Watercolour artist Christelle Grey grew up in Africa, and her paintings reflect a deep connection with the wildlife. To enjoy more of her art, please visit her website.
I have always been inspired by the textured beauty of nature: the rough and dusty folds of an elephant’s skin while he leisurely scratches his back on a gnarled tree trunk; the downy softness of a cat’s fur while she stretches contentedly in a beam of sunshine; the gentle ripple of water over smoothly undulating scales of koi fish as they circle hypnotically just under the surface.
When the doctor prescribed taking up something relaxing while I recuperated from open heart surgery ten years ago, I decided to take up a brush and try my hand at the challenge of capturing our world of texture through layers of watercolour. Little did I know that this suggested therapy would develop into such a passion for watercolours.
Watercolour is challenging and unforgiving, but so satisfying once you master it. I am mostly self taught, with a few workshops along the way to inspire and motivate me in the company of other artists.
I approach every painting by imagining how it feels.
Everything has texture, and if you can imagine how it feels then you can capture it in paint. I am not afraid to get my fingers into it—painting every elephant wrinkle, fold, dot, and mark and softening it with my fingers while still wet.
I developed my technique for fur through a great deal of trial and error. I had learned that the secret to watercolours is in the amount of water used: more water, less control; less water, more control. You need the same amount of wetness in the paper and brush for good control. My fur, however is a wet-on-dry technique, using a small flat brush (size 0 or even 000) to soften all the edges once the paint is dry.
It’s easy to get carried away and paint too much detail in the fur. I have learned to stop when I get the feeling that I can run my fingers though the fur—or the lion’s mane!
My favourite subject is the wildlife of Africa. I live in Australia now, but still feel a deep connection with Africa as I grew up there and know the animals well. It’s a peaceful pleasure to connect to a memory of a stunning animal through every brushstroke as its character takes form on my canvas.
It gives me joy to share beauty, personality, and emotion through my art. The biggest challenge of a portrait is the eyes—capturing that glimpse of the soul through the smooth, transparent glass of the eye’s window. The eyes are often the focus of a painting and it’s important to get the shape, shadows, reflections and highlights accurate. You can almost put an entire separate painting inside the eye.
My next art adventure will be to learn the secrets of oil painting. The studio will be thoroughly covered up as I step outside of my comfort zone of tidy watercolour clean ups!