Watercolors by Barbara Nigg

GUEST ARTIST: “Celebrating Life” with Barbara Nigg

Today’s wonderful doodlewashes come to us from Barbara Nigg, who lives just outside of Zurich, Switzerland (follow her on Instagram!). Originally from Canada, she met her husband will studying in Calgary and has been in Switzerland for the past 20 years.

Barbara says, “I got started when some kind adult in my life popped a crayon in my pudgy little two-year-old hand and although at first, I ate more crayons than I probably should have, I have never stopped drawing.”

Growing up in northern British Columbia, a sense of wonder for the wild things growing just beyond the picket fence fueled her imagination and filled her sketch pads with animals, mythical creatures from the rain forest and even a few dinosaurs. “I still love to draw dinosaurs and take great pride in the few paleontologists (two) following my Instagram.” 

“There is nothing I find more inspiring than being outside and drawing from life,” she says. “Paying attention by drawing what I see is like a form of prayer, adding clarity and richness to my life through a more intimate connection to the spaces around me and I love it.”

“No matter where I am, I feel most at home when I can draw, sketch or doodle – so I sketch when I travel, and travel to sketch. My travel sketches evoke a sense of reverie that a quick photo just cannot match. Living as an expat in a foreign country, drawing has been both a life saver and a great way to connect with the locals.”

Barbara is always experimenting with new media and her studio is inside her sketchbooks. She prefers Moleskine watercolor books for messing about with a lot of water but says you can’t beat the smooth paper of a Leuchtturm1917 for pen sketches. 

“I love mixing things up,” she says. “Graphite and pastel with watercolor, vibrant ink with pencil crayon and dip pens are the best as they are so hard to control. The drawings that I like the most are usually the ones I couldn’t control – a bit quirky and funny – thanks to a temperamental dip pen and waterproof drawing ink.”

“Right now I am into gouache – the dressed-down cousin of watercolor – because I like its opacity, the intensity and flexibility of the colors – vibrant and graphic. They remind me of the paints I had as a kid. Still nothing beats the fine line of a Platinum Carbon fountain pen and Daniel Smith or Schmincke watercolor in my sketchbook.” 

Doodlewash by Barbara NiggBarbara prefers working in sketchbooks because the stories that develop as the book fills with sketches fascinates her. “The sketchbook is a world of its own where anything can happen – a laboratory to try ideas, make mistakes and watch the drawings unfold and interact from one page to the next. Adding text is the icing on the cake – especially when something poetic pops onto the page.”

The drawings are important to her, but the process of drawing and how it makes her feel is what she really loves. Her aim is to be prolific, to travel and create a ton of drawings and so she has a satchel with a sketchbook, pens, pencils and watercolor packed and ready to go everywhere with her.

“I also have a mini sketch kit packed in a zip lock bag stashed in the car,” she says. “Just in case I don’t have my bag with me. Any downtime is a sketch opportunity. I also have my stuff on our dining room table so that even if all I have is 10 minutes, I can jump in and out of a drawing. Joining sketchcrawls is my latest passion as sketching with a mix of people is a lot of fun and inspiration, especially in Zurich – it’s a great way for locals and expats to explore the city together.” 

She is also a student of Sketchbook Skool and Craftsy and loves learning from so many different artists and classmates from all over the world. “Thanks so much Charlie! The community you build with your sketching is fantastic.” Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your story and your fantastic sketches with all of us doodlewashers! We’ll be following you on Instagram to see what you’ll create next! 

Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists

29 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Celebrating Life” with Barbara Nigg

  1. Barbara does such vibrant doodlewashes! It’s funny but for the 6 years that my older son was obsessed with dinosaurs, I never thought to sketch them (probably because I had another toddler in tow and I was lucky to be awake, let alone do anything else 😉 ). Delighted to see another fellow Canadian featured here!

  2. Well, that was inspiring. I marked this to read later tonight, but I couldn’t help myself. Charlie, thanks for the quotes and all the specifics. Now I’m lusting for a LEUCHTTURM1917 notebook Oy.I resonate with Babara’s fascination with capturing daily life and I love her sketches. Her though about letting things develop in a journal has really got me thinking. I may invest in something like that. Great article! Great work Barbara!

  3. Beautiful paintings and wonderful feature. Love how her sketchbook is not only her studio but also helps her feel at ‘home’ no matter where she is. So much of this is inspiring and motivating…thank you for sharing.

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