Elaine Daily-Birnbaum is a watercolor artist who creates abstract paintings composed of mixed watermedia on paper or canvas. A member of the National and American Watercolor Society, and a juror for the annual NWS exhibition, Elaine’s watercolor work has won countless awards all over the country. Aside from these beautiful works, it was her lack of formal art training that drew me in further. Although she has studied with many artists in the field, it is her self-educated process that allows her to abandon all rules and methods regarding the painting process.
Elaine’s artistic process begins with applying watercolor and other mediums; acrylic, ink, or crayon on paper without any pre-conceived image. The steps that follow come from what she sees happening on the surface. She layers, blends, and texturizes the color she adds to her work.
“Once I am able to identify the suggestion of a subject or an image that I want to develop,
I start working to bring order into the apparent chaos and shapes by bringing together the interplay between colors and shapes, always keeping design principles in mind”
She loves texture and generating a sense of mystery in her works. She believes this is easily accomplished by using water-based pigments that allow layering, as well as scrubbing and scratching into. Elaine uses any water-based pigment to achieve the appearance she is looking for but tends to use watercolor the most.
“I am certainly not a purist! I’ll even add a piece of collage if I think it is needed to convey the intent of the piece” says Elaine about her paintings.
Elaine never has a specific concept at the onset of her work, but rather, allows the concept to evolve during the process of painting. Each brushstroke changes some aspect of the relationship in the artwork and each is a reaction to the existing relationships. This is why she considers herself almost a medium in the triad; the paper, the paint, and her. They all react to each other. In order to prevent overthinking and overanalyzing the work, she listens to books on tape as she paints.
“This keeps my left brain engaged and my right brain free to creatively tune in and react
to what’s happening between the paint and the paper. Only later do I allow my left brain to
come in and logically view my work in terms of composition and elements of design”
Without external pressure to produce a piece, she finds joy in the entire art-making process. A main component of Elaine’s abstract paintings is her technique of incorporating other water-based mediums into her paintings; some might not classify this as watercolor.
What do you think?
*Artist quotes are from an April 29, 2013 conversation with Elaine Daily-Birnbaum.
Alicia Myers is an Art Education graduate student at Buffalo State and works as a substitute teacher in various school districts. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art Education at Buffalo State College in 2009 and hopes to become a full time art educator.
http://www.americanwatercolorsociety.org/ - American Watercolor Society
http://nationalwatercolorsociety.wildapricot.org/ -National Watercolor Society