Mattina Blue is an American artist and educator of over 25 years, with a passion for travel and the ocean. Her paintings can be found in collections worldwide, and she teaches watercolor painting workshops aboard cruise ships.
What do you love most about painting with watercolors? I love the inimitable look of a watercolor painting. I love the transparent layers, the bleeds, and the palpable sense of flow. Painting with watercolors transports me to a space inside myself that is similar to the space I know well from years of yoga practice. Watercolors center me in a way that is vital and dynamic but also challenging. Each mark made is nakedly what it is, a perfect reflection of where I was in that particular moment.
Your biography indicates that your paintings are expressions of emotions. What sorts of emotions do you often intend to convey or invoke in your works? My paintings are part of my ongoing series entitled “Love, Passion, and Prayer.” These are intimate and personal works created to express longing, frustration, excitement, and ecstasy, the emotions that rise and fall in our attachments and entanglements with other people. My interest is in using the special qualities inherent to watercolor (bleeding, merging, flowing) to describe and evoke the feelings we carry, and can’t often express openly.
How does your experience teaching painting on ships vary from teaching in traditional settings? Does it offer a sort of unique creative inspiration for teacher and students alike?
Teaching on ships is a tremendous opportunity for so many reasons. I love working with an older demographic of students (passengers on longer cruises are generally older) and I love working with people who do not consider themselves to be artists or who “have always wanted to do something creative” but were afraid or intimidated. It’s a beautiful experience for me to introduce people to the magic of watercolor. It’s calming and meditative and the simple act of creating layers of colors that merge and interact is compelling from both the perspective of the maker and of the observing teacher. To prepare for each cruise, I create projects that are inspired by whichever country we are visiting. In my workshops, I always include paintings of national birds and flowers, and of course, seascapes and sunsets. With the backdrop of the sea, the sky, different countries, and rich cultures, creative inspiration is infinite. For more information about my experiences teaching: www.inthisplayground.com
What are your favorite Princeton product(s), and what stands out about them?
Princeton Snap! brushes are my favorite brushes, and they’re the brushes that really helped me to take my painting to another level. I love everything about them: the weight and surface of the handle, the integrity of the point, [and] the amount of paint that the brush will hold. My favorite brush is a round #10, which I use in some way in every painting I make, and sometimes, due to the full range of mark-making that it allows, it’s the only brush I’ll need in a painting.
Can you describe a signature art or painting technique that you do?
Many of my paintings are a combination of block prints and watercolor. I first carve shapes into soft lino blocks and print them with water-based inks on watercolor paper. Then I begin painting with my watercolors, allowing the ink in the prints to dissolve and flow into the added layers of paint. Because I’m most interested in creating paintings that capitalize on watercolor’s ability to bleed and flow, I’m continually tipping and tilting my work. I also paint with four or five brushes at a time, each dipped into a separate color, so I can quickly combine and merge different shapes and channels of wet paint. Titling is an important part of my painting process. Sometimes I begin with a title in mind, but often the title rises up as the painting comes into focus. At this point, the title can actually help me to understand how to complete a work, and it can help me to understand if the work is clear and honest.
Who are some artists that influence your work?
The list is endless, but here are a few: Matisse and Picasso (of course), Hilma af Klint, Paul Klee, [and] Peter Dreher. Each of these artists led integrated and inquisitive art lives, where their work is the driving force in their life. They cultivated an intimate, private dialogue with their work, developing their own vocabularies to create uniquely expressive works in uniquely expressive voices.
Have you always been creatively inspired by the sea?
Yes, for as long as I can remember. It’s the sea, but it’s also water. I love traveling by ship, I love watching the sea, and I love swimming. Swimming is a big part of my life as well; [it’s] something I do nearly every day.
When did you begin painting and how has your work evolved?
For my first years in college, at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I was a Fine Art major. It was there where I seriously began to study painting. I lived in New York City and when not in class, I worked in an art gallery, modeled for a painter, and spent time in museums. After many years, I shifted into photography and moved to Florence, Italy, where, in no small way, I was reborn. Italy is my spiritual home, it’s where I always feel at once inspired and grounded and in the presence of my artist-heroes. In Florence I began painting on my black and white photographs with chemicals and liquid watercolors. This was a central focus of my work for a couple of decades, until, at a certain point some years ago, I felt that I had completed my journey with photography. I only wanted to create images that were hand-made, without a camera… just paint on paper. At the same time, I reached a point in my life where I wanted to use my art to describe my inner world. I wanted to stop looking through a frame at the outer, visible world, to tap into something less literal and recognizable. I wanted to strip my art down to line, color and shape to create works that are strange and puzzling to me. I want to be surprised and even confounded by my paintings.
Can you describe your creative process?
My creative process flows between the actual making of the paintings in my studio, and other rituals that fill my day: swimming, cooking, reading, walking, listening to music. Everything feeds my work, and my work feeds the rest of my life.
Mattina Blue: www.mattinablue.com