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Strokes of excellence
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Internationally renowned landscape and floral painter Terry Madden, in town this week teaching a three-day workshop with the Southern Heartland Art Gallery, has fallen in love with the city of Covington.

"I'm in love with Covington," said the artist famous for his watercolor paintings Wednesday morning. "I want to move here."

One can easily understand why. The stately antebellum mansions on Floyd Street are ideal material for a landscape artist such as Madden. During his three-day stay in Covington, Madden said he had taken to driving up and down Floyd Street and around the historic square several times a day just to admire the architectural beauty of the city.

The three-day workshop was held at The Center for Community Preservation and Planning because there was not enough room in the instruction rooms of Southern Heartland to hold all 30 of the students who signed up for Madden's workshop.

According to Susan Adams, president of Southern Heartland Arts Inc., the workshop brought people from all over Georgia and as far away as New Orleans and Hilton Head to Covington.

"We try to do workshops as much as possible," said Adams. "We appreciate The Center working with us. They were so gracious in letting us have the space."

While Southern Heartland has several Terry Madden Certified instructors among its members, Adams said having Madden in town to teach was a very big deal for the gallery.

Madden's instruction Wednesday, the last day of the workshop, included guiding his students through the process of bleeding their watercolors together in order to achieve a softer affect while they worked on paintings of large tortoises painted in warm varying shades of yellow, green and orange. During the first two days of the workshop each student painted a picture of two parrots with brilliantly colored plumage.

Students at the workshop came with a range of experience. For some this was their first foray into the world of watercolors, for others it was a chance to add to their own large arsenal of artistic knowledge from one of the art world's best teachers.

Madden, whose numerous workshops and television shows on PBS have popularized the wet-in-wet watercolor method for amateur artists and students everywhere, received nothing but high praise from students participating in the Covington workshop.

"I love it," said student Pat Shaver of Oxford. "He's great. He makes us feel good about what we've done."

Workshop student 18-year-old Lauren Rupp of Metairie La. said that she had learned a lot from the workshop.

"He's given us really good tips and told us how to structure our paintings better," Rupp said."

During the course of the workshop Madden gave his students an introduction to color theory as well as some advice on how to correct mistakes. Madden's method of instruction combined demonstrations of various techniques with one-on-one personal guidance for students as they carefully copied his directions.

"I do a step and they do a step," said Madden of his teaching method. "Everyone kind of gets it. It's amazing."

Since he began painting 25 years ago Madden has sold 7,500 originals and 250,000 reprints of his watercolors. What sets Madden apart from other artists according to Susan Wahl, financial administrator of Southern Heartland, is that he is very open to sharing his methods and expertise. In fact Madden has built a second art career for himself as an art instructor, teaching as many as 35 to 45 workshops a year and living in hotels 300 days out of the year.

Terry Madden Certified Instructor Kathy Mock of Ball Ground, Ga. attended Madden's workshop for the fourth time this week.

"Every time I come I learn something new," Mock said. "He's a watercolorist who has developed his own style and made it student friendly."

In addition to donating $5 from each $325 class fee charged to students of the workshop to the Southern Heartland Gallery's art education program, Madden provided many of the art supplies used by students for the class.

"I don't know too many teachers that go all the way like that," said Wahl.

The praise went all around Wednesday with Madden in turn saying that he was very impressed with the work of the non-profit Southern Heartland Inc.

"Those ladies have pulled something together that is awesome," said Madden of the local artists and volunteers who run Southern Heartland Inc. "I see co-opt galleries all over the county. This is one of the best I've been in."

Madden said that he "totally, totally enjoyed" the experience of teaching in Covington and would come back if invited.

Madden's show on PBS, Terry Madden's Watercolor Workshop, will begin airing new episodes sometime this September or October.

Madden's products, including paint brushes, paints and videos and books with step-by-step instructions can be purchased from Southern Heartland Art Gallery or online.

Wahl said the gallery was looking into bringing internationally renowned collage artist Vae Hamilton back to Covington for the gallery's next workshop around Thanksgiving time.