Normally gatherings are epitomized like in March to a standing room only crowd of around 50, but the seats felt a bit lonely as the Illinois Watercolor Society welcomed Catherine Nash. Once the president of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America board, she has since retired to more comforting practices in art. Those of you who missed today's presentation can walk with her as she commentates a tour through the member show gallery on the 22nd.
Her apron has Cheap Joe's printed across the breast, the store where she currently works and that also supplies a majority of her paints and brushes. This rainy morning, she presents her more subdued palette, including earth tones as substitutes for variety of reds used generally in floral coloration. Her 140 lb. Arches cold-pressed paper is taped down with Ace Hardware's masking tape and primed with a misty sprays. To her right rests a small collection of robin homes that are spotted with blue eggs arranged in pairs. Less than a foot above the quaint still life, a saturating light from a lamp accentuates the shadowed strands of dried mortar neatly packing together mud, bits of paper, sticks, and stiff grasses. The gator board leans on a towel roll and is speckled with back-splash of all sorts of pigment. Next to that are a Ziplock bag of paint tubes and vanilla Dannon yogurt tubs holding water - practical, stack-able, and the sign of a seasoned professional there for fun and personal enjoyment.
Nash's fascination with the nest is its intrinsic shape similar to a "cup." To render a homelike and embracing feeling, she softens the stick edges with a larger round brush, gradiating from lighter and larger swaths of raw sienna to darker, rounder, and smaller patches of burnt umber or other more granulated pigmentation mixture. Over the slower process of waiting for additional marks to dry (sped up with a hair dryer) she additionally includes the techniques of blowing and scraping in outward motions to achieve fiber-like strands in randomized form. These decisions are not informed by any perceived design, but appear to be the result of an internalized balance, "I try not to copy exactly, because I want more of a feeling of it. That’s my goal.” On at least one occasion, she recalls being able to complete the same picture from memory. Her overall simplification of form and content is mirrored in her portfolio that tends to replicate the small, sentimental, or otherwise under-exciting commonplace mementos that define the home.
Despite the dirtiness of the subject, she generally tends to stray away from muddying paints that are more opaque in favor of a cleanly style more suitable for interior decoration against wallpaper intended for harmonization and safety. Her blotting is minimal and masking with liquid frisket is avoided, lending to an acceptance of the naturally occurring that only true mastery of control, familiarity with the medium, and acceptance of mediocrity can bring. The onerous routine that is not seen as a routine to the afflicted is always discouraging to see - the sense of "play" is extenuated to a point of stilled silence and therefore reduced to an oversight of aesthetic judgement. I expected more exhibitionism and passion from Nash, energy that is probably a more internalized process when she paints for herself. Although it was helpful to see the actual subjects of her study, the interest was quickly snuffed by a censure of originality that seemed to be bred out of contentment and perpetuated by polite clapping around me that can be suffocating to those in agreement.
- prefers synthetic
- Richeson flat wash (1.5")
- Richeson 7000 round (no. 10)
- Cheap Joe's rounds
- Arches cold-press (140 lb.)
- Kilimanjaro (the 300 lb notebook, particularly)
- Reds (Quinacridone red, Alizarin crimson, Permanent rose, Scarlet red
- Yellows (Aureolin)
- Blues (Phthalo. blue [YS] [she calls it “cyanide” - for its intensity], Ultramarine blue, Manganese, Ice blue, Cobalt, Cerulean)
- Greens (Hookers green deep)
- Violets (Cobalt violet)
- Blacks (mixes Burnt umber with Phthalo. blue [YS])
- Earths (Burnt sienna, Raw sienna, Burnt umber, Raw umber, Yellow ochre)
Preferred brands :
- Cheap Joes
- American Journey
- M. Graham
- Daniel Smith
- Winsor & Newton
Additional tools :
Diamond head, round tip palette knife (Sm.)