‘Anybody Can Learn To Paint’ Proclaims Artist/Studio Owner
Painting titled ‘Vermont Barn’ by Harding Mudge Bush. It can be seen at the Harding Bush gallery at Lee Muir-Haman’s studio at 30 Main Street in Ayer.
Lee Muir-Haman in the Studio putting final touches on one of her paintings. Photo by Russell Harris
The ‘torch’ of the Harding Mudge Bush art studio & gallery at 30 Main Street in Ayer has passed into the capable hands of Lee Muir-Haman, a woman whose love of watercolor painting was ignited in 2008 when she took an intensive 2-week course with watercolorist Harding Mudge Bush.
The studio opened in April of 2013 after Harding Bush closed the Park Street frame shop he had owned and operated for 11 years. Harding is a well-know watercolorist and local personality who has produced over 1,600 watercolors during his 60 year painting career. Many cherish his painting of local Groton scenes and landmarks. Harding turned his childhood passion for creating watercolors into a career when he lost his job in 1975.
Now 79, Harding has decided to retire and Lee Muir-Haman has taken over the classes and studio. Lee said, “I wanted to take over this store, this studio, this business because I love Harding Bush dearly. I never met anybody so supportive and encouraging.” She says, “I aspire to be like him because he’s such a good person. This store and this business were his baby. I started taking lessons with him in 2008 and he has been and supportive the whole time. – I wanted to be like that.”
Lee believes, as does Harding Bush that, “Anybody can learn to paint. It’s not a matter of talent,” she says.“It’s about paying attention, looking at the details and analyzing them, working out how you’re going to attack a picture, and then practicing. If you practice, and if you keep painting, you will learn.
Lee extols learning to paint in a group setting, saying, “having other people around helps you get better. It relaxes you and distracts you from being nervous about what you’re trying to accomplish. Talking with people who are learning like you is reassuring. Everybody learns from everybody else. You may glance over at somebody else’s painting and say ‘Ohh!, what color are you using – I really like that!” You learn from each other. It helps when you can laugh and enjoy yourself. There really needs to be a positive atmosphere, and that’s what I try to create.”
Explaining her teaching technique, Lee says, “When you first look at a picture you’re trying to paint, you can be overwhelmed. Part of what I do is detective work. I look at the picture and decide what are we going to paint first. I ask: what colors should we use on that part? What technique are we going to use? I break it down step-by-step and show people how to approach a painting and encourage them to think for themselves.”
Lee grew up in the countryside of rural New Hampshire spending every waking minute exploring outdoors. She earned degrees from the University of New Hampshire and the University of Hartford, after which she worked as a psychologist, in a fabric store, and as a librarian. She has also sold her handcrafted quilts, hand-woven and hand-sewn clothing, and card-woven/handmade jewelry.”
Before dedicating herself to watercolors, she dabbled briefly in oil painting. She began to study watercolor by taking an adult education course in November 2002 and continued with classes and workshops; studying with Robert O’Brien, Ginger Hughes, and Byron Carr. In 2008, she started taking courses from her mentor Harding Bush on his two-week intensive course, ‘Color Your Imagination.’
“Since then I have taught watercolor painting to Lawrence Academy students in Groton during their two-week winter break. I have exhibited paintings at the Townsend Public Library, Art On Main, and here at the Ayer studio, “ Lee says.
Student Karen Morris said, “I have high regard for Lee; she is able to present techniques in a very understandable way to all students at various levels. With her encouraging words and a fun attitude her classes are not to be missed, my class is my favorite day of the week!”
In summing up her work Lee reflected, “I am especially drawn to New England scenes and love to depict the daily events of traditional rural life and our changing seasons. I hope to paint pictures that either amuse me or remind me of the little things in life that really matter.”
The gallery currently has local artists’ work on display and for sale. Many artists provide custom work and welcome enquiries. In addition to Lee’s work and watercolors by Harding Mudge Bush, local artists and photographers include; Sharon Wooding, Carrin Culotta, George Dergalis, Jack Garver, and Tristan Haman.
Open Tues & Wed 1:30-5
Thursday & Friday 10-5
Classes on WED. 3:30-6,Thursday/Friday 10-12:3 & Thursday 2:30-5
Harding Mudge Bush Studio
30 Main Street, Ayer