Creativity Workshop: The Unconventional Route

In Seeing the Forest for the Trees (watercolor, gouache and graphite on board, 20×30), an abstraction recalling trees is simpli?ed using a prepared, textured substrate. Line plays a leading role, while light and color enhance the mood.

Artists often wonder how to move their work from realistic descriptions to more abstract explorations. Paring down a subject to its essence and looking beyond a literal rendering to a more personal interpretation can seem daunting. I’ve found a simple way to take inspiration from nature, explore my feelings and understanding of the subject, and convey my ideas in an unconventional manner.

By affixing tracing paper to the surface of illustration board or archival matboard, I’ve discovered a great substrate for painting my visions of nature. Because paint may react in unpredictable ways, expression can proceed without the traditional caveats and rules for painting watercolors. With this process, simplifying the subject and incorporating the textural elements that I love in my paintings becomes automatic. As it turns out, watercolor is an excellent medium for this kind of prepared, textured surface.

JUANITA HAGBERG is a full-time watercolor artist from Oakland, California, and Camano Island, Washington. To read the full text of this article, pick up your copy of the June 2011 issue of Watercolor Artist.

Try This At Home!
Move beyond representation and explore abstraction by using a textured surface to loosen up your painting process. Then send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your ?nished painting to us at with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a six-month subscription to online video workshops, plus $50 worth of North Light ?ne art books. The deadline for entry is June 10, 2011.



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