Artist of the Month: Marilyn Fuerstenberg

11 Sep 2008

 This self-taught artist has found that learning to paint in watercolor is not only fun and challenging, but it also enables her to explore the world around her.

Day Job 2007,
watercolor, 22 x 12.
All artwork this
article collection the artist.

by Naomi Ekperigin

Marilyn Fuerstenberg first began painting in watercolor more than 20 years ago, while she was working as a social worker in Wisconsin. The demands of her occupation propelled her to seek an activity that would balance the turbulence of working with abused and neglected children. “I loved my job, but working with abused children took so much out of me emotionally,” the artist says. “I knew I needed something to escape to, and painting became my therapy.” She first began painting in oil but found the “smells and mess were too much.” Fuerstenberg recalls speaking with a friend who worked in watercolor, and asking what she would need to get started in the medium. From her first painting, she knew she’d found the medium for her. “Just watching wet watercolors mingle on paper intrigued me,” she says. “Watching it mingle and make new colors…I was hooked.”

As a full-time social worker, watercolor was even more appealing because of its quick drying time. “I liked the fact that I could paint for 10 minutes—sometimes I only had 10 minutes,” the artist says. “I painted at my kitchen counter while making dinner. Actually, these quick works were just a way of getting a handle on the medium. I was more playing with the paints than actually making a painting.” After retiring in 2001, Fuerstenberg decided to devote herself to painting full time; she now works six hours a day, five days a week. The artist also finds great joy in teaching senior citizens in her area. Beginner watercolor classes allow her to sharpen her own skills while introducing the medium to others.

Working Man 2007,
watercolor, 17 x 20.

Fuerstenberg’s subject matter is varied, and she views each new painting as a chance to learn. “It can be a coyote far off in a field, a snow drift, or simply a vivid color,” she says. “I rarely will paint something that is not a challenge for me. I strive to keep learning.” The artist primarily paints nature scenes in her rural area, painting both on-site and back home in her studio. “I use rough sketches, and sometimes reference photos,” she explains. “I try to remember to do a value sketch, but I often find myself in too much of a hurry to start painting. When I’m doing a wildlife scene, I just sketch the animal onto the watercolor paper and nothing else. I then wet the paper and start laying in the sky, and take it from there.” This intuitive approach allows the artist to learn as she goes--figuring out how to proceed in each step and developing new techniques and approaches to problems. For instance, in the painting Daffodils, color mixing proved to be challenging for the artist. “The color yellow was difficult because of its high-key value range,” Fuerstenberg explains. “Yellow can turn muddy very fast, and I had to be careful about the colors I would shade the yellows with. The wrong purple—yellow’s complement—can turn the yellow more of a brown. I found, through trial and error--and intuition--that blue worked well.”

0803fuer4_600x409 0803fuer2_600x409
Taking A Break
2007, watercolor,
15 x 22.
2008, watercolor,
14 x 22.

Fuerstenberg’s commitment to self-education is a good lesson for all artists, especially those exploring a new medium. She recommends finding a teacher who can instill the basics, and then buying a few art-instruction books to develop new skills. Most of all, the artist believes a genuine desire and perseverance will lead to success. “Stick with it,” she asserts. “If you have a desire, it will happen. Oh--and never forget to have fun. We may not all become Winslow Homer, but if you enjoy it, that’s all that’s important.”

For more information on the artist, email her at

Naomi Ekperigin is the editorial assistant for American Artist.

Would you like to be our Artist of the Month?

