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I’m always surprised that the so-called ‘Painter of Light’ isn’t a watercolorist. Luminous light effects are what the medium is all about, and watercolor artist Jean Grastorf has created a unique body of watercolor paintings showcase this potential, and she does it in a way I’ve never seen before.
Portifino by Jean Grastorf (watercolor painting, 20 x 30, 2003)
was created using the artist’s signature pour technique.
Inspired by a method she learned in an ink pouring class, Grastorf has put down her brush to pour and drip successive layers of color on a wet, carefully masked page. It takes a lot of labor to work this way: mask, pour, dry, pour, remove mask, tint. Grastorf jokingly says her process is like killing an ant with a sledgehammer. But the payoff! The artist is rewarded with beautiful glazes and washes that show no hint of a brushstroke, and colors that come together and blend seamlessly and unpredictably.
Grastorf sets the bar pretty high, striving to perfect her own watercolor painting technique while creating works that evoke nothing less than visual effects of warm, glimmering sunlight. “Using transparent washes of color, I create the illusion of light…By simplifying forms, the strength and beauty of the light becomes the message within the painting.”
Grastorf sets her watercolor painting at an angle
and pours the pigments by hand, in layers.
To guarantee her washes stay as incandescent as possible and don’t build up to such an extent that they become opaque, Grastorf checks the value of each pour on a scrap of paper before doing her final pour. From there, she lets the medium completely take over. This drives me a little crazy—all that effort to get the surface ready and then just back off from guiding the process at the most crucial moment? But that’s exactly the point. “The way in which puddles of paint dry creates wonderfully unexpected textures. Blooms, darker edges, and beautiful mixtures of color result from this unrestrained flow,” Grastorf says. From there, layers of masking are put down and peeled back to allow for greater contrast within the shapes—simulating the play of sunlight on various objects and surfaces.
Discovering Grastorf’s process has really opened my eyes to the possibilities inherent in watercolor painting. There’s so much out there and everything new that I learn about watercolor art teases out a new idea in my mind, and I’m thankful for that. Whether it is watercolor painting instruction or watercolor artists sharing what they do—this information is a big part of why I grow as an artist! If you feel the same way, you may be interested in Iain Stewart’s From Photos to Fantastic: Painting Watercolor Landscapes DVD and Companion Guide. Its focus on landscape painting can really open your eyes to the beauty and possibilities of the world around you. Enjoy!