The Story Behind the Painting: “Getting to the Point”

watercolor landscape, plein air painting
“Getting to the Point” (watercolor, 15 x 22 in.)

“I recently participated in the Mountain Maryland Plein Air in Cumberland, Maryland, where it rained all week,” says Joanna Barnum. “In instances like that, I often resort to painting curled up in the trunk of my car, or seeking shelter wherever I can find it. For Getting to the 
Point, I set up inside a parking garage in downtown Cumberland. In addition to cover 
from the rain, this provided the advantage of an aerial viewpoint of the 

“I was attracted to this particular view for a number of reasons. I liked 
the repetition of the church steeples in the distance with the turret on 
the old building in the foreground and the triangular shape of the front 
of the building. I was also interested in the atmospheric perspective 
created by the foggy conditions in the distance, and in the light 
reflecting off the damp roof, the metal chimney flashing and the gutters on 
the foreground building. These reflections enabled me to introduce some 
contrast into the foreground of the painting, which can be hard to find 
on an overcast day.

“Even with the shelter of the garage, the humid air still made painting 
watercolor outdoors a challenge, as the painting dried very slowly. These conditions 
require using less water and planning for fewer layers in the painting. 
But the slow drying time in this case was actually an asset as it allowed me plenty of 
time to create the foggy atmosphere in the distance with wet-on-wet 
painting. Before I built up my final darks and sharp details in the 
foreground, I actually resorted to putting the painting in my car and 
blasting the heat for a few minutes to help dry the painting.

“After the rainy struggle of the week, I was so surprised to receive Best 
in Show for the painting from juror Vladislav Yeliseyev. This would have been a 
tremendous honor under any circumstances, but it was particularly 
special to be recognized by a fellow watercolorist.”

Is there an interesting story behind your latest painting? Share it with us!



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