A Shared Love of Watercolor Runs in the Family
Holly Watch was in fourth grade when her mother, Delia, decided to get serious about her art. The house was soon filled with fancy brushes, fun paints, and other supplies and books. Holly tagged along with mom to her art classes, both learning from masters of the craft as they explored their own styles.
Mother and daughter started attending art shows together, leaving Friday nights after school, showing Delia’s watercolor paintings on Saturdays, and driving back home on Sundays. “She grew up putting up the tent and building the walls,” Delia said of her daughter. “Holly could not help but be around discussions of watercoloring, framing, and matting.” In addition to selling her original artwork, Delia and her husband, Marty, wrote and illustrated nine children’s books featuring Delia’s distinct watercolors.
Holly followed a similar path, pursuing art through college and grad school. However, unlike her mother’s light and whimsical watercolor style, Holly was primarily interested in acrylics, oils, pastels, and charcoal. “Then, six years ago I discovered birds,” she said. “I pulled out an old watercolor set, took one class from my mom, and fell in love with the medium.”
Both artists find a sense of freedom in the watercolors that allow them to play around with movement and undefined edges as they capture the vibrant beauty of the natural world. Their shared love of watercolors is a frequent topic of conversation on their weekly catchup calls as they share ideas and help each other solve problems. “Most of all we continue to push each other artistically,” Holly said.
It hasn’t always been an easy journey. Like anyone making things for a living, Delia and Holly have both had their share of successes and hardships. But it’s their ability to stick with their craft, even when it’s not turning out how they envisioned it, that makes for a long-lasting love affair with art. “You have to be as involved in the process as in the endpoint,” Delia said. “I can’t tell you how many rabbit holes I went down that weren’t successful. But all those rabbit holes are part of what I do now.”
The Magic of Nature
Most of Holly’s work focuses on avian subjects and the relationships she has built with these species through observation, investigation, and curiosity. “Each time I sit down, I get excited to get to know these birds and share them,” Holly said. “The more I paint them, the more I learn and the more fascinated I become.
Holly is also working on a piece for the Google Quantum AI and DRAWEVERYWHERE partnership, a project that will celebrate the intersection of art and technology with 13 ten-foot by four-foot paintings of UNESCO sites done by different artists that will each wrap around a Quantum computer. “I have been doing a lot of research on the Smoky Mountains and taking a crash course in Quantum physics,” she said. “The work will be my largest painting to date. Weaving this area’s magic together in a single image has been challenging but exciting.”
Delia’s current passion is creating art in her bullet journals, filling the pages with to-do lists, goals, and sketches of mushrooms and flowers. “I’ve done some of my best work in my bullet journals when there’s no pressure to perform,” she said. Each journal takes her about nine months to fill, a part of her daily art practice that allows her to work through ideas and experiment with techniques.
Delia and Marty are also working on their next book—a guide on their writing process, how they got published, and the ways they weave their personal experiences into their work.
Both artists’ work can be found hanging at Wach’s Gallery and Garden in Davis, W.Va. It’s a whole family affair with beautiful watercolors of flora and fauna by Delia and Holly, slab wood furniture built by Marty, and little trinkets they have collected from their travels over the years. “The best is when someone buys both of our work together for their home,” Holly said.
Wandering through the front rooms of the Wach’s home, there’s an eclectic mix of treasures on display. Rusty, the Wach’s six-year-old ridgeback hound and the official gallery greeter, will undoubtedly come to say hello during a visit, and, out back, Marty has an impressive pollinator garden.
Just down the street from the gallery you can walk Camp 70 Road along the Blackwater River, one of the Wach’s favorite spots to find inspiration. “We’re both really wildflower-obsessed right now,” Delia said. “The intensity of the color of flowers up here is so different. It’s like a fireworks show.”
Many of those same wildflowers show up in Holly’s bird collections and Delia’s woodblock paintings. “It’s been so fun to see our different approaches and connect on doing what we love most,” Holly said.
The tradition has been passed on to the next generation as Holly now attends art shows with her 11-year-old daughter. Just like she did all those years ago, Holly’s daughter helps her set up the booth and share her art with the world.
Cover Photo: The Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. Photo by Chris Ritter