BonnArt - Bonnie (Bonn) Richardson

The Process - Introduction

Artist Sketching Fish

The very act of drawing underwater involving my whole body while I am observing my particular subject is what instills in my being the memory I need to create my paintings back in my studio. These paintings are not realism of exactly what I have seen underwater but impressions of my whole en plein eau experience.

There is nothing like the human eye to really capture the essence of a subject. Only our eyes can see the true colors and forms of what we look at. This is why I draw underwater. I only trust my eyes to translate for me the true nature of the underwater world.

Coral Garden

Creatures that live beneath the waves are not solids in a liquid. They are viscous and a part of this environment which is in constant motion. Time of day, sunshine, clouds, current, suspended particles, temperature or depth are all factors that influence what type of drawing I will produce while I am in the water. This in turn also influences how I approach a painting. I want to portray this non-stop motion therefore I enter their world. By plunging my whole being into the liquid environment and observing the plants and creatures that live there while I draw them, I can then take these drawings and mental images back to my studio to produce my work. I have learned to trust this process as the experience of drawing underwater translates into impressions in my paintings.

Under The Waves

Watercolor is a challenging medium as it can be so unpredictable. Yet it is this unpredictability that has always fascinated me. There is something amazing about color and water blending on paper that still takes my breath away. The endless possibility of color combinations is a constant source of revelation and I never get bored. And what better medium to portray en plein eau work than watercolor! Its fluid nature is perfect for reflecting what goes on underwater.

Skething Up Close

It took about 3 years to work out the details of what type of paper and pencils to use to draw with. These had to withstand long periods of time in fresh or salt water without degrading. Terra Skin and Prisma Pencils are what I use. I tape my paper onto a small plastic cutting board and head below the surface to do my sketches. Once I get my drawings back to my studio, I use paint fresh from the tube in order to achieve the bright, bold and extraordinarily vibrant world I have experienced.

Tang Fish Feeding

Some of the challenges of working under water include motion sickness and nitrogen buildup. For every day I spend snorkeling or scuba diving, there is a day or two of recovery. This means that I can’t be in a rush for anything. I don’t rush my paintings as the underwater experience stays with me a long time and bubbles up when I need it. My longing and wish is to paint a tasteful impression of what I see beneath the waves. I do my best to reflect the shimmering movement and endless flashes of color that dart constantly in front of me while I work underwater.

* Thanks to Petra and Lutz Bunger for supplying the underwater photos.

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