Meet 7 artists making a splash with watercolors and acrylics
This story was featured in the December 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story!
Themes and imagery related to water flow seamlessly throughout Lance Hunter’s body of work. Giant fish, Greek fishermen, and women submerged under a sea of brilliant shades of blue all make star appearances in Hunter’s paintings. In style his works range from representational to ones with surrealistic overtones. The multilayered works can also be mysterious, and they often invite the viewer to conjure up their own interpretations. “I frequently use symbolism or allegory,” Hunter says. “Recently I have been playing thematically with the passage of time and how it ends up dictating the way we conduct our lives.”
The Oklahoma-based painter says he is mainly a figurative artist because the figure is the best genre for capturing “what it means to be a human being.” An award-winning artist and a signature member of the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society, Hunter also has two paintings featured in Splash 16 to be published by North Light Books in 2015. Although he also paints in oils, he says, “I like the fluidity of watercolor, and I feel freedom playing with it. Some fight and struggle with watercolor, but if you make it your ally, it’s a more fun, interesting experience.” Hunter’s work is available at www.lancehunter.com. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Although his body of work comprises watercolor and oil paintings of figures and landscapes, what Michael Holter really paints is how light falls on an object or structure. “What I am attracted to is something that has a pattern of light and shadow,” he says.
Having grown up with virtually no fine-art exposure, Holter first experienced art in college, eventually completing a degree in art education. After teaching art at the high school level, he completed a master’s degree in visual communication, and for years he did commercial art for hundreds of nonprofit organizations. Today, Holter spends his days capturing local landscapes and western characters—who, he says, are plentiful in the area around his Texas home—and teaching watercolor workshops. In the past three or four years, Holter has become more interested in painting people. “I love landscape work,” he says, “but there’s just something very challenging and interesting about painting people.” And he finds that viewers really respond to his watercolor portraits.
“God has given me an ability to see something and translate that into a sort of shorthand that captures the essence of something,” he says. “I give the viewer a sense of being there and, at the same time, allow the qualities inherent in the medium to be evident and enjoyable.” Holter is represented by Griffith Fine Art Gallery, Salado, TX; L.A. Thompson Gallery, Clifton, TX; Last Art Gallery, McKinney, TX; Rail Station Studio & Gallery, Plano, TX; and Thunder Horse Gallery, Ruidoso, NM. —Laura Rintala
Catherine Hearding considers herself an “organized” painter who always plans ahead. In contrast, Hearding says the thing she enjoys most about the watercolor medium is its constant surprises. When the paint splashes down on the paper, she never knows quite what unplanned visual result will unfold. Hearding is also attracted to watercolor because, in her opinion, no other medium captures the transparency and ethereal quality of light like watercolor.
Currently the Minnesota-based artist is focusing her creative eye on water as subject matter, too—still water, rushing water tumbling over rocks, and waves crashing toward distant shores. Hearding enjoys traveling for inspiration as well as capturing scenes not far from home in all seasons, even the frozen winter landscapes of the Twin Cities area when temperatures plunge below zero. No matter what season, she favors portraying up-close, intimate slices of a landscape rather than dramatic panoramic views. “I like to surprise the viewer with something they may not have looked at closely before— something beautiful to which they have a strong connection,” she says. The artist is represented by Wilcock Gallery in Excelsior, MN. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
James D. Brantley
Alabama-based painter James D. Brantley works in oil, watercolor, and egg tempera, but if he wants to get the best results for texture—whether it’s skin, fabric, wood, or grass—watercolor reigns supreme in his book. “Because the paint is so thin when you put it on, you can have ultimate control in the application of it,” Brantley says. If he is painting a scene outdoors, the artist likes the simplicity of not having to haul paint thinner with him, and when he’s finished, he doesn’t have to worry about how to transport a greasy, messy palette of oils back home.
Brantley is quick to point out that, unlike some artists, he isn’t trying to convey any hidden meanings in his paintings. “I only want to create a work of art that is of high quality, thought- provoking, something I enjoy and viewers enjoy,” he says. “I just see something that is beautiful or interesting, or both, and paint a picture of it.”
Earlier this year Brantley’s figurative works won top awards at the Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors in Old Forge, NY, and the Hudson Valley Art Association’s National Juried Exhibition at the Salmagundi Club Gallery in New York City. He is represented by The Garden District Gallery in New Orleans, LA. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
After many years as an illustrator, Connecticut-based painter Del-Bourree Bach now paints for himself. Inspired by tranquil landscape and maritime scenes, particularly images of transparent water, the artist says he doesn’t have a need to set the world on fire by tackling complex issues through controversial images. “I’m not an angst artist,” he says. Instead Bach finds that when he paints what inspires him, people respond.
Working primarily in acrylic, which he favors for its short drying time and easy cleanup, Bach captures shore scenes and landscapes of the Northeast in a style he defines as contemporary realism. “Clean, detailed,” he says, “but not too detailed.” Working with a large brush for as long as possible, he then goes back in with smaller brushes to “pop out” important features—a technique he brings from his days in illustration where he learned to work quickly, accurately, and to meet deadlines.
Drawn to weathered subject matter, be it living or inanimate, he eschews what many might consider beautiful in favor of the intrigue he finds in the patina of age and interesting lines. Most importantly, Bach emphasizes the design of a painting, knowing that while a painting can be technically wonderful, without good design it won’t be a good painting.
Bach is represented by Courtyard Gallery, Mystic, CT; Hughes Gallery, Boca Grande, FL; Susan Powell Fine Art, Madison, CT; The Maritime Gallery at Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT; The Scott Bundy Galleries, Kennebunkport, ME; Left Bank Gallery, Orleans, MA; and Rich Timmons Studio & Gallery, Doylestown, PA. —Laura Rintala
The first thing to know about Robert Dalegowski is that he is passionate about the Grand Canyon. For nearly 60 years he has hiked, climbed, floated, and painted in the majestic canyon. In all those hours and miles, the Arizona-based artist says he has barely scratched the surface of what’s available to see and paint. But because he packs light, the artist probably has seen more of the Grand Canyon than most other artists.
Dalegowski carries only a block of paper, watercolors, and a cup. No easel. No chair. Essential to his creative process is finding water on location. This simple approach to the tools of his trade allows him unusual mobility and the chance to capture perspectives denied to those carrying a ton of equipment. “I am always trying to convey the essence of the moment, the light, the contrasts, the colors, and my overwhelming connection with the place,” Dalegowski says. “I feel extremely blessed to express myself with paint.”
Dave Nichols is fond of saying that landscapes and seascapes are where his artistic heart dwells. Fortunately for Nichols, he lives on the shores of scenic Lake Whatcom in northwestern Washington, a place that provides him a plethora of picturesque scenery to feed his imagination. “I attempt to interpret these scenes in a way that is true to nature while trying to find the proverbial ‘wow’ factor,” Nichols says.
A retired attorney and superior-court judge, the watercolorist is largely self-taught and says he became seriously immersed in painting as a second career after giving up the gavel. Nichols describes the transition as a challenging change—a move from daily left-brain activities to right-brain pursuits. In terms of style, Nichols says his process includes “letting strong color flow like water” and then watching what happens spontaneously as the “wet paper explodes the paint.” Unlike many watercolorists, Nichols relishes strong contrasts and tends to fill the paper, leaving little negative space. His main mission, the artist says, is to draw viewers into a scene that will trigger an emotion or memory. Nichols is represented by La Conner Seaside Gallery, La Conner, WA. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the December 2014 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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