A Tonal Take on New Orleans

With music pouring onto the streets from every corner of the city, Sean Friloux finds a quiet spot to capture New Orleans in tonal watercolors.

Riverscene, New Orleans (watercolor, 15 x 22 in.)

Hear “New Orleans watercolor paintings,” and no one could fault you for picturing brightly colored renderings of jazz musicians. But where others draw inspiration from the city’s more flamboyant offerings, native Sean Friloux finds the charm in New Orleans’ quiet street scenes — when the sun is just coming up and locals are gathering for a cup of coffee, or during the lull before revelers pack the bars in the French Quarter at night.

Meauxbar, New Orleans(watercolor, 15 x 22 in.)

One question he gets asked frequently — “I don’t see that; where are you looking?” — reveals an interesting aspect of the artist’s process. Rather than a strict documentation of the scene before him, Friloux aims primarily to convey a mood or create a sense of atmosphere. “A painting that exudes a particular mood has more longevity than a painting made simply to depict an interesting car or house,” he says. “That’s the essence of what I do when I paint on location; I soak up the mood, the light, the sounds, and imbue the work with all of those details.”

Oak St., New Orleans (watercolor, 44 x 44 in.)
Jackson Square, New Orleans (watercolor, 15 x 22 in.)

Sean Friloux began working as a graphic designer and draftsman developing design and drawing principles. In 2014-2015, Sean studied bold watercolor methods under the guidance of Joseph Zubkivic. Watercolor allows Sean to fully explore light for maximum impact.

This article originally appeared in the April-May issue of PleinAir Magazine.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.

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