Goldfinch Watercolor by Robin Arnold

GUEST ARTIST: “Art From The Marsh” 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

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

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 🙂

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