Ambassador of the Week: Tuva Stephens

Meet Tuva Stephens, this week’s top American Watercolor Weekly Ambassador!

watercolor figure painting
“Frayed” (24×20, watercolor and gouache on paper)
It has been said that I tend to see people that no one else would even notice. I loved this man’s frayed cap, which he said was his favorite. The word became a metaphor for his life. I was surprised to learn that he is a talented sculptor of carousel horses. Robert became my model while at Captain D’s. I still see him every Wednesday.

“After teaching high school art for 33 years (now retired), it is so exciting to be a part of the world of watercolor as a professional artist,” says Tuva. “Art Instruction Schools, Minneapolis, Minnesota, furnished my art education through high school, since art was not offered in rural West Tennessee. I graduated from University of Tennessee at Martin with a teaching degree. Through the Tennessee Rural Arts Grants, I was able to hone my skills by taking workshops from the best in the nation: Laurin McCracken, Gerald Brommer, George James, Cheng-Khee Chee, John Salminen, Mark Mehaffey, Judi Betts, Mary Ann Beckwith, Jean Grastorf, Frank Webb, Tom Lynch, Paul Jackson, Tom Francesconi, and Ted Nuttall. I continue to keep reaching out to artists no matter the county, city, or state to create a network of watercolor artists. I am excited to have been invited to participate in 2017 and 2018 in the FabrianoinAcquarello in Fabriano, Italy.

watercolor figure painting
AK Buffalo Soldier (22×15, watercolor on paper)
The subject’s strong presence was inescapable; he seemed to glow in the sunlight. I always try to paint the essence of the people who I paint. The man’s glasses reflects “his lady.” He was with 49 other Buffalo Soldiers, riding motorcycles in honor of the historic group from the Civil War. (I had prayed for a great subject to paint, and I got 50!) I interviewed and photographed several as they gathered outside the restaurant.

“My Signature Memberships include: NWS, TWSA, SW, WSA, KWS, MOWS, and MSWS. I have been honored to receive numerous national awards including NWS International 2016 – “Firm Foundation.” I was fortunate to have work published in Splash 15: Creative Solutions and Art Journey-Animals. In 2010, I was featured on the television show, Tennessee Crossroads.

watercolor figure painting
Reminiscing (22×15, watercolor on paper)
Bill is a favorite subject. I asked him to reflect on his life as I took reference photos. I tried to capture the richness of his life and catch a glimpse of the essence of him. This painting was purchased by the Jemison Carnegie Heritage Museum in Talladega, Alabama.

“Most rewarding has been to serve in leadership roles such as TnWS (Tennessee Watercolor Society (2010-12) Secretary and President (2012-2014). To serve as Southern Watercolor Society President (2015-17) was a great opportunity to meet so many southern artists. I have been writing grants (2012-2018) to continue to bring the nation’s best watercolor to rural Trenton in West Tennessee. This year Soon Y. Warren will be our juror and workshop presenter for Gibson County Visual Arts Association. I also am the proud founder of the Tennessee Watercolor Society Scholarship which partnered with Tennessee Art Educators Association to select a winner of this Biennial Scholarship. My hope is that this scholarship will help encourage rural students to become art teachers. I suppose my motto is: “Dream it, Believe it, Do it” especially if you feel the odds are against you.”

Become an American Watercolor Ambassador for a chance to be featured in an upcoming issue of American Watercolor Weekly newsletter.


  1. Great Work! It is nice to meet another watercolor artist who is also in the teaching world. I have been teaching art for the past 14 years and retirement is in the future. I continue to paint in watercolors as while also holding down my job as a teacher. Tuva your awards and work are amazing… so impressed that you were able to create and teach.

  2. Thanks Adam VanHouten! I know how it feels to be teaching art and wanting more. I once made excuses why I did not paint except for demos at school. A wise professional artist said these words,”You would paint if you really wanted to. Whether it be get up early or stay up late to paint what you love.” That was when I started entering exhibitions. When you can be successful, it pushes you to keep moving forward. Best of luck to you!-Tuva


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