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Marilyn Fuerstenberg wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 10:36 AM
Thank you Naomi Ekperigin for this opportunity and the wonderful article you wrote about me and my art. I enjoyed working with you. Marilyn
Janet wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 11:24 AM
Well done Marilyn, a well deserved honour to a wonderful artist, Janet in tenerife Watercolour Workshop
Vicki G wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 11:53 AM
I was very pleased to see this article about Marilyn Fuerstenberg. She is an exceptional artist and I am glad to see that she is recognized in American Artist.
Susan Drennan wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 11:55 AM
Marilyn, This is very well deserved. Not only are you an accomplished artist but wonderful about sharing your knowledge and talent with members of Watercolor Workshop who are in the earlier stages of learning. We appreciate you. SueD
Joyce Thompson wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 12:05 PM
Faboulous paintings! I'm so glad American Artist has honored Marilyn Furstenberg as this month's artist of the month. She is a wonderful painter and I always enjoy seeing her postings in our Watercolor Workshop group. Joyce Thompson Watercolor Workshop
Rhonda Carpenter wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 12:50 PM
I am so pleased to see this article about Marilyn Fuerstenburg. She is an exceptional artist, working hard to improve and always willing to challenge herself in the process. Her work is fine enough to be in any gallery and she deserves this honor. Congratuations, Marilyn. May this be the start of a fantastic 2008 for you.
Joy McKenzie wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 4:49 PM
I am so very pleased to see and read this article about Marylin Fuerstenberg. Marilyn is a fabulous painter always so very kind to share her knowledge with people in the Watercolor Workshop group...I am the very proud owner of one of her paintings and want to congratulate her on being chosen as Artist of the month..she certainly deserves this honor.
Mary Ann Inman wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 7:26 PM
I loved seeing Marilyn Fuerstenberg's paintings on the American Artist website. I admire her committment to painting (wow six hours a day). All four pieces posted are well done technically as well as interesting for us viewers.
Cindy Bodnar wrote
on 1 Mar 2008 9:49 PM
Thank you for featuring Marilyn this month! She is truly a master of this medium, and a very inspiring teacher to many! I might add that she's one of the most down to earth people that you'd ever meet, and you can't help having fun and being inspired by someone who truly loves what she does!!
djd wrote
on 2 Mar 2008 12:44 PM
Congratulations Marilyn! I appreciate your work and also your participation at Watercolor Workshop.
Lucy Cummings wrote
on 2 Mar 2008 3:17 PM
Marilyn, Just read about you on the Banner-----So happy for you!! Love the yellow flowers---you really captured them w/paint brush! Just one of your many admirers-----Lucy Cummings
Anita Schanke wrote
on 2 Mar 2008 3:28 PM
Congrads Marilyn-I will look forward to the arrival of my magazine-great job.
Barbara Grant wrote
on 2 Mar 2008 7:38 PM
Congratulations, Marilyn! I'm so impressed and happy for you. What a great article. You deserve this recognition not only for your wonderful abilities as an artist, but also for the generosity you show to other artists and to our Whitewater community. Good for you!
Veronica Davis wrote
on 3 Mar 2008 9:28 AM
Marilyn's work is beautiful and so fresh! She has been a great teacher to many. Whe has complete control of watercolor, which I am still learning. Congradulations!!
Marilyn Fuerstenberg wrote
on 3 Mar 2008 10:09 AM
Thanks for your Congrats!!! Anita - I am NOT going to be in the magazine, but I look forward to it also. Maybe one day I will have an article in a magazine, but for now this is a great honor. Marilyn F.
Peggy Gennaccaro wrote
on 4 Mar 2008 9:11 AM
Thank you for featuring Marilyn's art. She is an amazing artist and has been for many, many years. I am so proud to have Marilyn as one of my best friends throughout our years. I am the owner of one of Marilyn's pieces and I cherish it. Congrats, my friend. This recognition is long overdue. We are all so very proud of you and your talent.
Shannon Emmerich wrote
on 20 Mar 2008 11:16 PM
Fantastic/ I absolutely love your art/ Please send more pictures / I am a proud owner of two pieces and will cherish them forever. You are amazing!!!
shirley Matthews wrote
on 18 Jun 2008 8:44 AM
This is an honor well deserved. Marilyn has a special talent and shares her knowledge with many. I am honored to know her. Keep it up, Marilyn.