Watercolor Memories

“Tea Time Here, There, Everywhere” (watercolor, 21 x 20 in.) by Lana Privitera

Coffee cups and copper teapots. Skeleton keys and sterling silverware. Doilies and decorative fabrics. The still life compositions of watercolor artist Lana Privitera feel like time suspended. 

“Dare to be Different” (watercolor on paper) by Lana Privitera
Rendering Texture

Painting has been a passion of Privitera since her teenage years, when she began making portraits of people, mostly in charcoal or pastel. In the early 1990s, she moved from Spain, where she was born and raised in an affluent environment devoted to the arts, to the United States, where she put her art career on hold for 12 years before starting again, this time with still lifes in watercolor. “I love the unlimited combinations, compositions, and styles that painting still life offers,” she says.

Her ability to render a variety of textures is due, in part, to the fact that she doesn’t see very well; she has been using prescription glasses since the age of 5. Because of this, she tends to be a very “tactile” person. In this way, she has been able to refine the objects in her compositions, creating rich detail, that she renders with all their nuances and reflections.

“Lessons Not Learned” (watercolor on paper, 30 x 22 in.) by Lana Privitera
Mixing Colors

“My style, which is not hyperrealist but ‘realist,’ is based on mixing my own colors. I like to mix colors not because I want to save money, but because doing so produces beautiful results,” said the artist, who suggests always buying high-quality paints.

While she tries a wide variety of colors and brands in order to find – or suggest – what she thinks is the best, she usually works with a very limited palette based on Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and Cobalt Blue. She obtains her greens by adding Lemon Yellow to Cobalt Blue, and by mixing Phthalo Green and Quinacridone Rose she realizes a beautiful fan of grays.

“Breakfast with Maria” (watercolor on paper, 29 x 21 in.) by Lana Privitera

For backgrounds, she usually uses overlapping layers of Quinacridone Rose, Phthalo Green, Perylene Violent and Perylene Maroon, or Indanthrone blue as the last layer, depending on whether she wants a warm or cool dark background. She normally begins her composition from the background – in the case of a very dark background – to the foreground; from light to dark, in a series of overlapping wet-on-wet layers, using colors of the same values.

When it comes to mixing color, she says, “The more you practice the better you get, and it is scientifically proven that you are able to practice more when you are happy and excited.”

In Watercolor Realism: Silver & Crystal, Laurin McCracken shares his process for painting two still life staples.

“Three Magnolias with Silver” (watercolor) by Laurin McCracken


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