November 'Photo' of the Month: Water's Effect on the Landscape

Watercolor and writing by Sarah Wright

I am primarily a landscape painter, though my work has changed very much since my teenage years. As a student at art college, I was heavily into abstract painting — but even my large diluted oil on canvas colourfield paintings had their basis in landscape.

As a child growing up in England, we used to visit the Lake District in Northwest England, and I was always so struck by the beauty and atmosphere of the Cumbrian national park.

The American landscape has a sublime and epic quality that I try to capture in my work — and Washington state no less so. Before I moved here, I visited a few times and started painting acrylic canvases of the Cascade mountains back in London. 

As a resident, I continued to be fascinated by Mount Rainier and capturing some of the resplendence of this mountain on canvas.

Nearly 2 years ago, I begun using watercolor on a regular basis, having rarely used it as a medium before that. Once I started, I couldn't stop and discovered that watercolor can capture aspects of landscape in a totally different way, giving it an atmosphere that doesn't necessarily come out in other mediums.

Over the past year, I have been captivated by trees and forests — and in particular pine trees. These magnificent conifers that litter the Western states can look as entrancing in the misty forests as they can up high in the alpine lakes.

This painting is of alpine larch trees, which come out in force in the autumnal Cascades. These trees with their color and translucency are so entrancing. I used a photo (with permission) by photographer Nathanael Billings (@nathanaelbillings) for this painting, as the trees looked so delicate and I wanted to see how they would transpose into a painting.

With this watercolor I used the wet-in-wet technique (putting water on the paper and working the paint in) to convey a translucency of color in a loose wash. The end result with the reflection has a semi abstract quality about it.

Washington's landscape is equally captivating in the sun, snow and rain — and is truly a state for all seasons. I will continue to use the Northwest in my work.

Sarah Wright has lived in Seattle, Washington for 10 years, having moved from London, England, in 2007. More work by Sarah can be seen on her Instagram page @swpaintings