I am Patricia Lee Christensen, artist/illustrator. I reside in Layton, Utah, USA, transplanted here after raising our family in the Seattle area. Over the years, I have worked in most all mediums. My college education was in advertising art where varied styles, mediums and techniques were introduced.
Out of college, I worked as a graphic artist for two school districts in southern Oregon and Washington state. Later, while raising our family, I did freelance work along with on-the-spot pastel portrait work and commissions in art festivals and street fairs. This was a rewarding, interesting, invigorating, stressful and exhausting period. You can only do so many portraits in a day, and I always had a line of people waiting.
I am one of many who have resisted watercolor due to the impression it is the most difficult. After experiencing many watercolor workshops taught by excellent professional artists, I have come to love this fluid, often unpredictable method to create artful images. It is a clean, no fumes or dust way to paint. It’s beautiful that we can create with water!
Subject matter for my work is quite diversified. Perhaps this is due to my educational background. We were trained to please the client. Of course this is true in most professional settings.
The challenge for me has been to settle to one theme or motif to be recognized for; landscapes, people, wildlife, street scenes, whimsical illustration? They all hold my interest at one time or another. I love them all!
My Watercolor Supplies
I carry a sketchbook with me most of the time and always on any kind of road trip, long or short. I have included images from a few of my meanderings. Luckily my husband is happy to drive, rarely needing me to give him a break.
So I have my little plein air travel kit handy to sketch the passing visual images. My sketches are mostly elements put together from along the way and not of one particular scene. There is so much around us each day.
I have tried many watercolor papers and realized they are not all created equal. My paper of preference is the French-made Arches 100% cotton – 140 lb Cold Press watercolor paper. It has a wonderful texture and gives you needed ‘open time’ to create wonderful wet runny blends of hues – with practice. However, if I know I am going to do a lot of pen work I may choose the Hot Press paper as it is smoother.
Speaking of inks, there are many varieties. I mostly prefer using acrylic inks or India inks with dip pens as they are permanent. Brands I use for acrylic inks are Daler Rowney (UK) and Royal Talens Amsterdam (Denmark). Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bombay inks are great colorful India inks. If you like your ink lines to be water soluble I highly recommend the ArtPen, fountain pens made by Rotring. However this could be a subject for another day.
I have illustrated in the photo above two main palettes I use. The smaller, of course is for plein air painting and travel. I can set up my water in the drink holder of the car and paint randomly as the scenery unfolds along the highway, or in a café, park or most anywhere! I use a simplified number of colors in this palette of course. A more complete list for my larger studio palette follows.
I use various brands of watercolors. I keep the following paints on my palettes – listed not in order of placement: Daniel Smith watercolors of Sap Green, Permanent Orange, Opera Pink, Burnt Umber and Ultramarine Blue.
I also use M. Graham & Co. Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Violet and Cerulean Blue. From Winsor & Newton, I use New Gamboge, Burnt Sienna, Indigo, Cobalt Turquoise and Payne’s Gray. From Dick Blick I am currently using Brown Madder (a wonderful strong, rich reddish brown), and Cadmium Yellow Light Pure.
I collect quotes and I love this one by Edgar Degas, “Art is not about what you see, but what you make others see.” Artists can enrich the lives of all. So many people do not really ‘see.’ Consider the trees. Lately, I have been thinking about and painting trees. They have been important to me since I was a child. John Muir said, “I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they like it…” They are all around us, each unique in form and hue. They give us shade, fruits, shelter for animals and beauty.
A tree absorbs carbon dioxide through its leaves, extracts the carbon to contribute to its growth, and releases the oxygen through its leaves. It’s no wonder they are included and featured in innumerable paintings.
Speaking of collected quotes, I have included a couple images with my hand-lettered text by Claude Monet and John Muir, worked into the art.
Here in Utah, there are many beautiful country vistas with fields of sheep, horses and cattle. It’s been an adjustment for me to relocate from the lush green environment of the Pacific Northwest to a dryer, but much sunnier climate. I love the countryside and have definitely been influenced by the historic towns, homesteads and farms which are abundant.
The illustrations are a reflection of my life as a young girl. I loved spending hours in the summer curled up with library books, climbing trees and riding my bike all over the country. Flowers were always present in my childhood between my home and my grandmothers’ homes.
Street scenes are always popular as they reflect the local cultures. The Italian watercolors were completed as gifts to our daughter and her husband after their recent visit to Italy.
I would encourage anyone to dive into watercolor! There is so much free information online. Find a painter whose work you admire and research their work – perhaps even take a workshop from them. If you have the desire you can do it! I will close with one of my favorite quotes:
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“Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”
– Robert Bresson