My name is Adriana Vidal (follow me on Instagram and my Facebook art page). Art has always been part of my life – viewing it, creating it, and sharing it. Growing up in Pennsylvania as a child, I drew, made sculptures out of Gouda and Edam cheese wax, walnut shells, and colored outside the lines. My favorite classes were art and my range spread from scraps, cheese wax, and walnuts to watercolors, oils, and acrylics.
I sold my first piece – a montage in oil of Native American vignettes – to my high school American History teacher. Art supplies and lab fees in college led to jobs that exposed me to business technology, but I thought that you were either an artist or a business person and I was an artist. Life got in the way and those same costs led me to drop my Sculpture major and switch to History.
In 1983, I gave up on college and moved to Los Angeles. I never liked the idea of being a starving artist so I made my living in business. I still took commissions for various types of artwork to supplement my income – conté crayon portraits, hand bound journals and polymer clay sculptures of people’s pets – but other than some pen & ink doodles, I never did very much work that I would consider my own. It was always very difficult to balance things out between work and art and art was generally what suffered.
In 2009, the company I was working for went under and a few months later I got asked if I would like to participate in an art show as part of a fund-raiser. It was the first time in ages that I could just let my imagination go and paint whatever I wanted. It was a truly freeing experience and that was when I decided that I was going to take some time and focus on creating art for art’s sake. I was experimenting with working larger and using bright acrylic colors mixed with metallics but soon found myself reverting back to smaller pieces. I was doing some more realistic acrylic and watercolor paintings of animals and plants, small sculptures in polymer clay and paperclay and dabbled successfully with 3-D shadowboxes.
I also started getting contract work as a business analyst that allowed me to take time off every year and focus on creating. I participated in several art shows, fundraisers, and holiday boutiques.
In 2013, I joined The Word is Art artist co-op in Culver City, California and my focus became creating art that could be sold. My inspiration came in spurts – circles, eyes, trees, doodles, endangered species, mythology, etc. – generally random things that caught my interest. It closed in 2014, and I joined the Ten Women on Main co-op in Santa Monica, California. Now my art was being greatly influenced by the people who frequented the shop. I marketed my work well with cards, mounted prints, small boxes, and magnets supplementing my original acrylics and watercolors but it wasn’t very inspiring.
A new contract put an end to that endeavor and I found myself creatively adrift with no reason to make art other than the occasional gift. In 2015, I decided I’d had enough of Los Angeles and decided to move to Columbia, South Carolina to be near my sister.
The move took place in May 2016 after my contract ended and I had a chunk of time to focus on settling in and creating art especially now that I had the luxury of a studio in my house. A luxury that I didn’t take advantage of until chance led me to discover World Watercolor Month on July 14th. I decided to challenge myself to do a small watercolor a day based on the various national and international days that are celebrated on a daily basis.
My posts on Facebook through Instagram were getting a lot of compliments from my friends so when July ended I joined the World Water Color Group on Facebook and just continued. For the first time in my life, I was creating art almost every single day – and if I missed a day, I made up for it the next day. And that’s when I started noticing that my pieces were improving daily.
I started experimenting with Strathmore hot press vs cold press paper; I have the 5”x7” Ready cut packs so I tape each sheet to a board before painting. Since I’m painting every day and totally in awe of so many of the artists in the World Watercolor Group, I decided to invest in some new brushes – Kolinsky and AIT sable detail brushes – but I do still use my trusty Loew-Cornell 1812s size 1 and 6 on occasion.
For the most part, I use a mix of Derwent watercolor pencils (Watercolor, Metallic watercolor, Graphitint and Inktense) but I occasionally use my Koi 24-color Water Color Field Sketch Kit.
I use the pencils a little differently than I think they are meant to be used though. I lay down any large areas with the lightest color just using the pencil and then wash it with water to blend it smoothly. Any small areas or shadings are done by wetting my brush and then getting the color off the tip of the pencil so I use the pencils more like a traditional pan.
The thing about using watercolor pencils is that the color after adding water isn’t the same as when it’s dry so I have made color sheets to refer to for all the different colors. That way I can see what they look like dry vs wet. I generally use white GellyRoll pens for tiny highlighting but if I am going to have a large area to leave white I use masking fluid especially if I want the background to be a wash. I recently got a Grafix rubber cement pickup tool and it made using masking fluid so much easier – picks it up like a dream. Since my style is more illustrative, I generally do a pencil sketch, a light outline in ink, and then erase the pencil before starting to add color. Any inking I do is done with a Faber-Castell XS Pitt Artist pen. As I mentioned before almost everything I do is small – a leftover habit from my doodle days!
I’ve sold several of these new pieces and I’m working on getting my website up to date and set up for ecommerce. I do have a tendency to be less creative when I’m working but now that I’m in the habit of making something every day I’m hoping to continue when I get back on contract in November. I don’t anticipate ever making my living solely from my art, I like the work I do as a business analyst too much to give it up but I can support my art habit with what I make and that makes me happy. I will probably always straddle the chaos between my cash job (business analyst) and my sexy job (artist) but it’s definitely a lot more comfortable these days.
Thank you so much to Charlie for allowing me to share my story and to all the artists of the World Watercolor Group for being so inspiring!