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Guy Lipscomb’s Watercolor: Go with the Flow

By: Lori Kornegay, curator of art

“Who doesn’t like a bit of mystery, provided it’s solvable?” With these words Guy Lipscomb begins a discussion of the “open-flow method” of painting in his book, published in 1993 and entitled Watercolor: Go with the Flow. This practical and detailed instructional guide brings together much of the information Lipscomb gleaned from his years studying with artists he admired as well as his time spent teaching painting workshops across the United States and Canada from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s. In addition to his broad impact as an artist and philanthropist, Lipscomb helped countless others along the way in their artistic journeys in his role as an educator.

Lipscomb describes his impetus for writing Watercolor: Go with the Flow as coming from a place of impatience, as he came to the dedicated study of painting midway through his life after working hard to build the family business, Anchor Continental. As the artist noted: “I’m a painter running flat out with too few hours in the day. Having been long on science and short on visual arts, I’m wishing to close the gaps in my art education.” A focus of the book’s introduction is about helping to remove the fear and intimidation of facing the blank page – a paralysis that most artists have faced at one time or another – and throughout he emphasizes the importance of persistence, determination and discipline in honing one’s craft. Lipscomb goes on to provide tips, lists and multiple concrete examples to assist artists in experimenting with various techniques and he even provides advice at the end on getting one’s work out to a larger audience.

Many watercolorists across South Carolina and beyond also learned these techniques through workshops with Guy. This example of one of his workshop fliers includes references that emphasize his focus on improving one’s skills, no matter the starting point. One of the goals states the workshops “…are for those who want to accelerate and improve their understanding of the painting process and its many options” and later notes he will concentrate “…on individual needs of each student regardless of the amount of experience” brought to the class. In these popular classes, he also limited the class size in order to give personal attention.

The generosity of spirit that defined Lipscomb’s approach to life – including his 20 years leading the State Museum Commission and his ardent service and support of the arts community in general – is clearly in evidence in Go with the Flow. In the acknowledgements and throughout the book, he is lavish in his praise for all he has learned from the more than fifty artists he studied with over the years, and one gets the sense that this deep appreciation served as another motivating factor for writing the book. The writing shows a great deal of enthusiasm and openness to sharing his discoveries about the practice of making art and reinforces the idea that the learning process never ends. He finishes out a chapter towards the end with the exhortation: “Remember, growth requires continued risk!”

Watercolor: Go with the Flow serves as a unique window into the mind of the artist and his creative process, and provides a means for the continuation of Lipscomb’s educational legacy.