My name is Alisha B. Whitman and I’ve lived most of my life in the beautiful, but very rainy Oregon (follow me on Instagram and Facebook!). Lots complain about the rain, but without it, we’d never enjoy the incredibly lush greenery that I so love to paint. In fact, my favorite paint color is Da Vinci’s leaf green – it looks just like light shining through newly-grown leaves. True, it’s nearly neon but I like my colors bright!
That’s probably partially because a professor once criticized “you North Americans are scared of bold colors and are only comfortable with your grays.” I guess I took that as a challenge.
I got my degree in Art Education and love teaching, but when I was pregnant with my second child, a friend challenged me to submit a portfolio to a gallery and I began to get serious again about creating art. I got hooked. I now have five young kids and paint every chance I get (usually at night when they’re asleep) to stay sane.
I used to paint a lot of European cityscapes but the slowness of getting the architecture right drove me crazy. They sold really well, but they just weren’t relevant to my life. Hopefully someday I’ll get the chance to travel but for the time being my inspiration comes from closer to home. Now I mostly paint landscapes and when the weather is good we spend lots of time outdoors hiking and mountain biking, where I take countless pictures to bring back to my home studio.
Everybody gets a little tired of mom stopping the group to snap another picture but I get so inspired by the natural beauty of towering mountains, rivers and streams, and billowing clouds and I just want to remember everything so I can paint it all! Flowers are another weakness. Luckily my mother-in-law is a master gardener so whenever we visit I can take picture after picture in her awesome garden. Thank goodness you no longer have to develop film to look at your pictures! I’d be so broke!
Honestly, I started with watercolor because it was more kid-friendly since it dries faster and is non-toxic. But every time I’ve tried to switch to acrylics or anything else to be a “more serious painter,” I’ve become frustrated that other paints don’t do some of the work for me like watercolors do! The best painting advice I ever received was to “let watercolors be watercolors.” That was hard for me at first because as a first child, I was a bit of a perfectionist. Letting go of that and realizing that mistakes are often at least as beautiful and often more interesting than technical perfections really opened up my eyes.
Now I do at least half of my mixing on the paper, although that somehow doesn’t keep my palette from always being a ridiculous mess. I do a lot of wet-into-wet painting but only wet an area at a time so that I can maintain a little control. For example, when painting a flower, I’ll wet down only one petal, load my brush with lots of pigment, and let it flow. My paintings tend to be very bright and I try to get as much of that color strength as I can the first time through an area so that I don’t smooth it out too much with my brush strokes and risk losing the freshness.
Partially because I’m not patient, I then leave a little strip of white (so that my colors in the next petal won’t bleed back into the first), wet down the next area and play some more. Sometimes, I smooth those out later but if they fit, they stay and you can see a lot of those white strips in my paintings. I’m often asked but no, I don’t mask the lines. That would take way too long. I just slowly drag my flat brush a millimeter or so away from the previous section, which sounds riskier than it is! Sometimes the colors bleed into the wrong place and if it’s a disaster, a quick paper towel blot saves the day but more often, it’s not the end of the world. Or even of the painting.
As mentioned, I use Da Vinci watercolors. They’re a bit cheaper than some of the bigger brands but are still wonderfully vivid. I’ve started painting sometimes on Ampersand Aquabord instead of paper because the paints don’t soak into the surface but just stay on top in all of their glorious, well, brightness.
The only problem is that the colors don’t spread as well as they do on paper but you can almost completely remove any color you don’t like and don’t have to frame it behind glass. Pluses and minuses. One way or the other though, painting for me really isn’t optional. I have to make time for it or I get grumpy and start to feel a bit like a claustrophobic in a crammed elevator. I think it fills a real need to create and communicate and hopefully adds a little beauty to the world at the same time.