Watercolor Takes Flight

watercolor bird painting
“Geese Headed South” (watercolor on gessoed paper)

The character and individuality of birds have fascinated and inspired some of art history’s greatest minds. John James Audubon sought to meticulously categorize all the birds of America, while Leonardo da Vinci was nearly obsessed with how birds take flight. For watercolor artist Pat Holscher, the maritime birds native to eastern North Carolina have provided endless enjoyment and artistic inspiration.

watercolor painting
“Harvey” (watercolor on gessoed paper)

Immediately noticeable in Holscher’s work is the fluidity of the watercolor’s application, which displays a vibrancy and vivid saturation of blended, runny color. Holscher prefers working on gessoed paper, which allows her to achieve this desired effect. The gesso, in addition to reducing the absorbency of the paper, allows the colors to sit on the surface, resulting in stronger hues. The gesso also leaves a textured finish on the paper, a feature Holscher loves to use to enhance her subjects’ naturalism.

bird watercolor painting
“Heads Up!” (watercolor on gessoed paper)
“Plover Playtime” (watercolor on gessoed paper)
watercolor painting
“Running in Circles” (watercolor on gessoed paper)

For Holscher, a watercolor painting begins with a connection. Using photography as a means to capture a bustling flock of birds, Holscher selects one bird that displays a certain individuality of character and pose, whom she calls “the show stopper.” This bird could be used a number of times in different pictures, but typically forms a vital part of the composition, inviting the viewer into the piece. Holscher also includes a number of other birds in her paintings, creating a rhythmic play and kinetic movement that adds vitality and visual interest. One truly gets a sense of the coordinated movements birds can make as they eagerly await the next fish or piece of bread to come their way.

“Family Dynamics” (watercolor on gessoed paper)

Although the birds within paintings such as “Geese Headed South” and “Heads Up” haven’t always been her subjects, they have gripped the regional market and earned Holscher national and international recognition. Find out more about Pat Holscher.

This article was originally featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur 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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