Niaqornat, 15″ x 10″ watercolor on Arches Cover cream paper

This is my my recent studio painting inspired by my spring expedition to Greenland! I love revisiting my field work and having time to create more in depth and layered pieces. My field art is the foundation for everything I do, it’s how I develop my vocabulary of color, shapes, value, mood, temperature, weather, and experiences. Due to the nature of my expeditions though, I often only have time and resources for smaller paintings, sketches, color studies, and notes. Here’s how this painting developed:
First I completed this pencil sketch on site, carefully observing the houses and shapes. I accentuated the outlines so I could trace it onto watercolor paper for painting.
Next, still in the field, I traced the painting and created this color study on site. I used Arches Cover cream paper, which has a beautiful tone and smoother texture than the 140lb Arches cold press I typically use. It’s also softer overall, really a beautiful paper to work and travel with. I started this painting on an overcast day in March when the helicopter was grounded. As it cleared up, my Imaging the Arctic collaborator, biologist Dr. Kristin Laidre, called out to me, “we’re heading out! want to come?” I left this sketch as is, and we took off shortly thereafter to look for narwhals in the sea ice. (Read more about her narwhal research.)

Home in my studio, I’ve revisited the field sketches and created color studies based around granulating colors and the beautiful ground mineral pigments made by Daniel Smith. Lapis Lazuli is a favorite of mine, as well as Hematite. Finally, I traced my original sketch, and painted the above painting. I’m pleased overall with the mood and intend to create a series from a number of other large sketches from Greenland, stay tuned!

Sketching on ice, photo credit: Kristin Laidre