Joy Makon’s beautifully detailed watercolors are filled with light and color with a focus on compositional elements. To see more of her paintings, visit her website.
As a dedicated observer of my surroundings, I’m always on the lookout for a subject to paint. When something stops me in my tracks, such as a jungle of antennas on a rooftop at sunset, I’ll document it carefully with several photographs and then explore it back in the studio as a watercolor. Even while composing the image in the camera’s viewfinder, I consider how shapes and color will translate onto the heavy Arches paper that I favor using.
I’m selective about what I chose to paint. Not everything I shoot gets turned into a painting unless there’s some emotional connection to remind me of where I was, what I saw, how I felt.
Shape-defining light, distinct shadows, beautiful color and strong compositional elements all appeal to me. Strategically placing a figure within a landscape or seascape adds interest. Most importantly, there’s always the sky. It’s often the deal breaker when it comes to settling on a particular subject.
Since earning a BFA in 1976 from Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art, I’ve enjoyed a successful career as a magazine art director and graphic designer. Craving new inspiration a few summers ago, I took a watercolor workshop at Pratt to learn something “hard” that was outside of my comfort zone. Little did I know how much I would fall in love with the medium. Additional classes and workshops confirmed this. In 2014, I scaled back the design practice to devote my time to making art.
I only have myself to please now so I experiment more with composition and color. I strive to create nuanced painterly work that’s seen for its light-filled color and unique imagery.
Before I begin painting, I will spend time—often several days—drawing minimal, yet accurate pencil guides on the paper, and then turn to the watercolor to explore its magic. Paintings can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to complete.
With watercolor, I can paint the light I see by starting out with the paper as the brightest tone in the painting. I love to explore ambiguity in an image by using wide brushstrokes that have just enough shape and color to give the illusion of space and details. I prefer to work large and use a lot of water and pigment to create granulating oceans and skies and snow and grass—the beautifully textured paper never complains that it is too wet!
To be immersed in painting and sharing it with others has stirred up a lot of creative juices for sure. Watercolor is neither hard to learn nor easy to use, but the work is rewarding and fun.
My challenge is to discover how to use this medium to create artwork that is emotionally moving and speaks of a memorable time and place.