You are what you paint.
For Joyce Anderson, though, it's not the objects she paints in her luxurious watercolors of landscapes, wildlife, people and flowers, but more what inspires her to paint them.
"I like things with a lot of contrast in them, with color or shadows," said the accomplished Walla Walla painter and art educator.
Contrasts and colors also could describe her life.
She has taught at Allied Arts in the Tri-Cities, Walla Walla Community College, Walla Walla School District and at The Center at the Park. Her work has recently been on display at Fort Walla Walla Museum, Coffee Connection Cafe and Williams Team Homes. Come January she will be teaching a class with the Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department.
Yet neither art nor teaching was her first career. Rather, she started out in nursing and was a school nurse at Edison Elementary School.
But she will tell you unequivocally that art has been her first love since childhood.
"I was always an artist," she said.
In third grade at Northridge Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley she endured a long illness, and when she returned to school her teacher had her paint a mural of the joyous circus parade in the Walt Disney movie "Dumbo." It offered her the opportunity to paint a number of different figures -- elephants, lions, people. And the movie's storyline -- in which Dumbo is made fun of and bullied because of his long ears, until he becomes valued when he discovers his ability to fly -- helped get the young Anderson back on track by seeing how bad situations don't always last.
By the time she graduated from Adolpho Camarillo High School in 1962 in California she actually knew she was an artist. But she was also practical enough to know she had to develop a career other than art until her avocation could be become her vocation.
"So I felt I had a choice between teaching, nursing or secretarial," she said. She chose nursing.
She connected with future husband Roy while a nursing student in Ventura, Calif., and he was an Air Force lieutenant. They met through mutual friends and married in 1967. After he left the Air Force he began work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which eventually brought them to Walla Walla in 1978.
Her experience teaching art has evolved, just as her initial use of oils has given way to watercolors.
"It's just morphed," she said.
Her process usually begins with a photograph, then a drawing, then the painting.
The first step for her students is to learn how to draw. After that, with watercolors, they learn process and technique. As students gain confidence, Anderson said, they are more likely to improvise with their own individual interpretations of the photograph, with some adding or omitting things.
In her teaching she emphasizes scale in use of color. A novice might make a shadow gray but then realize shadows are every color but gray, she said.
As for her own art, each creation is different.
"I like to try new colors," she said. "There's a surprise factor. You just know internally as the watercolors paint themselves. You know it's a good painting. When I'm judging, I like expertise, not sloppy innovation."
Art doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit of tortured souls; she has long been a member of art groups and now paints with Sisters in Art.
That also extends to her family, including Roy, who also is a painter. Anderson lately has been teaching acrylics to her granddaughter.
"It's almost an elixir, seeing her mixing paint," she said. "You start with a white canvas and then end up with something they love."
She has taught drawing and painting long enough that she's begun to see the progress of her students into more public venues.
"At this year's fair I saw students brave enough to put their work up. It's wonderful when they can say the words: 'I am an artist.' Of course, they often start choking," she laughed.
Karlene Ponti can be reached at 509-526-8324 or firstname.lastname@example.org