Stewart Falls, 20 x 30
One of the best things about our time here in Utah is the proximity to the mountains! Two great canyons are just five minutes from our house. Within an hour? I can get to one of a dozen or so. There is no end of potential hiking trails!
Stewart Falls is the first hike my dad took me on after we moved here. I remember he just showed up at my house on a random Tuesday afternoon, walking stick in hand, and asked, "Are you free for a couple of hours?" It ended up being more than a couple of hours, but arriving at this dramatic waterfall was worth every step! That was the beginning of a long string of hikes we took together, even cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing in the winter.
My favorite way to approach the falls is from Sundance, the way my dad first took me years ago. But one of the more beautiful and shaded trails is above Aspen Grove, from the opposite direction. The trail takes you through quaking aspen and giant ferns, until you wind your way to a rocky descent with this dramatic view.
This began as an experimental piece, painted on plate-finish illustration board rather than my usual textured watercolor paper. I began by creating the rhythm of the water invisibly, with a wax crayon. Then, as I added layers of paint, the paint resisted where the wax was, creating the lightest parts of the flow of the waterfall. I literally couldn't see it at all until I painted over it!
The plate-finish (slick) surface also created an interesting texture in the rocks, where the watercolors pooled and ran. I loved this natural approach to the details, letting nature take her course, rather than fussing over every crack and crevice. As I added more layers to the piece, the paint began to adhere and I had a little more control. The painting dances on the border between abstract and realistic, but if you know Stewart Falls, this captures not only the geography but also the energy.
Between my upcoming watercolor workshop in France and the cookbook exhibit and launch, not to mention private lessons and teaching at UVU, life has been pretty crazy here in my little corner of the art world. Last week was a much-needed spring break.
Ironically, one of my favorite ways to relax is to work. There is something so soothing about being able to spread out a series paintings, sink deep into the vivid color and expression, and delve into painting mode full time. One of the most relaxing and refreshing techniques I teach (I often present it for youth groups and women's retreats) is called "Negative Painting". The results are entirely positive, with a very high rate of success. The word negative has nothing to do with attitude, but rather with approach—painting around shapes rather than inside them. These paintings glow with a rare beauty and depth achieved only through multiple layers of transparent glazes. (This one painting involves hundreds of layers, all of which are transparent and give back light to the viewer.)
I spent a countless hours immersed in the negative painting process, finishing up this beauty, which has just been accepted into the Utah Watercolor Society Spring Exhibition. This is #4 in a series inspired by the hydrangeas growing in the courtyard of the Victoria & Albert museum in London. The hydrangeas there are the biggest and lushest of any I have ever seen! I took dozens of photos, and have painted them multiple times over the past 2.5 years. The previous hydrangea paintings in this series have all sold! In this one I added Lantana, a multiple petal flower that also grows in clusters, for complementary contrast and added texture. I love the way it turned out.
Come see it in person when the show opens in May:
Utah Watercolor Society Spring Exhibition
Eccles Community Art Center
2580 Jefferson Ave, Ogden, UT 84401
May 3-25, 2019
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.