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Excerpt from "Painting Watercolors from Nature " in exhibition catalogue for "Elements of Nature--Watercolors by Kenneth Evett" 

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art 

Cornell University

Ithaca, New York 1987 


     "I have travelled around the Western world in search of places to paint, always using the same procedure.  My wife and I go to a scenic region. We rent a car.  She does the driving while I contemplate the passing landscape, on the lookout for a promising spot.  When we find one, I gather up my watercolor equipment and take an open-eyed stroll until I come upon a comprehensible conjunction of forms.  Then--while my wife settles down in a comfortable spot to read or investigates the area, camera in hand--I perch on a rock or camp stool, white-enamel palette placed in a horizontal position within reach, freshly squeezed pigments in their customary slots, a bloc of D'Arches paper on my lap, a container of clear water nearby.  Picking up my brush, I contemplate the rhythmic drama of the scene, and begin, always feeling that I am about to partake of a feast"


     The first stroke of the brush is crucial. It must establish a focus for the entire composition, as it also adumbrates the proportional and structural relationships to follow. It must provide decisive warm or cool, bright or dull, and dark or light tonal references for all the transparent half-tones that come later, and it should be laid down on the paper with one confident, spirited calligraphic gesture.  As the process of observation, discovery, and definition continues, I sometimes use washes in which the component hues are floated into the watery element on my palette but not completely mixed, thus inviting the unpredictable random effects that make the medium so seductive.  Because I aspire to accurate nuances of tone, I try to keep the brush, palette, and water as clean as possible throughout the action.  Theoretically, I aim to get the entire scene---foreground, middle ground, distance, and sky--all going at once, but since some kind of sequence is inevitable, I have fallen into the habit of defining the tension points of the foreground first.


     From the beginning, I based my compositions on the concept that the geometric center of the rectangular sheet of watercolor paper related to my own physical sense of a centered orientation to the world around me.  Consequently, the visual forces let loose in the process of painting--the interplay for contours, the thrusts for axial movements, the tensions of proportional placement, the conflicts and supportive repetitions of hue and value and intensity, and, of course, the spaces they generate--are all engaged as active participants in a haptic dance of symmetrical or asymmetrical movement around the center.  My obvious addiction to firmly defined horizontal or vertical zones whose boundaries parallel the outer borders of the base rectangle is simply a manifestation of my preference for the classic mode.  I realize that the compulsive adjustments of left and right, up and down, and near and far that are so important to me may be mere tidiness for others.  Even so, at this stage of my life I am willing to stake whatever claim to distinction I may have on my aspiration to produce work that is responsible, clear, orderly, and, I hope, elegant--qualities that are hardly in demand at the moment.


     "In the long run, the one dependable satisfaction gained from. painting is the doing of it.  And sometimes, when I am working outdoors under the vault of heaven --the sun bearing down, breezes blowing, birds singing, bugs biting, odors of thyme or tidal reek in the air--I have a sense of transcendental pleasure at being there, alive on that particular patch of ground, momentarily in harmony with the rhythms or our one and only, beautiful, vulnerable planet."

Artist's Statement

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