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Magic in the Watercolors

Brownsburg artist Anna Roberts strokes life onto canvas and into students

By Stephanie Dolan

Award-winning watercolor artist Anna Roberts shapes the gifts of talent in her art classes one student at a time and shares her talents with the world.

Anna Roberts wins awards for her watercolor art and shares her talent with adult and youth students in the Indianapolis area.

The Brownsburg painter is well known for her gift of watercolor artistry and has shared her talent for 23 years in classrooms, splitting her time between Cardinal Ritter High School and St. Roch Catholic School in Indianapolis.

“The best thing about teaching is the children,” Roberts said. “To see something that they’re excited about — sometimes something they don’t think they can make and then find out they can — it’s just really a great thing to be able to share.”

Her talent goes beyond the classroom to juried shows in the area. 

This year alone she earned Best in Show from the Bicentennial Museum of Illinois and Best Watercolor from Hoosier Salon as well as an award from the Watercolor Society of Indiana.

“I’ve had a really good year,” she said.

Roberts has a drawer full of awards, but recent and prestigious is the Past President’s Award from the National Watercolor Society.

“They receive thousands of entries from around the world,” she said. “Out of those entries, they choose 100 paintings.”

From that final grouping, Roberts received the award. She now signs “NWS” after her name on each piece, an honor that not many artists attain.

Her love for art didn’t start with a canvas but instead at a pottery wheel. She even ran a shop on Crawfordsville Road before giving that up while pregnant with her third child. 

“It was just too difficult to bend over and throw pottery,” she said. “I had to do something different, and I started watercolors.” 

For years Roberts took watercolor classes from now deceased Indiana artist Rosemary Lawton Thomas and started teaching her students when Lawton Thomas moved. Today she’s maintained that teaching throughout her career in the classroom and after school with adults.

“I like to paint odd things,” she said. “I especially like things from the ocean or water, but I paint all kinds of things really. My work isn’t so much things you would hang in your house as they are things you might find in a museum.”

Roberts likes to share a different point of view on something that someone might not have previously considered.

“By painting or showing it in a different way, I can find beauty in it to share with people,” she said.

Sharing that different viewpoint with her students is one of the reasons she’s still going strong as an art teacher.

“The thing that I love about teaching children is the pure joy and abandonment that they create with,” Roberts said. “They don’t have to be good to create. I always want to remember that it’s sheer joy to be able to do this. It doesn’t have to be good. Art is in the eye of the beholder. To that child’s parents, that is the best picture in the world.”

Children aren’t Roberts’ only students. She also teaches adults in a Brownsburg barn and at the Noblesville library.

Those interested in learning from Roberts can get information on her classes through the Watercolor Society of Indiana.

“I feel honored to be a student of such a teacher,” said Sandra Shoemaker of Avon. “Here I am in Brownsburg, Ind., taking watercolor classes from one of the best teachers in the world. I love her to pieces. She’s just a wonderful person. I’m very honored to be her student and so fortunate.”

Shoemaker, the former principal at Maple Elementary in Avon, retired in 2004 and had always wanted to take watercolor classes. She began as soon as she retired.

“I had never put a paintbrush to canvas,” she said. “Someone suggested Anna Roberts, and I’ve been her student ever since. She is the most humble and unassuming person.”

Even though her mentor paints “odd” things, Shoemaker creates art featuring what she holds most dear.

“When I went to Italy I painted the Coliseum,” she said. “I painted my mother. I painted a tribute to my father. I paint things that I love. My most recent painting I call ‘The Sixth Day.’ It was God creating Adam. I just paint things that are dear to me.”

Roberts loves to teach art to see various perspectives come to life.

“It feels like you have a gift from God that allows you to see things in a very different light,” Roberts said. “Like the beauty of nature, that’s what it feels like to be an artist to me, which is why I love to teach art, because I want to share that gift.”

Using watercolors as her medium, Anna Roberts prefers to paint objects from the ocean or odd scenes. (Photos by Rick Myers)

Personality box:

Getting to know Anna Roberts 

Who or what inspires you? My family. Because there’s 17 of us including children and grandchildren. My husband is very supportive of all my crazy ideas. I’m also inspired by all the people that I teach and how they strive to learn. It makes me want to be better.

What have you most recently read? Clear Seeing Places by Brian Rutenberg

Do you have pets? A dog, Nona. She’s really old but she’s still kickin’.

What is your favorite TV show? I don’t watch TV that much.

What is your favorite movie? “Trolls.” My grandkids love that movie

What is the secret to your success? Always remembering that this is a gift that has been given to me by God and to never ever think it’s something that I could do on my own. It’s a gift. I never, ever want to take it for granted.


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