Mesmerizing Watercolor portraits


Ali Cavanaugh known for her magnificent watercolor paintings is an artistic sensation. She builds the color carefully with many layers, very much like egg tempera. She uses thin overlapping strokes, carefully preserving the white of the panel. This is what creates the luminosity. The careful stacking of color is how she achieves subtlety and this is also how she builds intense depth. She refers to her works as “modern frescos,” due to their similarity to the fresco-secco style of painting.

“I painted on paper for about a year before I discovered Aquabord. They really are two different animals.The Aquabord is clay, but has some polymers in it to give it a non stick property.” Ali explained about the advantages of Aquaboard continuing “ You can completely remove paint from the surface and take it right back to white. It’s workable and forgiving. I do not want to mislead anyone either. Although it is forgiving, it is very hard to master. The non stick properties also make building layers difficult at times. One can build up many layers and then accidentally lift back down to white. It takes years of practice. The advantage of paper is—permanence when layering.”

“The best advice I have for an artist just starting out in watercolor is to remember that it takes time to build up your skills. You need to have fun and take baby steps. Paint everyday. Play with different surfaces, paints, and tools. Don’t limit yourself with perfectionist thinking that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to paint. I always say to artists—remember that you are on a journey. Don’t look at your paintings as individual masterpieces, putting that kind of pressure on yourself is creative suicide. Look at each piece as a stepping stone to the next painting. Each painting is a learning experience that builds wisdom and endurance on the journey. You never “arrive”. You grow and change, your art will grow and change. Enjoy the day to day experience in creating art.” Ali stated when was asked to give advice to an aspiring artist.