Paintings and Their Stories with Watercolorist Alexis Lavine

May 05, 2018

When watercolorist Alexis Lavine sent in her images for her interview, she also shared the stories behind some of her paintings. They were too good not to share with you.

 

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Red Hat Ladies Share a Secret
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

Several years ago, I read a "human interest” story in our newspaper, about a group of Red Hat Ladies. It was so intriguing, that I emailed the reporter and asked him how I could get in touch with them. I wanted to meet them and paint them!  

He gave me the name of their leader.  I called her and we chatted a while. She was thrilled by my interest and invited me to one of their “gatherings,” which is what they call them, and I took lots of photos. This is what resulted. And another result is that the group’s leader and I have become friends. So lovely!

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine

Making Connections
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

I saw these guys at Miami International Airport. Lately it seems as if most of my figurative paintings, which are based on random, candid photos of people I see, involve the ubiquitous, iconic cell phone. These devices are always in hand, always being studied, frequently isolating people from their surroundings and their companions … while still allowing people to be connected to others, to entertainment, and to information. It’s quite a conundrum. And it can also create a great moment for a painterly story.

 

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine

Toppa the Eighth
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This painting was created by taking one or two people from a total of four different photos, which were shot at a minor league baseball game in my city. I selected the best shapes and the best gestures, punched up the cast shadows and the stadium lights, and designed one painting, which is more interesting and engaging than any of the individual photos.  

This painting is currently on its way to Qingdao, China, where it will be included in an International Watercolor Exhibition, a joint effort between the Missouri Watercolor Society and the Qingdao Laoshan Museum. This is the first exhibition in China to be sponsored by a U.S. based watercolor society.


Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
ManeMan
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This is my third version of this subject. Occasionally I paint a subject repeatedly, and it always changes and improves, to better express my inner vision, with each subsequent attempt. 

This painting is, of course, all about this man’s spectacular beard and pony tail.  Every brush stroke I put onto the paper was designed to make it look as luminous and brilliant as possible! 

My source photo for this painting showed the entire man, the person he was talking to, and lots of clutter and activity in the background. All I was interested in were his handsome face and all that wonderful, back-lit, white hair!

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Catch the Breeze
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This painting was started on location, at a marvelous beach-side home in the Virgin Islands.  It was finished in my studio several weeks later. My goal is for my viewer to feel the cool, ocean breeze, hear the faint rustling of the curtains, and smell the ocean tang.


Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Ladies’ Night Out
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

I love observing my subjects from a bird’s eye view. It creates a new and surprising viewpoint, which can be very fascinating to my viewer.  

I shot several photos of these people one evening. The waiter was actually serving another table, but I “imported” him into my painting, to add to the story. And there was a third lady at the table. Can you just see her plate? I decided to leave her out, so my viewer can wonder who she is … or where she went. What we leave out of our paintings can be just as important as what we choose to put into them!

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
WashnDry
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This painting is all about the luminous cast shadows and the evocative and varied textures. I photographed this old sink, outdoors, on a farm. I chose to paint it in an indoor setting instead, which allowed me to punch in a very dark background, with a window providing the illumination..  

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine

Sunkissed
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This was a class demo painting. You might think that this is a painting about a pot of African violets, but it is actually a painting of a shadow. Of course I designed, drew, and painted the flowers with great care, but what I really wanted to create was a big, gorgeous, complex, luminous shadow! Watercolor applied in clean, transparent glazes was the perfect medium to use for this.

 

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Steamed or Brown?
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

This painting utilized a photo which I set up, deliberately moving the objects and the lighting around, to create interesting relationships, shadows, and push-pull. Much of my designing was done ahead of time, in my camera’s viewfinder.  

However, I still needed to approach my photo thoughtfully, and make numerous decisions about how to translate it into the best painting possible. I love this iconic subject. The shapes are wonderful to draw, the textures are fascinating, and I punched in the very dark background to make it all pop.

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
A Good Fortune
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

A step-by-step account of the creation of this painting was recently published in The Palette Magazine.

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Always in Season
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

The was a class demo painting. It is all about painting textures, creating visual pathways, and using value contrasts for emphasis.

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Until Tomorrow
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

I recently saw a marvelous exhibition of paintings by Frederick Edwin Church, one of the leading members of the Hudson River School artists in the late 19th century. I was immensely inspired by all of his work, and especially by his depiction of the sun.

In this painting, I hope that my viewer will sense the strong, almost blinding light from the setting sun, and will then look into the shadowed areas and reflections.

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Emy’s Room
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

I was recently at a friend’s house for a morning of plein air painting. On my way to her deck to admire the view, I was unexpectedly sidelined! I happened to glance into this room, and was grabbed by the strong light coming through the window, and the shapes of the reflections and shadows on the tile floor.  

I never painted her spectacular view that morning. Rather, I set my easel up in the doorway to this room, and made a quick, small watercolor. Later, in my studio, using the color study as well as a reference photo, I made this larger studio  version.


Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine
Buddy, on the Beach
Watercolor on cold pressed paper.

I photographed Buddy some years ago, and loved the way he had crammed himself into this chair. He was a black dog, and he was nowhere near the beach, with portions of an old house and a messy, cluttered yard behind him. Never one to merely copy a photo, I decided to warm him up into a brown dog, and I placed his chair on the sand, where he can bask in the tropical sun.

Stories behind the painting with watercolorist Alexis Lavine

Eastern Drama
Watercolor on Yupo.

Yupo is 100% polypropylene plastic, and is 100% non-absorbent and totally smooth. The usual absorbency and toothy texture of "normal” watercolor paper are totally absent from Yupo. Painting on Yupo is a decidedly different experience, and requires a major attitude adjustment, if one is going to succeed. This "paper" requires modified painting techniques, different tools, an altered “touch” and a much more flexible and experimental attitude.  

Painting on this surface feels like a dance to me, where sometimes I am in the lead, and other times my partner, the Yupo, is allowed to lead. The end result is a knockout, brilliantly colored painting!

 


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