LEE WEISS

From WATERCOLOR, Summer 1996, an American Artist Publication. Reprinted by Permission.

Painting below: After New Zealand, 1996, watercolor, 40 x 27. Private Collection.

After New Zealand

Lee Weiss still layers her watercolors. This technique, which was described in Watercolor Bold & Free, involves painting on both sides of a sheet of watercolor paper, which she continually flips onto the top of a slick-surfaced table. As the paper is turned front-to-back, it picks up the pigment deposited on the table by the previous flips, thereby layering the colors and creating effects that are evocative of natural organic shapes, her chief interest. She uses this staining and layering technique at least half the time, she says.

The Madison, Wisconsin, artist is equally well-known for her direct painting of natural subjects and the ways in which she depicts refracted light.

"l use different papers for different techniques," she says. She finds that her staining and layering technique works best on paper with random texture, such as Cassson 1059 (formerly Morilla 1059). "Sometimes I use Strathmore hot-pressed smooth paper, but I never use standard rough paper because the texture is too uniform.

"I look for textures and then develop them into subject matter," she continues. "I am interested in elements of nature writ large: painting the surfaces of rocks; looking up through a tree rather than at the tree; or letting the movement of a waterfall be dictated by the forms as they develop, as seen in my painting, After New Zealand."

Weiss is called upon to judge many shows across the country. "I nearly always accept these invitations," she says, "because it's so exciting to see all the experimentation going on in watercolor." She laughs and says, "These days it's fun to be an old-timer."

Old-timer or not, Lee Weiss is still trying out new ideas. Recently, she began experimenting with acrylics on canvas. "I do it on weekends to try something new and find that it quickens my interest," she says. "It has helped improve my watercolors, giving me more clarity of color, but I still prefer watercolor." She continues to work on a large scale, usually about 30" x 40". Once or twice a year she does "a six-footer," she says.

Her recent paintings are currently on view at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Wisconsin, until August 4, 1996. Her works are in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American Art and the National Air and Space Museum, as well as in The Phillips Collection, all in Washington, D.C.

"I want to create, not recreate," she says. "When you've been painting as I have for 35 years, you've painted nearly everything once. The challenge is to find a new way to do it, something new to say.

"As a painter, I found my niche in nature. It's where I go to restore my soul and spirit, both in reality and in imagination. I am concerned for its welfare as, I am sure, it is for ours. We need to celebrate -- and save -- each other."

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