The Award-Winning Watercolorist Shares Her Inspiration
Darlene Kaplan is an award-winning artist, instructor, and owner and CEO of Soft Brush Studio, in Virginia. She is also a member of the Manhattan Arts International Artist Showcase Gallery. In this interview artist Darlene Kaplan shares her inspiration, artistic pursuits, varied interests, and more.
Darlene Kaplan’s nature-inspired watercolors captivate art lovers worldwide. As a leader in her field, she has been painting with Chinese watercolors for more than 40 years.
Her many awards include having her art selected by Lilly Wei, art critic for Art in America magazine for the Manhattan Arts International “Celebrate The Healing Power of Art” exhibition. She has had many exhibitions including those at Ratner Museum, Bethesda, MD and Bodzin Fine Arts Gallery, Fairfax, VA, among others.
MAI: What is the one art supply or tool you rely on the most to create your art?
DK: Handmade brushes with natural animal hair. A top quality handmade Chinese or Japanese brush will have the greatest impact on the success of an artist. A great brush will hold its tip making it suitable for dealing with a wide range of subjects and for producing the variations in line required by different styles. These brushes are designed to hold water in the upper half which pushes out the color or ink in the lower half of the brush during a stroke.
MAI: When did you first realize your love for Art?
DK: When I was around 5 or 6 years old. My Mother would draw pictures of birds to keep us quiet. I grew up in the country in Tennessee and all of my spare time was spent walking in the woods searching out bugs, plants and anything else that was alive. Those childhood days spent with nature is brought alive every time I put a brush stroke down on paper. All of my paintings are derived from nature.
MAI: What art career accomplishment in 2015-2016 are you most proud of?
DK: I’ve had many recent successes. I received a commission for a painting to be used as a backdrop in a play. I had a one-person exhibition at River Farm, Alexandria, VA that featured more than 70 paintings. I was accepted into an American Sumi-e Society Exhibition and won an award. Also, I’m proud to be selected as a featured artist on Manhattan Arts International.
MAI: When you aren’t painting and teaching what other activity do you enjoy?
DK: I present Chinese Tea Tastings, Gong Fu Style in my studio. This ceremonial tea drinking style is meant to focus one’s attention and relax the mind and spirit in a convivial, shared experience. Guests are served several different Premium or Estate Teas that come from around the world. They learn how the tea is harvested, what makes tea green or black, and the many health benefits of tea. For example, Pu-erh has been medically proven to lower cholesterol.
MAI: Describe your most current project. What is it about?
DK: My most current project is finishing paintings that I have started from different workshops that I have either taken or taught. I just finished seven paintings of Koi that I had demonstrated during my workshop in August. For subject matter I follow the seasons. and I never run out of subject matter.
MAI: If you could meet an artist from the past to hang out with for a day who would that be and what would you do?
DK: Peter Paul Rubens. When I visit The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC his art just takes my breath away. His paintings are so alive that you feel as if you are in them. The details, the colors, and composition are phenomenal. On my fantasy day with Mr. Rubens I would just watch him create his masterpieces… See how he prepares his paintings and where he gets his inspiration. Then we would have a glass of wine.