With a background in illustration, Janice Castiglione uses her artistic skills to bring the
natural elements into a storybook world through watercolor paintings.
OUR earliest painting memories often involve
watercolor, with sets containing blue, red,
yellow, every color of the rainbow, plus a few
sheets of paper and various brushes. It was a
creative entrance for any young mind.
Be it messily mixing the colors with water, or the delight of
letting paint stream down and burst on the paper, water-color
is a joyful process that many don’t put much effort into
once they grow out of their beginner sets or discover other
Paradoxically, Janice Castiglione’s earliest memories of art
involve drawing, but watercolor is now her true love. Here,
she finds expression that allows her to voice the beauty of the
natural world while creating her own.
“Nothing flows like a watercolor,” she says. “There’s no
other media where you put one color next to each other and
it flows. I love color, that flow of one thing into another, it’s
very exciting to me.”
While it might not hold the stature or celebrity like oil
and acrylics do, watercolor is prominent in the art world.
Georgia O’Keeffe painted with watercolor to practice fluid
brushstrokes and dominant color, completing over 50 pieces
before moving onto oil. John James Audubon, perhaps the
best-known watercolorist, used it to depict field guides in his
book, The Birds of America (1827 – 1839), setting the trend for
naturalist works in watercolor.
Even though there are notable names surrounding the
medium, the difficulty of the process can scare some away.
Not Castiglione, though.
“At a certain point in painting, I have to make a shift in my
thinking. I tell myself to relax and embrace the process. Let
the paint flow and I’m just going along for the ride,” she says.
“I give myself permission to fail, and if the painting is ruined,
I tell myself it’s only a piece of paper but I learned something
for the next painting. It takes guts but I try to paint for myself,
which is not always easy.”
Inspiration comes from a bicycle on the side of the road,
a flower in a pot, the lights and shadows from a photograph
of the Wilmington Riverwalk. In this expression, the water-color
creates both rhythm and story. Each piece possesses
unique personality based on the techniques and chosen
“I put a lot of thought before I go to the paper,” Castiglione
says. “I draw it out and love to do wet on wet for a sky. I’m
doing one now and I went all around it and paint my sky and
let it flow. Other areas I’ll do big washes.”
She loves the cauliflower bursts achieved with watercolor
as well as the classic drip affect. “Sometimes I put the canvas
on the easel and let it drip, for the sky I use wet on wet, even
picking it up sometimes, especially if it’s a bigger piece,” she
Castiglione works a lot off photographs and uses small
round brushes for details. Toward the end she likes to put the
photograph away and add her own decorative touch.
Her paintings contain complementing color palettes, typi-cally
based in either warm or cool tones. The subjects exude
realism at a distance, almost like how one might remember
a fond memory — a warm breeze rustling the bushes while
digging in the garden, with an eye-line view of the plants as a
bird chirps in the distance.
In Nature’s Lace II, the vertical splatter and layered blue
shadow create a center and draw in the viewer. Both the
leaves and stem seem to emerge from the lower subject as
flower petals press to the sky.
In Riverwalk, shadows aren’t delegated to where they
might fall but instead dance or play with their subject. As
Castiglione says, it’s her creative freedom to stray from the
exact framing of the natural world and craft her own.
“Painting the background first sets the mood,” she says. “I
love shadows and I love how the shadows make patterns and
color. The center is lighter, brighter, more toned down and
this leads you in; that’s where I want your eye to go. In the
photo, they’re all of equal light and dark value, but when I go
to paint I change that. That’s my artistic license.”
A delicate yet subliminal use of the splatter and drip
technique is seen in No Place Like Home. Three bright blue
robin’s eggs are nestled in a tree branch. The natural scene is
both calming and alarming. The branches seem to reach out
for something, extending off the canvas. The work encom-passes
a feeling of walking past the exact nest, a delicate
place of beauty and birth with a slight touch of concern.
Yet this colorful world still provides a storybook sense the
birds will in fact hatch and one day maybe fly into another of
By Emory Rakestraw
Nature’s Lace II, 28 x 28 inches, watercolor on Arches watercolor paper.