Robert Mesrop gives watercolor demonstration

As per his audience’s request, Robert Mesrop adds a chimney to his watercolor of a Vermont snow scene.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

On Tuesday night, the Needham Library held a live watercolor showcase of Robert Mesrop’s work, in which Mesrop took around an hour to create an original painting in front of - and inspired by - the audience.

Co-sponsored by the Needham Art Association and the Wellesley Society of Artists, the event also featured a painting raffle, as well as complimentary brownies and sugar cookies.

But it was Mesrop’s artwork that brought the crowd.

Mesrop is a Signature Member of the American Watercolor Society, as well as a painting and drawing instructor at the Cape Cod Art Center in Barnstable. For this event, he would be painting a winter scene inspired by a photo of three cabins in Calvin Coolidge’s birthplace, Plymouth Notch, Vermont.

Mesrop’s artist credentials may be unquestionable, but he was, by his own admission, not at his best for the demonstration. “I’m having cataract surgery tomorrow morning, and I had to put drops in my left eye,” he explained before paint had touched canvas. “When I look with my right eye, everything’s clear, but out of my left eye, everything’s a blue. I’m not really sure if that will be a help or not.”

While the crowd laughed at the absurdity of the idea, one woman saw an artistic opportunity and declared: “You’ll be an Impressionist!”

The crowd watches Mesrop add the final touches to his painting.

The crowd watches Mesrop add the final touches to his painting.

While Mesrop was working off a photograph, he made it very clear that he wasn’t looking to directly copy it. “Just because this is your inspiration doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to it,” he told the audience. “I won’t let my students just copy a picture. I say: ‘You already have it. If you want it bigger, just blow it up.”

In fact, while he was talking about changing the color scheme of the painting, someone in the crowd was bothered that a snowy scene in Vermont would be without a hearth. “I’m getting very nervous about the chimney” she said.

“I’ll put a chimney in just for you” Mesrop replied. He would forget the chimney until the end of the painting, when a man would remind him and he would add it, much to everyone’s delight.

The artist demonstrated a wide variety of techniques in his painting, ranging from the obvious to the strange. Mesrop told the crowd that they would need a variety of brush sizes, showed his palette on which all the colors had been mixed, and most interestingly pulled out a cut-up credit card that he used to add texture to the painting. It was the last technique which most intrigued members of the audience, many of whom had raised their hands earlier to show they had worked in watercolor before; they had clearly never seen that technique used.

With one functioning eye, Robert Mesrop showed the Needham Library what a talented watercolorist was capable of.

Imagine what he could do with two.

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