The first time I saw her mixed media work, I was in complete awe. I myself don’t carry one iota of artistic ability so when I laid my eyes on these brilliantly blended pieces of paint, paper, and colour, I was hooked.
Natasha began cultivating her love of painting at the young age of five, spending afternoons having tea and painting sessions in her English grandmother’s garden, exploring realistic landscapes in oil paint and watercolors.
“My grandma was a painter and a hobbyist, so when I was little, she would paint realistic watercolor and get me to paint with her. It just developed into this love and has always been close to my heart.”
“I draw my inspiration from anything – a feeling; any emotions that I’m going through. It could be popular culture. I could be watching a movie and be impacted by that movie and I need to create something that corresponds to the feeling that I got when I watched it. Or a music video or a hike in the woods, which I love, and has spurred a whole series of landscape abstract pieces. It really depends on whatever hits me, and then I express that response through painting.”
Natasha will also go through her collected material for inspiration. These materials include things like new and vintage magazines, old sheet music, interesting scraps of textured or vintage wallpaper, books or posters. She then pulls together things that fit into her theme of the piece; colors, textures, or the look she’s wanting to portray.
Natasha is always scouring thrift stores to discover interesting effects to use in her art. She likens it to treasure hunting.
“When I first started doing collages back in college during my 4th year, I started by finding posters from billboards and tearing them off – which I probably shouldn’t have done – and then I would get large photocopies printed at an architectural printing company. To this day, I’ll take photos during a hike or whatever I’m doing then email the printer the photo to copy a large print so that I can use it in my collage. If you take a look at some of my paintings, I use the collage applied with a transparent glaze as an extra element – one of the ways I do this is by using watered down acrylic paint, which does really cool things to the paint. It gives you little surprises, the pigment disperses and you get other interesting colors happening; happy accidents – and it settles into the grooves of the paint that is already there, which makes the painting look really interesting. I also water down ink, which works really well and gives a really strong pigment and a bold color. Then I’ll paint the abstract on top of it. I like to combine the collage, an image and the abstract paint which achieves a unique composition. I find these techniques very effective.”
Collage is an integral part of Natasha’s mixed media creations. She usually begins with an existing image as a starting point. “I feel that the use of an existing image allows me to build upon and change its meaning or context completely. The image can dictate the feel or theme of the painting; however, I also search for images that will complete the visual and contextual puzzle.” She then layers it with an abstract visual language of shape, form, color, and line to create a composition. Through this technique, the artwork is given a voice.
At any given time, Natasha will have around five painting on the go because of the layering and dry time required in each piece. If she uses too much of a one paint mixture she’ll use the rest as a base for another painting so it doesn’t go to waste, revolving from one painting to the next until she completes them.
To understand Natasha’s techniques a bit better, she invited me to join her class called “Mix It Up” – quite appropriate for the type of work she does. Her studio was pleasantly tidy with some of her works on the wall and other works in progress.
Her station was at the front of the room, with all the materials grouped together. Watching her, she starts off with a black background after painting the entire canvas earlier in the day, which she mixed with a matt and gloss medium for more of a satin finish, which has to be completely dry before placing her drawings of quail, which she uses a photo of for inspiration.
Natasha admits to the class, that even though she loves to draw freehand, she prefers to use a projector when it comes to drawing larger pieces. She explains that it’s much quicker, and she achieves the appropriate proportions than if she’s sketching. She then takes white paint on a palette knife and scrapes it across the black background. Then she takes a paint brush to give it texture. To show the class her collage technique, she rips the bottom portion of a black and white vintage poster, slathers it with and smooths it out with a palette knife in the middle of the painting. She repeats this process with textured wallpaper. Now it just needs to dry.
Due to the hour and a half time constraints, Natasha informs the class she won’t be able to complete the painting because of its many layered elements. She explains to us the rest of her vision for the piece, planning to incorporate deep blues and a dry brush technique to create an abstract texure. I’m excited to see this painting when it’s finished.
The people seemed inspired to rush home to put paintbrush to canvas as they thanked Natasha for her time and all of the wonderful techniques they learned. The experience was full of laughter, fun, and gave Natasha a platform to showcase her talent to students eager to learn. I was left with the realization that my painting career would need to be put on hold, at least until stick figures make a huge comeback.