Taking Turns, Artist Michael Davidson and Students Swap Paintings
Taking Turns, Artist Michael Davidson and Students Swap Paintings

Is it possible for two artists to work on the same painting?

Absolutely, according to Michael Davidson, who worked with art students Oct. 27 - Nov. 1 during a collaborative watercolor exercise.

"It's like playing chess with many different students," says Davidson, whose new body of abstract watercolors on paper, Transitions: New Paintings by Michael Davidson, is on display in the Tremaine Art Gallery through Dec.10.

Davidson began the exercise by making his own watercolor marks on paper, then asking students to take turns adding their own marks. In the process, both Davidson and the students learned from one another new ways of using color and technique.

After the students added their input to the paintings, Davidson added more of his brush strokes to add structure and unify the paintings.

Davidson, who teaches at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received his MFA in painting and ceramic sculpture in 1985, said Hotchkiss students approached the exercise with the maturity and poise of his college students.

"They've been open, self-directed, enthusiastic, and willing to take risks with their own work," he said.

"Sometimes, when you shift the rules, it creates a fertile ground for new ideas," he added. "When I get back to the studio, I'll also have some fresh approaches of my own."

One student, for instance, used a palette of stark blue, yellow, and green — "colors that I never use together that way, and I just loved it," he said.

Students, in turn, learned to be more open with their work. Said Lauren Lam '18: "I've been learning a lot about controlling my watercolor technique. Before the project, my mark making was too tight."

Senior Grace Bristow added that before the project, she was overly self-conscious about her work; now, she is learning to slow down and experiment.

Davidson also accompanied art students on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Nov. 2.