” expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard
but i died and my soul went
into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook on life ”
Archy & Mehitabel – Don Marquis (1878-1937)
Unlike Archy, I have no idea who or what I was in a past life, but in this reincarnation, my artistic soul resides in a woman who lives In Israel, with her spouse and three young boys, living together in our house at a moshav (village area).
My name is Liza Gonen, and I wanted to tell you a little bit about myself and about my art. I was born in 1977 with the soul of an artist, I was always into art and painting, ever since I was a little girl. In high school, I studied art and graphic design. Later, I studied graphic design & interior design, got my practical engineer degree and worked for some years as a graphic designer and as a kid’s room designer for a major furniture company in Israel.
Painting & Watercolor
My painting style and medium changed several times over the years. My start was very expressive and almost abstract, I explored different kinds of materials and techniques, and my painting style became highly realistic at a period when I painted exclusively with oil paint on canvas.
Though my painting technique got better and better, I felt that emotionally I drifted a little bit apart from my art.
I started painting in watercolors, it helped me to regain my soul, and it all happened by chance.
My first son was born, I was left with less free time to paint. With my second boy, that time shrank even farther and with my third baby boy, I started to cynically call myself: “Late Night Painter”. (somewhat like the use of the phrase “Sunday’s painter”)
What’s more, I wanted to keep my kids away from a living surrounding filled with toxic mineral spirit’s fumes and paint which may be a hazard to their health.
Watercolors were the perfect choice, dries fast, dilutes with water, and takes little space.
With watercolors, I rediscovered myself. I found new freedom. You can never totally control the medium, sometimes it does as it pleases. So many “happy accidents” which showed me the way to a deeper emotional expression.
I don’t see myself as a wildlife painter or an animal painter; it is probably just a phase. In the future, I see myself painting a diversity of subjects, but at present in my art, wildlife does take a big role.
I wonder what would it be like if in the next life my soul will go into the body of a lion, or an antelope. How does it feel to be an elephant or a deer?
Here comes to mind a memorable scene from the movie “Highlander” an 80’s cult film classic. Where the older immortal Ramirez (Sean Connery) teaches the younger immortal Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) how to mentally connect with a wild deer, and in some way, actually become the deer.
Here is the scene from the movie:
Maybe all of us already have some distant memory of being a wild animal in a past life.
I’m just kidding, I don’t really believe in reincarnation, it’s just a metaphor. But the animal portraits that I paint, are actually self-portraits, I paint myself, or at least, an aspect of myself. I paint the lion in me, the deer in me, the bird in me.
I believe, for that reason, many people can relate to my painting because, they are as well, a part of their soul, which is just like that animal that they see in the painting.
Earth Wind & Fire
The fire is the life force, it can also consume and bring death. In the Savannah, the fire of the lion might be the doom of the antelope.
I use colors in a symbolic fashion, as well as a visually expressive part of the painting.
The earth and the air, together with the fiery life force, symbolizes spiritual or mental elements in all living beings.
I made the deer in this painting like an earthly sculpture bursting from the ground, his head and horns like tree branches growing upwards, stretching to the sky. A kind of a merge of the deer, with the heaven & earth.
Color and subject both have a symbolic part and expressive role.
The watercolor medium, like water, has a flow, a mind of its own. It allows for an artistic dialog for me the artist (the creator) with my art (the creation).
For me, These elements feel very powerful together.
Oh, my… I really love to paint.
Process & Materials
Let me tell you a little bit about my painting process:
Every painting starts with reference material. I always prefer to work from my own taken photos. If I need to use reference material other then my own, I will choose to work from videos rather than still photos. From videos, I can get a better feeling for the animal which I paint, its movement, and life force.
When I have a clear idea, I’ll dive right in, but sometimes, I’ll make a sketch then color it, as a study for the actual painting.
Usually, I’ll start with a very solid drawing done in graphite, on a quality watercolor paper.
On top of the drawing I build many glaze layers, first considering solidity in form, and when I have it nailed, I let myself go free, purring my soul onto the paper.
I Mostly use Magnani Acquerello Toscana, it’s a 100% cotton, 300gsm, acid-free, cold pressed watercolor paper. It has a nice texture that takes the graphite well. It preserves the details and does not smear.
The colors are lifted really well from this paper. The water takes enough time to get absorbed in it, so I can easily put something down and then wipe it off if I changed my mind.
I use Winsor & Newton artists’ watercolors, these are very pigmented and have nice granulation. When it dries every spot is unique and irregular, a world of its own.
I also use Mijello Mission Gold watercolors, they mix with the water so well, and can cover large areas really fast, they too are highly pigmented and keep much of their vividness after they dry.
A New Outlook
So many amazing artists, such an abundance of creativity. I found inspiration through the art around me, I received so many kind words and a lot of encouragement.
I discovered Doodlewash®, and I was stunned, such a wealth of minds, artists, educators, art lovers, what a treasure.
Me and you, we are so fortunate to live and work at such exciting times.
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!