Finding Focus

“It?s amazing what you learn when you try new things,” says Canadian artist Mona King. For her still life After the Rain, King started with the background instead of the foreground. “I thought I?d try something different, and I?m glad I did because I got the illusion of depth right from the beginning and I found it easier to determine the values of the roses from that.”

After the Rain (watercolor, 12×17) is a 2000 Art Competition finalist.

Inspired by the roses in her garden, After the Rain is one of five completed paintings in a series of 10 close-up floral still lifes. Although she?s done some of the pieces in acrylic, King prefers the transparency of watercolor and the shine of the white paper beneath. She likes the outdoors and loves painting natural light, so she works from photographs she takes on camping trips and on her daily walks. Since she became interested in gardening about a year ago, she?s been focusing on close-up floral paintings inspired by the flowers in her garden. “I really like it because you?re not concentrating so much on the subject; you?re looking more at the color, the shapes and the patterns,” she says.

Creating the rich black of the background was one of the biggest challenges King had to overcome while working on the piece. “If I just use black, it almost comes out looking dull, so I had to put in the Hooker?s green and the crimson lake,” says King.

One of the keys to every piece she creates is a detailed drawing. “I find it very important to my artwork to do a very detailed drawing on the paper itself,” she says. “I know I should do it on tracing paper, but I rarely start something over again. If it changes, that?s OK. I just go with the flow.”

Although she?s always loved art and had her first piece commissioned at age 15 (a pencil portrait of her English teacher?s three children), King decided to pursue a “sensible” nursing degree after high school. During her three years working as a nurse, she always found a way to do any art projects that arose. She was in charge of setting up and designing teaching displays for her health unit and once painted a life-size skeleton in the orthopedic unit just for fun. That?s when she decided that she should devote herself to her true love?creating art. When she began painting in 1993, she sold a few pieces and won a few contests, which convinced her she?d made the right decision. Entering competitions, mostly local, continues to be important to the artist as it helps her improve her skills. “It really pushes me to try a little harder,” King says. “You also get to see other artists? work?see what they?re doing and how they?re doing it. Plus, you get feedback on your work.”

Loraine Crouch is the assistant editor for The Artist?s Magazine.

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