Life as art: Kent watercolorist lives her dream

Watercolorist Ann Breckon is finally living her dream — a life devoted to art.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Tuesday, August 12, 2008 1:23pm
  • Life
Ann Breckon works on a large-scale watercolor scene in her private studio in Kent July 23. Breckon is a featured artist in the “Paint Out Loud” Women Painters of Washington exhibit

Ann Breckon works on a large-scale watercolor scene in her private studio in Kent July 23. Breckon is a featured artist in the “Paint Out Loud” Women Painters of Washington exhibit

Watercolorist Ann Breckon is finally living her dream — a life devoted to art.

Last spring, Breckon sold her Bellevue home, bought an RV and drove off to paint the sunset … and the mountains, and anything else that struck her fancy. She returned from the road trip last fall, found a small home in Federal Way, and set up shop in a 1,000-square-foot studio on Central Avenue in Kent.

“I simplified my life so I could devote more time to art,” Breckon said, during an interview at her private studio. She joked that when people ask where she lives, she tells them, “I sleep in Federal Way; I live in Kent.”

A passion for art shows up in even a casual glance through Breckon’s portfolio. She paints virtually everything she can see — still lifes, landscapes, portraits, florals.

“I’m fascinated by everything,” she said. “It is a wonderful experience to be an artist, painting things I think are beautiful, and making them more beautiful. You’re always driving around looking for the best of things. You want to know, is that a cerulean sky? Is that a cobalt sky? You look at the textures on bushes and try to figure out how you would express them in paint.”

But art wasn’t always Breckon’s passion.

“My dad expected me to be a musician,” Breckon said. “He gave me my first cello at age 10.”

Breckon earned her bachelor’s degree in cello performance from University of Oregon in Eugene. Then she married, and for nearly a decade, taught piano to supplement the family income.

Watercolors first entered Breckon’s life in 1982, when, as a mother of young twins, she enrolled in a beginning watercolor class at Bellevue Community College.

“I needed a mommy’s night out,” she said.

She finished the class, then took it again. And again. And again. Breckon estimated that she took the beginning watercolor class six times, partly because she enjoyed it so much, and partly because the community college didn’t offer any more advanced watercolor classes.

A family crisis, in the form of divorce, finally pushed Breckon into the role of professional artist.

With five of her six children still living at home, Breckon found herself as a single parent, trying to make ends meet. Piano lessons helped pay the bills, but they consumed the after-school time she wanted to give to her children. That’s when she began to think seriously about art as a paying career.

“I thought, I can’t teach piano lessons late at night, but I can paint late at night,” she said. “So I painted until two in the morning.”

Breckon got her business license in 1993, and as she put it, “I’ve been painting and teaching (painting) full-tilt since then.”

Now that all her children are grown, Breckon said she decided to strip her life of everything superfluous and throw herself into her art full-time. She spends most days either working in her studio, or out and about gathering new ideas for paintings.

“I’ve been working a lot lately in series,” she said, spreading out several groups of paintings she’s done treating a single object or scene in various different ways. She painted a calla lily, for instance, from different angles — front, back, underneath, and up-close — using some unusual angles to make each painting unique.

“When I work on a series, I’m forced to be creative,” she said.

Breckon also takes pains to make sure that her watercolors stand the test of time as well as any oil painting. She uses only archival-quality cotton paper, and pigments with the highest possible lightfastness rating.

“My watercolors actually should outlast the oils,” she said.

And speaking of going toe-to-toe with oil paintings, that’s what some of Breckon’s works will be doing for the next few months in a gallery display in Seattle. Breckon is one of about 25 women artists featured at the latest Women Painters of Washington exhibit, “Painting Out Loud,” which runs through Oct. 31 in the third floor gallery at Columbia Center, 701 Fifth Ave.

Apart from the Seattle exhibit, Breckon said she’s not showing works in any galleries at the moment.

Instead, Breckon is opening her studio to interior designers, by appointment, to find paintings for their clients’ homes. She’s also doing inventory of all her paintings, in order to start selling some online.

Breckon still teaches watercolor classes at the two Daniel Smith stores: at 15112 N.E. 24th St., in Bellevue, and at 4150 First Ave. S., in Seattle. Class information will be available soon on her Web site,

For more information about Breckon’s artwork or classes, e-mail her at

On display

Some of Ann Breckon’s watercolors are featured in the Women Painters of Washington “Painting Out Loud” exhibit.

Where: Columbia Center’s third floor gallery, 701 Fifth Ave., Seattle.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays through Oct. 31.

Cost: Free.

Gallery info: 206-624-0543.

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