel to mop up a stray drip, she declared her painting finished. 

Ninety minutes after they began, the student artists had also finished their paintings - each one was unique. They left with their paintings, equipment, a book with new projects to try, a new vocabulary related to painting and, possibly, a new hobby or profession.