Lauren Arno Watercolor Painting Flower

GUEST ARTIST: “The Beauty And Light Within Faces and Flowers” by Lauren Arno

My name is Lauren Arno and I am a special education art teacher from New Jersey, USA. I studied art education at The College of New Jersey and earned my masters in special education at Rowan University. I have been teaching in public schools for about 15 years as well as online for the Sktchy Art School and workshops at community art centers in my area.

I was introduced to watercolor as a young child as my mom painted landscapes. She would sometimes have classes in our home that I would eavesdrop on. I never actually picked up the paints for serious paintings until 2015. My husband suggested that I join an online portrait community through the Sktchy app. There I was inspired by another artist named Anna Lopez to dig out my little paint box from high school. An obsession was born. Since that point I have drawn and painted over 500 portraits.

I started studying other watercolor portraits, asking artists questions, and watching hours upon hours of tutorial and speed painting videos. In January of 2016 I decided I wanted to take the dive and paint complete works of art rather than watercolor sketches. I began incorporating floral backgrounds and fuller compositions. Finally I landed my own solo show at the Markeim community art gallery in Haddonfield NJ called “Faces of Haddonfield”.

I compiled about 50 portraits of the people who worked, lived, and hung out in the historic town. I enjoyed meeting all these individuals and learning their stories. I feel that watercolor gives such a luminescent effect that the medium breathes life into my subjects. The washes of color allow me to create glowing skin tones with deep jewel tones in the shadows.

My process is a simple one. I begin with drawing sketches of my subjects focusing on the shapes that their features make as well as the major shadow shapes. It helps when I squint my eyes to blur out details so I can only see squishy masses of color and shape. Sometimes when I feel stuck in a drawing rut, I will draw a contour drawing with my non dominant hand. It’s a fun exercise with unexpected results.

After I am satisfied with my sketch, I will transfer it to my watercolor paper. When I want my lines to be invisible I will use a 4H pencil. But sometimes I will use a colored pencil, Koh-i-Noor magic pencil to be specific, to do my under drawing. The tricolored pencil will shine through with is unique shifting rainbow colors. I then begin laying in washes of color using wet on wet techniques and textures.

I slowly build up layers until I have defined enough shapes of my subjects key features. I work my florals in a same fashion. I study and sketch the shapes and start with loose washes. I try to work petal by petal skipping around the composition as to prevent one area unintentionally bleeding into another.

I feel that quality paper is the most important tool in my arsenal. I can have the finest brushes and paints, but if the paper is going to wrinkle and unevenly absorb the paints it is not worth the fight for me. My favorite brands of paper are Arches and Stonehenge papers. I also enjoy painting on clay boards by Ampersand. My paints are a variety of Daniel Smith, Holbein, Winsor & Newton, M. Graham, and Sennelier. I love the highly pigmented professional grade paints. A little goes a long way especially for someone who loves working in light washes.

I am horrible to my brushes. Except for my Blick Masterstroke pure sable brushes, I need to buy new ones every six months or so. I like the Princeton Velvetouch series of round brushes. I can use a size 8 round for an entire painting. I end up working them to death and the ends curl and won’t give me the point that I want. I just pass those on to my kids and order some more.

I want to continue to challenge myself to loosen up my style and try to tell the story of my subjects face with as few shapes and details as possible. I find that when I try to get too many details in, I end up with an overworked painting. Moving slowly and taking lots of breaks to reflect on my portraits is a huge help. I also depend heavily on my artist community for critique and support. I hope to always keep my fascination with watercolor. It is majestic, chaotic, and full of so many surprises.

Lauren Arno

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22 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “The Beauty And Light Within Faces and Flowers” by Lauren Arno

  1. Beautiful pictures and beautiful story. Thanks for sharing your journey. Also, I feel better for my own brushes now which also getting a little roughed-up 😁

    1. The struggle is real to keep those brushes nice. I think I am going to give Trekel brush soap a try. They also have a product after wash them to reform the shape and point.

  2. Thank you for explaining your process.
    We have a little bit of a connection. I got my BA in music education from Rowan when it was Glassboro State. I got my MA in music education from TCNJ when it was Trenton State. As a vocal student in different choral ensembles, I had opportunities to perform with the Haddonfield Symphony. Now I live in Arizona.

    1. I love using super saturated colors. I think the fact watercolors can make such beautiful luminescent jewel tones is what attracts me to the medium.

  3. Lauren, your art is astounding. Your mastery of watercolor goes well beyond picking up techniques from video tutorials. You are truly a prodigal talent beyond what can be taught and this is evident in your portraiture. Portraits are so difficult to master in watercolor as the paint has its own life and is unforgiving. You’ve managed to let the spontaneity of watercolor exhibit its range but also convey detailed and enchanting portraits that reveal the character of your subjects. Well done, extraordinarily well done.

    1. wow! Thank you for such a kind and generous commentary. I really strive to let the spirit of my subjects shine through. I do not want to paint beautiful people, but paint people beautifully.

  4. When you say that hat you transfer your drawings to watercolor paper, don’t you have to use carbon paper? Or do you redraw them? Thanks!

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