The Secrets Behind an Award-Winning Watercolor

“The connection between horse and human can be magical,” says Caitlin Leline Hatch. “When both are attuned to each other it’s clear to the onlooker that there is a relationship built on trust, balance, and respect. It’s a joy for me to witness others who have found this kind of connection with their horses, and I try to capture these moments in my work. 

“Roping Partners” (watercolor, 16 1/2 x 22 1/2 in.)

“My biggest challenge in this piece was timing. As a watercolorist, timing is everything. If you aren’t fully aware of how and when the water is drying on your paper, it could mean the difference between a beautifully softened edge or a disastrous bloom in the middle of your watercolor painting. It was important to me to find just the right balance of soft and hard edges to help create the illusion of movement and texture, but I think I was holding my breath the entire time I painted it!

“I use a wet-into-wet technique that buys me more time to make decisions and correct any mistakes that might be made. The tricky part of the process is understanding how much water is still active in the core of the paper. For example, the rope on the left side of the painting started to bleed outside of the pencil lines, because the core of the paper was much wetter than I realized at that moment. However, while this would have been disastrous in any other part of the painting, I was pleasantly surprised that it gave the rope a texture that seemed quite believable. These are the moments in my painting process that I look forward to. The unplanned, happy accidents. The water starts to have a voice in the work and rather than trying to control it right away I try to give it room to do what it wants. More often than not I end up with great results that I could not have achieved by myself.”

“Roping Partners” won Best Western in the January Plein Air Salon art competition.

On Entering Art Competitions

“Entering art competitions can be exciting and humbling all at the same time,” says Hatch. “It’s an opportunity to be brave and put yourself out there. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your work.

“There are so many talented artists out there right now, so to win a top award is truly a great honor. I think as artists we are always moving our goal posts with regards to the quality of our work and it’s easy to put constant pressure on ourselves to keep improving. So to win an award helps remind me how far I’ve come and to take a moment and be proud of all my hard work.”


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