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Longboat artist says watercolor is a 'happy dance'

Madeline Wikler connects with her artwork through the viewers' perspective.

Madeline Wikler's painting from her travels to India.
Madeline Wikler's painting from her travels to India.
Courtesy photo
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A life lived in art is a life of exploration where the artist's spirit dances freely on the canvas. 

Madeline Wikler, an artist and Seaplace resident, has such a spirit, which has been ingrained in her throughout her entire life. She has been painting, doing pottery, drawing and taking photographs all her life. 

But her painting didn't take off until after she retired from her job working for a publishing company in 2001.

“I had a family and a job and I didn’t give myself permission to do it,” said Wikler. “A man was leading an art class that I went to and it’s like I had an epiphany. It started from there. Power of place.”

For Wikler, things just clicked. 

“My watercolor journey actually started in Maine and I’ve tried pastels. It’s gorgeous. But I didn’t like the squeaky sounds or all the dust flying everywhere. I’ve even tried oils,” said Wikler. 

Wikler has spent seven winters on the island and bought a home on Longboat Key in 2019.

"Dock Sitters" by Madeline Wikler
Courtesy photo

Wikler explained that with watercolor, it’s either right or wrong. 

“With oils, you can never truly finish,” said Wikler. “I believe that watercolor is the harder medium because you can’t correct anything.”

The paper, once pristine, comes alive as gentle waves of translucent pigments embrace its surface. Every stroke is deliberate. Her work is filled with an array of muted tones and soft hues. 

Her artwork has been described as similar to stained glass.

Courtesy photo 

Wikler paints in cycles, painting a series of works. For example, she would selectively pour art and paint negatively around a subject. Another series she completed was in acrylics. 

“I truly love to paint informal portraits as well as commissions if the reference photo is detailed enough,” said Wikler. “For me, my connection with a piece of art is with the viewer. I do it for the reward of making the art and having someone enjoy it. It’s not a way to make a living.”

Courtesy photo

Wikler owns a summer home in Maine where she regularly paints plein air.

“I want my process to be simple. I have a watercolor palette, a light easel and a light chair. I have bug repellent and a hat and you’re good,” said Wikler. “I remember once I was out painting and some wild turkeys came by.”

Courtesy photo

Wikler explained how she was sitting outside and painting the coast of Maine. Someone approached her, quietly watched her paint and asked for her card.

“They asked me if I could email what the finished painting would look like because they wanted to buy it,” said Wikler. “It’s that connection that you make.”

Wikler has been featured in Longboat Key’s annual art exhibit at Town Hall for the past two years. 

Madeline Wikler presented her art for the first time at Longboat Key's Town Hall in March 2022.
Photo by Nat Kaemmerer

She graduated from Brown University and was a founding member of Gallery 302 in Bridgton, Maine. Although she is no longer an active member.

“When I’m in Maine, I paint more landscapes — the water and blue hill. While I’m in Florida, I tend to work on series,” said Wikler. 

Wikler’s advice to anyone interested in painting with watercolor is to just pick up the brush.

“It’s like anything else, the theory of 10,000 hours. Use up a lot of paint, mess up a lot, play around and figure it out as you go. It’s all about the water. It’s a happy dance between the lack of control and intention. Watercolor is never the same twice.”



Sidra Wali

Sidra Wali is a staff writer for the Longboat Key Observer. She's worked as a newspaper reporter and written for several publications and organizations as a freelancer.

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