Our monthly competitions are intended to celebrate contemporary art being made today, and encourage those artists who are relatively inexperienced to keep going. So when Anita Bhatia won the runner-up People’s Choice Award in our Summer Seascapes and Landscapes Watercolour Competition in August 2017, we were delighted. Anita only started painting again just a couple of years ago, after a long break. Her painting of Lizard Peninsula stood out for its strong design, enhanced by a strong tonal range and a wide range of marks in an array of luminous colour harmonies. We’re thrilled to have had the opportunity to learn more about Anita’s painting and show samples of her work. All works in this post have been made since 2015.
Lisa: For how long have you been painting landscapes in watercolour? Did you ever receive any training or are you self taught?
Anita: The association goes back a few years, it started with wanting to capture places that I was travelling through and developed into love; I just love to sketch landscapes and other scenes during my travels. I am unable to do this regularly when at home so I let myself loose during my holidays. I usually do a lot of small sketches of a place so these are very focused or concentrated.
Landscapes are a part of my art journey. I have attended formal art training and continue learning through online classes and other digital means. I have had no formal training in watercolours.
Lisa: I love how you depicted the water in your painting Lizard Peninsula – the way you have broken it up with different shapes and colours keeps it looking fresh and dynamic. What colours did you use and how did you go about painting this?
Anita: Thank you. I do find it hard to paint water, I do remember wondering ‘how do I paint its movement and the various colours?’
I decided to just absorb the scene that was in front of me while my mind (sub-consciously at first but increasing consciously) was gathering information and planning a approach on how to illustrate the scene. I started by laying down a few washes and slowly working up layers, playing with tonal values and colours. Doing the ‘drop’ was challenging. I have used a local brand called “Camel Artist’s Watercolours” to paint the landscape.
Lisa: Where are you based and where do you do the majority of your painting?
Anita: I am based in Mumbai, India. I am an amateur artist, painting and sketching among other art forms is a hobby. I have a private group on social media wherein I post, ‘Prescription Art’; a daily dose of wellness with drawing/painting to illustrate my message. Here I play with all types of mediums and try to be simple and innovative with the idea. Recently I have got interested in drawing from memory. I especially enjoy taking my imagination for a walk. I have also become a part of “Urban Sketchers” and absolutely love the idea and the work that this group is doing.
Lisa: What are your favourite paints to work with and why?
Anita: I am still experimenting with a few brands.
Lisa: How do you stop yourself from overworking a painting?
Anita: I usually start with light washes and build up layers. The moment I feel I have achieved the right colour I tend to stop working. I guess this is instinctive.
Lisa: How do you choose what colours you are going to work with?
Anita: I paint impulsively and mix colours on the go; it’s what forms a part of the scene to my eye. I am still learning about colour, playing with different hues, relying on the colour wheel. In future I would like to work a limited palette.
Lisa: How much of your work do you do from life and how much from photos? Do you think painting from life/photos has a big impact on how the final work looks?
Anita: I like working from reality, but I do use photos when I find something inspiring. Painting from life comes with the atmosphere thrown in with your eye and mind being the camera. The same scene clicked on a camera may not capture what the mind has recorded. Though working from a photo has its advantages of painting at leisure and one can go back to the scene at one’s convenience.
Lisa: What sort of paper do you like to paint on?
Anita: I mainly work on sketch paper. This allows me to experiment and not worry too much. I love this freedom to enjoy painting without restraint. I also use Stillman & Birn sketchbooks, and Fabriano watercolour blocks and Indian handmade paper. I have yet to work on 100% cotton paper which I will try soon.
Lisa: How often do you get to paint?
Anita: I paint almost every day, sometimes multiple works in a day, it’s an intention, be it a small sketch or any idea from my imagination. Working and exploring on different pieces on a regular basis gives one the much needed confidence and ease of translating the actual or image to a painting.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Anita: I do not publish my work or exhibit; it’s shared as and when I fancy with my friends on Facebook and Instagram.
Header image: ‘Bala and Morning Chai’ by Anita Bhatia, Watercolour on Paper, 8” x 12”