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Watercolorist Carolyn Gawarecki on Albuquerque Night

Albuquerque Night by Carolyn Grossé Gawarecki was selected by the juror for the Potomac Valley Watercolorists Founders' Award. (click for larger image)
Albuquerque Night by Carolyn Grossé Gawarecki was selected by the juror for the Potomac Valley Watercolorists Founders’ Award. (click for larger image)

Carolyn Grossé Gawarecki‘s watercolors are well known to anyone who’s visited The Art League over the years — any time over the past 50 years, in fact. Carolyn is a long-time member in the Gallery, has taught at The Art League School and many other places, founded the Potomac Valley Watercolorists, and has been in countless exhibitions, of which The Art League’s ’Scapes is the latest.

Since she is the founder of the organization, it’s perhaps not surprising that Carolyn’s work caught the eye of the exhibit’s juror and was selected for the Potomac Valley Watercolorists Founders’ Award. Juror Olivia Kohler-Maga awarded Albuquerque Night for its broad, dramatic expanse of sky combined with engaging details in the city. We asked the artist to tell us a little more about her approach to watercolor:

What made you want to paint this scene?
Carolyn Grossé Gawarecki: During a visit to a friend’s home in Albuquerque I was admiring the night view from their yard in the nearby mountains. The lights from the city were illuminating and reflecting off a mass of low lying clouds and sparkling in the thin air. I remembered the mood and then painted my interpretation after returning home. I tried to figure out how to get the effect so I decided to paint the picture wet in wet. First I threw some liquid mask in the area of the distant city to preserve the whites before I wet the paper. Then I splashed on the paint trying to make the clouds bold and dramatic with soft edges. I made the land areas very dark but with soft edges also. When the paper had dried, I removed the mask and then splattered some reds and yellows for the city lights. Voila, my night scene!

Painting a good watercolor requires a lot of planning with sketches and even more thinking of the process that particular picture will require. Paint it in your mind before putting brush to paper. Always plan the values with a good value study before painting.

What makes a good landscape?
A good landscape needs a touch of something a little different in color, texture, subject, approach or technique, and good design like most any other good painting requires. With Albuquerque Night I wanted to do a bold, strong, dramatic painting that would stand out with some twinkling colorful lighting effects.

Albuquerque Night (detail)
Albuquerque Night (detail)

What was on your palette for this painting?
I use Winsor Newton transparent watercolors with a few opaques. This painting needed several blues; Winsor blue, French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, plus Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Raw Sienna, Winsor Yellow.

Why are you a watercolorist?
I started watercolor in my early twenties. I had two little children, no place to store wet oils, my husband was a grad student. So the medium appealed to me because it was fast, clean, and easy to take around and store. The more I used the watercolors, the more I liked them and developed a facility for the medium. Then I also started some classes for local friends and things just sort of snowballed. It turned out I was a good teacher and living in the Boulder, CO area, the landscape material was all around me.

What are you working on now?
Currently I’m on a hiatus since I’d been in a debilitating car accident and am struggling to return to my normal activities. So I’m looking to decide what to do in the field and where to begin. My palette has been refilled and is ready.

’Scapes and Structures are both open through this Monday, September 8. You can read our interviews with some of the other artists in these exhibits here.

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