When New York State artist Lynne Bolwell collects, she is sketching out the arc of her past, present, and future with her choices. 

“They are reminders of things that I will always incorporate into my work, and indications of where I am going,” she says. “I don’t seek to imitate any of them, but I imitate all of them in some way. These happen to be three gentlemen that I know really well and with whom I have studied.”

The first painting Bolwell chose to talk about was Andrew Gemmill’s “Taj Mahal.” Gemmill is a master watercolorist from Australia. “What appealed to me is how loose and spontaneous it is,” says Bolwell. “He really has very fast and expressive brushwork, and he’s a good editor — there’s no meaningless information added to it. That’s the reason why I studied with him. He had me working very wet-in-wet; the paper was so drenched that he put it on plastic to paint on it.”

“Sincocalycanthus chinensis,” by Dick Rauh, watercolor, 22 x 30 in. Collection of Lynne Bolwell 

The next piece is a botanical illustration by Dick Rauh. Bolwell spent four years painting botanicals at the New York Botanical Garden. “This painting of a dried seed pod is very bold and confident, and that is Dick’s style,” says Bolwell. “He has a really good command of composition; somehow the way he lays down the lines moves me around the painting. Every once in a while he puts in this area of amazingly accurate detail. When I look at this, I realize that if you are going to make it accurate and detailed, make sure it moves.”

“Untitled,” by Alvaro Castagnet, watercolor, 16 x 22 in. Collection of Lynne Bolwell

The last painting is by Alvaro Castagnet, a watercolorist whom Bolwell studies with at least once a year. “He is quite a force,” says Bolwell. “He’s a master at values and value changes, and he gets that perfect balance of looseness and ambiguity and perfect brushstrokes. I think it’s that balance that attracts me.”

“Maple,” by Lynne Bolwell, watercolor, 12 x 16 in. Collection of the artist. Bolwell says this recent work shows the influence of Castagnet.

The Castagnet painting is of a tree, one of Bolwell’s favorite subjects. “I have taken five or six weeklong workshops with him, and I know what he is doing here. He lays down an opposing temperature in the first wash, then paints over it. If his underpainting is dark brown, then he paints over it in blue. Over blue, he will put a dark brown or a crimson. It ends up being a highly balanced — but not contrived — painting. I’ve painted trees since 1996, but when I bought this two years ago, I said, ‘That’s the way you do a tree.’ And there’s no one I’ve ever met who understands how pigments work like Alvaro.”


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