Monday, August 3, 2009

Meet The Artist – Joanne Giesbrecht

This is the first of a regular feature to be posted the first Monday of every month entitled Meet the Artist. Each month, you will be introduced to an artist whose work has captivated me, as I’m sure it will you. The artist might be a visual artist, a musician, a poet or writer. In each interview, the artist will speak about a particular work, explaining a bit about their inspiration and process through that work. Our first artist is Joanne Giesbrecht, watercolorist from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Rhino-750 complete

African Beast (2009)
20” X 30”
Transparent watercolor on
140# Arches cold pressed paper

LA: How long have you been practicing your art?

Joanne: Since 2001, I had been painting only a few paintings a year, usually when I was on holidays in the summer or over the Christmas break. However, the last 2 years I have created space and
time in my life to work on building a portfolio of paintings. In the spring of this year I left a full time position to pursue my passion and dream - to paint full time as a professional artist. :-)

LA: What is it about this particular artwork that made you choose it to be featured?

Joanne: This work embodies much of what I want my art to convey. If we slow down, and take time to really see something from a new or different perspective, we can find and enjoy a richness and beauty found in the world around us. It also features my attempts to show how light transforms even the most simple of subjects into something which glows.

LA: How has completing this artwork made you a better artist?

Joanne: I believe each piece I complete gives me a better understanding of my developing technique, and moves me closer to my goals for my work. This piece certainly challenged me on a number of levels. It is a larger piece, so working through the many layers of glazing color took time and patience. I experimented and had fun working on the textures in this piece, and when it was completed, there was such a sense of accomplishment that I knew I had moved to a new level in my painting.

LA: What made you choose the subject matter for this artwork?

Joanne: A couple of years ago, when I visited the San Diego Zoo, I had shot some photos of various creatures, one of which was this rhino. The camera really shows what I could not see from a distance, and I was amazed by the skin of this animal. He had plates, bumps and texture which was just begging to be shown in a painting. He also had a blue tongue! I put him in the back of my mind, and thought for a long time about how I could portray such a complex beast.

Recently, I have begun a technique of pouring color as the background for my subject matter. It occurred to me that this might be a good way to illuminate some of the unique features I saw in the rhino. Once I had the first level of color poured on, I just knew this was the right technique for this painting!

LA: Do you feel that your interpretation of this subject matter has drawn upon archetypal knowledge or subliminal factors? Is there anything “under the surface” of the composition?

Joanne: My interpretation for African Beast is definitely subliminal. Without even thinking about it, I began to paint rhino in colors which some found surprising - he is not grey! He is also representative of my artistic style – a balance between realism and the abstract.

LA: Is this a “stand alone” piece or is it part of a larger group of work? If a singular piece, please explain how it stands apart from your other work, and if an integral part of a body of work, please explain it’s place there.

Joanne: African Beast is the second in a series of paintings of animals done in the “pouring technique” I mentioned before. The first one in this series was African Elephant, which can been seen on my website ( I am currently working on the third in the series, Baby Giraffe, which is a baby giraffe shown against the skin of its mother. Each of these works has a poured background, and each uses light and saturated color to present this creature in a different or unique way.

LA: Anything else about the piece that you’d like to mention?

Joanne: I am thrilled with the response I have had for African Beast. Even before he was complete, I had comments which showed me that people were slowing down, seeing with different eyes, and relating to his “character”. Here is one person’s comment:

“I love how you've turned an impossibly large and
leathery beast into a character study that makes you
feel tenderness towards him. His hugeness fills the
paper but his expression fills the heart. It's the same
sensation I had when I saw King Kong for the first
time and felt that he was the only mammal in the
movie that I felt any sweetness towards.”

LA: I believe that all artists evolve somewhat with each piece completed. What direction do you feel you are headed? (looser style, more detail, different subject matter, etc)

Joanne: My desire has always been to use light and color to make the subjects of my paintings “glow”. With African Beast, I have come to realize that with the pouring of colors and the careful planning of where light and shadow fall, even an “ugly” beast can be transformed into something quite unusual. I want to explore this method further as one way of presenting my ideas. I plan to paint several other animals in this technique, as well as landscape, still life
and portraiture.

Joanne’s website is a joy to peruse, as it includes not only her watercolors, but lovely acrylics and photography as well. Take a look here. She also writes a blog which documents her works in progress and gives a fascinating look into the processes she uses. Find her blog here. You can also find her on Twitter at

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