Watercolor by the Water

Story By Barb Howell | Artwork By Pat Heintzelman

If you’re lucky enough to live by the water, you’re lucky enough.” Words of appreciation and gratitude – words that speak to local watercolor artist Pat Heintzelman, who has made it her life’s work to paint the many scenes around Geneva Lake. The subjects of her paintings are both iconic and familiar – the Riviera, a wooden boat, a single buoy reflecting in the lake’s waters – but her soothing color palette and eye for detail give us a different perspective without the harsh edges of everyday life.

Lake Geneva has been home to Heintzelman for most of her life. As early as age 8, while visiting as a summer camper at Covenant Harbor on Geneva Lake’s north shore, she knew she’d one day leave the cornfields of Indiana behind and return to the lake that had captivated her. “I fell in love with the lake,” she says. “I told myself I would someday be on staff there [Covenant Harbor] and I was.”

Her high school and college summers as a camp counselor only intensified her connection to the lake, and it’s here where she met her husband, who would eventually become executive director of this lakeside retreat and stay in that role for 22 years. As the Heintzelman family grew to include three daughters, Pat’s interest in painting increased, but it wasn’t until their youngest child started school that she enrolled in watercolor classes.

“When you’re an art major in college you really don’t spend a lot of time on water- color and I always wanted to give it a try,” she says. “I discovered there’s a huge learning curve – it’s almost like learning to play an instrument – it’s a long process.”

Years later and now an accomplished, award-winning artist, Pat says she’ll never tire of painting the endless lake scenes near her Lake Geneva home. Her process is methodical, starting first by photographing her subjects and then creating a sketch to capture the detailed nuances. Sometimes, she admits, she may be working on several pieces at once. “There’s a lot of thought that goes into each one and if I hit a snag, I may move on to another piece,” she explains. “Sometimes I could be doing a sketch for one piece, painting another and thinking through another.”

The arduous process of watercolor painting is based on creating shapes and layering color, she says. “You start light then progressively go darker. I start with a light wash and then keep building color – sometimes it might take six to eight different colors and washes to get the right effect.” In all, from beginning to end, her paintings take from 15 to 20 hours to complete.

Although Pat gravitates toward painting lake scenes, she also likes to paint florals as well. In addition, her work has included commissioned paintings of lakefront homes or boats typically for Christmas or birthday gifts.

Pat will be exhibiting her artwork this summer at the Fine Art & Craft Show at Edgewater Park in Williams Bay, July 27-28, and the Kenosha Tall Ships Festival, Aug. 2-4. This fall she’ll be participating in Mount Mary University’s Starving Artists’ Show in Milwaukee, Sept. 8, and at the Antique and Classic Boat Show at The Abbey Harbor, Sept. 28-29. You can also find her artwork at The Cornerstone Shop in Lake Geneva, Pier 290 in Williams Bay and Nick’s Upholstery & Lydia Design in Fontana.

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