WET PAINT IN THE WETLANDS
My painting practice thrives on first hand encounters with nature. I sometimes use traditional layering and underpainting techniques, but more often I work wet-into-wet, which facilitates painting quickly. Wet paint is applied and mixed directly on the canvas, and typically results in a 'one shot' painting, as opposed to a painting that's developed over multiple sessions. While generally abstract, the form my work takes is a direct result of observational study. Plant life fascinates my imagination. Through various grants and residencies, I've been fortunate to study flora at four of the five National Tropical Botanical Gardens in the US, all located in Hawaii. This includes the remote cliffside rainforest vegetation of Maui's Kipuhulu District, and the rare Silversword plants that grow along the hot desert slopes of the Haleakala volcano crater.
This summer, I'm making paintings in the Eastern US wetlands, immersed in a theater of natural life. The US Environmental Protection Agency describes this particular type of non-tidal marsh on their website:
Due to their high levels of nutrients, freshwater marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. They can sustain a vast array of plant communities that in turn support a wide variety of wildlife within this vital wetland ecosystem. As a result, marshes sustain a diversity of life that is disproportionate with their size.
At the start of spring, the wetlands swell with growth, harbingered by a shrill chorus of peepers in twilight. Pulsing with the hum of insects, morning birdsong and midday bullfrog bellows, vibrant life emanates from the woods at all hours, in sparkling cacophony. Amongst the more prolific specimen, I've observed colossal mushrooms, ferns, mallard ducks, beetles, bats, spiders, deer, and coyote - I even spotted a bobcat one afternoon at 2pm, in clear daylight.
Wet dew, wet paint, wetlands - a perfect summer studio.
More images of my work can be viewed at www.nataliewestbrook.com