The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER, Va. (AP) _ Local watercolor artist and graphic designer Julie Read was searching for inspiration in the Virginia countryside with fellow artist Cindy Redmon when they came across derelict machinery.

Read photographed these broken-down tractors, orchard sprayers and other contraptions that had been left to rust. With the photos, Read enlarged a single part of each apparatus and used that as the basis for abstract watercolor paintings.

These paintings of doomed machinery became the basis for the Shenandoah Arts Council’s new exhibit “50 Shades of Rust _ Finding Art in the Junkyard,” which features work by Read and 14 other local artists, most of whom are her students.

According to Read, the machinery she found that day served as inspiration.

“I teach watercolor, so I’m always looking for potential lessons,” she said.

Read used the photos to teach the abstract painting process to beginner and intermediate watercolor classes in Julie Read’s Back Lot Studio, located behind 222 S. Loudoun St., as well as a drawing exercise for a group of students at Shenandoah University.

Read encouraged her students to choose a small section of one of the photographs and paint an abstract watercolor.

According to Read, the paintings in the exhibit are unique, thanks to the subject matter.

“I like machinery,” she said. “It’s fun. I like that you can find an abstract painting in it.”

She said that with machinery, you have the opportunity to really show the essence of the subject through abstract art by focusing in on the gears and other minute details.

The exhibit will be an opportunity for visitors to see the process that Read uses in her paintings and teaches in her classes.

Many of the paintings on display will be accompanied by a photo that was used to design the abstract composition, a pencil sketch, a small value sketch and a small test watercolor that she paints before the final watercolor.

Linda Haile, a Winchester resident and one of Read’s students, said that she’s excited to be taking part in the exhibit.

“It got us all busy,” she said. “It motivated us.”

She added that the rusted-machine theme was a reminder that art can help you find beauty in anything.

“It makes you look at things with new eyes,” Haile said.

The exhibit will be open until the end of May.

“50 Shades of Rust” isn’t the only time watercolors will be featured by the Arts Council this year.

With the hiring of the new executive director, Jaimianne Amicucci, the council will resume educational activities that had been suspended during the recent transitional period.

The council will host a watercolor master class with watercolor portrait artist Jeannie McGuire Aug. 3-6.

For more information on upcoming events, go to