“My work is an enchanted positive statement. It is an attempt to open up to the observer the more mystical dimensions of ordinary objects. I wish to provide an uplifting experience through my paintings…..my pieces are best described by experiencing them…..”
Born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Willow B. Norris was interested in drawing just anything and everything from a young age. Primarily self taught, she also attended classes at The Art Institute of Boston, The School of Visual Concepts in Seattle, WA, and the The University of Washington as well as belonging to numerous open figure drawing groups in the Pacific NW. She now resides in Santa Fe, NM.
Her paintings reflect an inner peace on a spiritual path…..taking the observer on a journey of enchantment, capturing the love and enjoyment of life. Generally not focusing on any central theme, Willow’s subject matter swings from whimsical to spiritual. Her work is truly mixed media. Willow typically first renders a detailed drawing on high quality archival watercolour paper. She then applies various water soluble pigments with sable hair watercolour brushes. This slow build-up of many washes (often as many as 10-20 or more layers) achieves the bold richness of colour evident in her pieces. She sometimes incorporates the use of fine pigmented wax to accomplish the desired effect.
I take a sheet of Arches 100% cotton watercolour paper 140-400#, and staple it to a board. I have the painting’s principle compositional elements drawn on vellum and transfer the images (either previously drawn on vellum or my sketchbook) onto the watercolour paper (to avoid damaging the paper with possible erasing).
My drawings of the fish, dragonflies, flowers, figures etc…..are all drawn by me from my own photos and sometimes the actual object. Fish don’t stay still, so I photograph them in various Maui ponds. I know fish anatomy well, so I can use my fuzzy photos. The dragonflies are drawn from models, or from freezing video footage.
Next I position and transfer the key elements into the basic composition I had in mind (for example, in Dragonfly Dream VIII is an inverted triangular composition)……I transfer by going over the lines on the back side of the vellums with graphite, then laying it on the paper, and go over it on the top side with pencil—thus transferring the image gently onto the watercolour paper.
After the key elements are transferred, I use a technical pen and pigment ink to fix them in place. Using stippling and fine lines with the pens, I establish shape and contour. Then the real fun begins for me as I start the painting process. I build the intensity and brilliance of colours slowly—-starting with a tint and layer upon layer ( I lose count…..but many layers, can be 10-20 or more) using a pigmented acrylic lightfast ink, Winsor Newton acrylics applied with fine Winsor Newton sable hair watercolour brushes.
The background: if “basket weave” is done by gridding the area with uniform square areas, approximately 1” x 1”, then using the pen to make the marks. In the starry sky areas it is cross hatching in 4 directions, after establishing the stars (not randomly thrown in there—-I go for balance) I may also use a circle stroke over the cross hatching to make some areas darker. And blending it into the lighter areas are done the reverse. Less cross hatching….more stippling.
After the colour is saturated and dry on the koi, I use my fine technical pen for the scales—every tiny dot creating the appearance of scales. To finish the koi I use Payne’s Grey (either the FW ink or diluted acrylic paint) for the shadows on the bellies and sides……in a gradient wash technique. The tail and fins get the same treatment.
…..pretty much the same techniques and mediums used as with the koi….also a wax pigmented pencil is used for the colours on the wings’ forward leading edge. I use a shading stomp with graphite to shadow the wings, especially close to the body.
….after the form, shape, and shadows are established with technical pen, I begin applying colour in tint first…..FW pigment acrylic inks and or Winsor Newton tube acrylics.
My pieces generally take weeks to months to complete, often up to a year.
I hope this answers any questions you may have about my technique and process. In some paintings I use a lot more gradient wash technique for background. I use the opposite colour for the shadows and shading.
As far as I know I am the only artist using this combination of techniques. It has evolved over decades….and perhaps was inspired by my intaglio etching work of the early ’70’s. I began adding colour more intensely since moving to Maui in 2006.
It is challenging using technical pen on watercolour paper—-but then when I get to the painting part—it is watercolour paper! And is a delight to paint on. Sometimes I use “whatever works” which gives me the effect I am looking for. Always high quality colourfast mediums. Basically I use watercolour technique along with my detail pen & ink.
The prints available for purchase of Willow’s pieces are all Giclees produced on archival canvas, aluminum and papers using pigment inks. The display permanence ratings for these prints are up to 203 years.