GUEST ARTIST: “Art From The Marsh” by Robin Arnold

Goldfinch Watercolor by Robin Arnold

My name is Robin Arnold and I’m a self-taught artist living in what used to be the Great Black Swamp in northwest Ohio. Although most of the swamp has been drained and is now farmland, small towns, or cities, the 13 acres I live on is still a marshy area which is a haven for wildlife and inspiration for my art.

I’ve been a serious nature photographer since the late 1970s, but a few years ago, I bought some paints and decided to do something I’ve talked myself out of for decades: try to paint in my favorite medium, watercolor.

Honey Bee Watercolor by Robin ArnoldI had done some drawing over the years. I still have a set of Derwent colored pencils my grandmother bought me in the ’60s, but I thought watercolor painting was for “real” artists and not for someone, who like me, had no formal art training. But the hundreds of photos I had taken of the area wildlife were begging to be turned into paintings, and finally, despite my lack of confidence, I decided to give it a try.

I began my journey into the world of watercolor by doing very rough sketches of whimsical animals in pen and ink and then painting them with a wash of watercolor. I usually used my photos to get the general shape of the animal but then let my imagination take over. I had a lot of fun doing these and eventually I got up the nerve to post them on Facebook.

Hummingbird Watercolor by Robin Arnold

I thought this would be a great way to keep track of my progress and also to show my friends—many of whom swore they couldn’t draw—that if I could do it so could they. When I wasn’t sketching I devoured art videos and read every  book on watercolor painting I could lay my hands on.

After a year or so of doing the sketches I decided to get a little more serious about my art and do an actual painting. Something I could frame and hang on the wall. I bought better paints and paper and decided my first painting would be a bird, one of my favorite subjects to photograph.

I’m lucky to live in an area that is known far and wide for its birding, so over the years I’ve accumulated a nice variety of photos to use as reference material.  I’ve done several birds since that first painting, and have also expanded my subject matter to include other animals, flowers and even some urban sketching.

Nuthatch Watercolor by Robin Arnold

I always have a  camera with me but instead of dragging around heavy professional quality photo gear I’ve switched to an advanced point and shoot camera. I’m much less interested in capturing the perfect photo and more interested in taking photos I can use in my art. I learned over time that instead of using one good photo for my painting I can combine elements of several photos to come up with a better composition.

Because I want to improve my drawing skills I always draw my subject freehand using the photo as reference and then transfer the drawing to watercolor paper. I will probably always use photos as reference but recently I’ve tried to loosen up my paintings and not slavishly copy every detail the photo contains.

Robin Watercolor by Robin Arnold

My favorite paints are Daniel Smith, but I’ve been trying out some handmade paints and I’ve been very impressed with them. I’ve tried several brands of paper but I always come back to Arches. I use cold press for most of my paintings but I switch to hot press when I do line and wash.

Black throated green Watercolor by Robin Arnold

Although I have sold and donated some of my paintings locally, and I do have an Etsy store, my main reason for painting is simple: it makes me happy and as someone who has battled severe panic attacks most of my life it’s also proven to be very therapeutic. I’m looking forward to pursuing my passion for watercolor, and if, along the way, I inspire someone else to pick up a brush that would be an added bonus.

Robin Arnold

Recommended8 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Angie 3 years ago

    These paintings are beautiful and amazing… they remind me of Audubon illustrations at the Beinecke Library.

  2. Mary Roff 3 years ago

    Truly beautiful paintings. Thank you for sharing your story!!

  3. Janneke Booister 3 years ago

    Your art is wonderfully beautiful! I love your birds 🙂

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you, Janneke, they are my favorite subject 🙂

  4. Walks in Watercolor 3 years ago

    Beautiful paintings! They really show your commitment to studying nature.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you! Studying nature has been a life-long passion.

  5. Laura Hale 3 years ago

    Wow Robin, these are wonderful. Thank you for sharing your talent and journey with us.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you so much, Laura! It was an honor to be included here.

  6. Karen Fortier 3 years ago

    I love your work and thanks for sharing your story!

  7. Laura Kate 3 years ago

    I really like to bee on the thistle.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      One of my favorites, too! One of the few times I didn’t get hung up on detail 🙂

  8. Fantine Ponter 3 years ago

    Wow! Love your art! Thank you for sharing your journey, and for the tips and tricks. You story is sure to inspire many to pick up a brush 😉

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you, Fantine, I do hope it inspires others to give it a try!

  9. Lisa Ann Ulibarri 3 years ago

    Greetings Robin, Its so nice to read about your art journey. You artwork is so lovely 🙂

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you so much, Lisa! I’ve been trying to follow you on Instagram but my account has been blocked since last weekend. Not sure what I did…hope it will be rectified soon!

      • Lisa Ann Ulibarri 3 years ago

        I hope everything is resolved for you soon.I do love connecting to others especially those part of this doodle group. Such a lovely community 🙂

        • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

          It finally went away and I did start following you
          but now I’m afraid to do anything with it 🙂

  10. Susie M 3 years ago

    Lovely!! And I always feel it’s encouraging to hear the stories of self-taught artists.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you, Susie! Those stories definitely encouraged me to keep plugging away at it.

  11. PRATIP MANNA 3 years ago

    I have gone through your wisdom of desire in creation of water colour. It is great pleasure for you that your creation is not guided by any formal training but guided by your impulses. This is absolutely for your mental satisfaction and pleasure. Thanks,congratulation. Most important is those are quality paintings and not mere impression of photographs. Wish your mental pleasure be eternal.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you, Pratip, for understanding so well what motivates me. This is the best form of meditation there is…puts me in a very good place.

  12. Sandra Strait 3 years ago

    Robin, your paintings are so beautiful and full of life! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us!

  13. LoriCtoo 3 years ago

    I love your style! So beautiful. Thank you for sharing your work and story. Paint on!

  14. Jean Marmo 3 years ago

    Your birds are delightful! Thank you for sharing your story!

  15. Steven Walter 3 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your story. Very inspiring and helpful. Following in your footsteps. I also love sketching and painting birds.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      I’m glad you found the article helpful, Steven, and I look forward to seeing some of your art someday. I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have 🙂

  16. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 3 years ago

    Robin, thank you for sharing the progress of your art journey. It’s really interesting to see how an artist develops over time, to see the skills of a mature painter emerge from the passions of a beginner. Your paintings are really lovely.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you very much, Sharon. I pull out my older paintings every now and then and the improvement really is amazing. I had a few truly misshapen birds 🙂 I still have so much to learn but that’s part of what makes this such an enjoyable journey.

  17. Lin Powell 3 years ago

    I’m so glad you shared your work here. It is wonderful to see your art and hear your art journey. You are a very talented artist.

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you , Lin, that is much appreciated! So much more to learn…maybe I need more books? 🙂

  18. teresam61 3 years ago

    Robin your work is BEAUTIFUL!! I am encouraged greatly by your work and your story as I am gradually trying to teach myself how to capture the beauty around me in watercolor as well. I too am in the great Buckeye state 🙂

    • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

      Thank you and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the article! I hope to see some of your paintings someday. What part of the state are you in?

      • teresam61 3 years ago

        North central….. near Mohican

        • Robin Arnold 3 years ago

          Beautiful area! One of our friends camps at Mohican State Park and invited us down…may check it out.

          • teresam61 3 years ago

            Yes…for sure…’s beautiful territory.

  19. Jocelyn 3 years ago

    Wow this watercolor is really pretty! And you got a lot of nice textures going on there too.

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