Produced in Jacksonville, Florida
Creation Date – November 2016
Artist – Johanna Lawson
Technique – Watercolor with acrylic paint and stamps
On a recent visit to The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, I came across the Lift: Contemporary Expressions of the African American Experience exhibit that started in June 2016 and runs until February 12, 2017. As my spouse and I walked in, we were greeted with a chorus of beautiful voices singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” This song was written by Jacksonville natives James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson in 1900 for a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The first time I heard this hymn, it was being sung by my first grade students at a school assembly. I will never forget listening, with tears streaming down my face, as they belted each word with pride and danced to the lyrics. It was a moment I have never and will never forget. As I walked into this exhibit, I was immediately taken back to that moment. I closed my eyes and pictured the scene of my tiny first graders singing their hearts out.
When I opened my eyes, they were instantly drawn to three bold pieces of artwork that filled the wall to my left. Inspiration struck.
Dustin Harewood Out from the Gloomy Past, 2016, Acrylic, spray paint, resin on canvas
Before I even begin to tell you about about Batch No. 2, I want to tell you about Dustin Harewood, the creator of these beautiful pieces. His description of his art spoke to me:
For this exhibition, I decided to present a range of work that transitions from the completely non-objective to traditional portraiture. My abstract paintings hopefully will communicate the action of leaving behind anger, hopelessness, confusion, and frustration in favor of clarity, determination, and optimism.
From a technical standpoint, when working abstractly, I am most concerned with layering and the application of a wide variety of marks. I also find the variation of different levels/states of visual order and control fascinating.
As I read through the lyrics of James Weldon Johnson’s song, a few lines in particular jumped out at me. “Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last, where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.” These lyrics were the starting point for my work.
With all the stories of hate and destruction here in the U.S., and around the world, I find the idea of “clarity, determination, and optimism” to be a joyful reprieve. Sometimes, that is exactly what art should be for a person.
So without further ado, here is a description of the work and technique that went into creating Batch No. 2:
I started by trimming all of my watercolor paper down to 4 x 4 inch squares. I decided to use hot press watercolor paper for this project because it makes it easier for stamping afterward. Then, out came Ken Oliver’s Color Burst watercolors and the fun began!
Layer after layer, drip after drip, the designs began to take shape. I applied a little color burst powder, spritzed on some water, and let the magic happen. Allowing them to fully dry between layers, really allowed for the colors to set and stand out.
After layering various colors and giving them plenty of time to dry, I had to decide which stencils and stamps to use. I decided to go with circular shapes to keep the organic feel of the watercolors. Titanium white paint for the stencil went on first.
After drying, I used Tim Holtz Distress Paint (Peacock Feathers) for the stamping. Don’t forget to wash your stamp right away when using paint or it could cause issues the next time you try to use that stamp.
The result was a whimsical, ethereal design that I find captures my idea of “clarity, determination, and optimism.” I hope Mr. Harewood will feel the same.
These cards, as well as the other batches created over the next 8 months by Small Batch Cards, will be on sale at the Riverside Arts Market in Jacksonville, Florida starting in June 2017.