Leah Yand

Part 1: Watercolor Part One

Hello! My name is Leah Yand and I am an artist and designer. Join me as I try to put my hopes and dreams on paper and explain how and why I do that. I like to think my art is an attempt at conveying my spirit and its freedom through salvation in Christ. I don’t think I will ever fully capture the hope and truth that God has given me, but art is the best tool I have found to try and convey that. My art is informed by other artists, using multiple mediums such as watercolor, charcoal, and digital art. In this first blog post I will be talking about my most recent work which is my mixed media watercolor paintings.

I am currently working in watercolor, acrylic paint, Procreate, spray paint, crayons, and basically whatever I can get my hands on. My art is heavily influenced by my artistic practice/process.

My board of landscape experiments.
A lot of paintings start with horizontal forms and playing with areas of white and areas of watercolor bleeds and highly saturated areas.

I love experimenting with materials (particularly watercolor) to get a unique or inimitable that sparks some sort of interest to my eye and for the viewer. Oftentimes, I must embrace a multitude of failures in order to get something I find interesting or worthy of further exploration. Art for me is physical as well as mental. As an artist, I strive to be excited about the art I’m making and embrace the chaos of my process and my mind. I love to challenge myself by letting the materials do things I’d never envisioned and emphasize that part of the painting. The fear of failure has been a constant foe in my life as well as in my art. When I am making something, I have to battle back that fear of failure and embarrassment and the insecurity of things not turning out. Practicing this in my artwork has helped me do this in other areas of my life and vice versa. My artwork is an expression of my simultaneous embrace of and pushing away fear. It’s me saying, “if I’m going to feel afraid, let’s see how far I can go even in this fear. How can I push through it and have it inform my work?” My process wasn’t always as free and intuitive and fun as it is now. It used to be calculated and focused. Intent on getting exactly what was in my brain onto paper. Now I let things happen, evaluate as I go, and intuitively react to what happens on the page.

My work usually starts with a place or reference image or sometimes by diving in headfirst with forms and color. 

First layer of vertical landscape painting on Aquabord.
Two spray paint and mixed media experiments. Found that I liked the texture of watercolor applied over spray paint and the high contrast of the charcoal.

The image of a landscape or place is a good starting point for me because it is simultaneously ungraspable, because it is abstract and done in color palette that wouldn’t be found in nature, and understandable (referential) as a space. Color is important to my work. I gravitate towards magentas, blues, viridians, yellows, and lavenders. My paintings follow my stream of consciousness and because my mind is always turning with new thoughts and ideas, my paintings follow a similar pattern, but all of them inevitably end up different. 

Process photo of a larger work with a hodge-podge of some ideas featuring photos from my trip to Greece.

Find me at my website lyandart.com or contact me at leahyand@gmail.com.

Part 2: Watercolor Exploration

I fell in love with watercolor in Professor Katie Creyt’s Watercolor 1 class. I was struggling to choose which medium, or mediums best conveyed what I wanted to say visually. I found that in watercolor. It had all that I didn’t know I had been looking for: it was unpredictable, it could be layered, and the mixture of water, pigment, and paper was constantly doing interesting things. I found a medium where my thoughts could flow freely. I could react instinctively, and it just straight up excited me to play with and constantly be discovering new effects, never doing the same thing twice.

Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22, watercolor and mixed media on Aquabord, 30×22 inches
Detail from Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22

It wasn’t until after I heard Melissa Lang, an amazing local Spokane artist who came to speak in one of my classes, that I decided to go deeper in experimenting with watercolor. I liked the work I had done previously, but always felt like there was a certain type of art I loved the most, but just didn’t know how to make it. Melissa Lang’s work woke me up. She makes abstract oil paintings and I just loved them immediately and couldn’t understand why. The next few months I made watercolors like crazy. After that semester I found all I wanted to do was experiment more, and each painting I made I found myself a little closer to what I had been looking for: an expression of me on paper. 

Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22, watercolor and mixed media on paper, 24×18 inches
Detail from Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22

The artwork I am making now is larger than when I first started this Exploration in Watercolor, as my series is now called. That’s why there is such a variety of painting sizes in the exhibition. Some of the smaller landscape paintings are early works I made in watercolor that hit the chord I had been searching for visually. I used aquabord for two of my paintings, which allowed me to take away areas of color and add them back in. The aquabord pieces probably changed the most out of all my paintings as I continued to work on and evaluate them. My works on paper were the result of me battling tape, paper ripping, and bringing new materials to accentuate what I was liking about watercolor. I used ink and a white paint pen to carve out areas of emphasis and take the paper back to white. I also added texture with acrylic paint and thin fabrics. The paintings in this exhibition are the result of countless hours of experiments, spurred on by feedback from my professors and classmates, and my passion to create what I’ve always wanted to say visually.  

Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22, watercolor and mixed media on paper, 24×18 inches
Detail from Watercolor Exploration Series, 2021-22

Part 3

As a student of both 2D Art and Graphic Design, my work is uniquely informed by each. My current favorite Graphic Design projects are a mix of scanned paintings, illustrations designed on Procreate, and typography layout made using Adobe Indesign or hand-lettering. Just like in my paintings, I love using a bright color palette with peachy oranges, warm yellows, dark and pastel blues, and reds. My affinity for this color palette is convenient when I decide to incorporate my paintings into my design projects. One example of this is my Fantastical Animal Watercolor notebook design. I like the idea of my work being produced as a product available to people outside of an art gallery who might not even be looking for art. I enjoy the challenge of combining a narrative or story with an image. This mixing of narrative and image is a common thread between both 2D and graphic design that I enjoy pulling and seeing where it takes me. 

CD jewel case design for Sigrid 
Sweatshirt mockup with my design Consider the Wildflowers 
Mockup of my Fantastical Animals Watercolor 1 as a notebook 

Initially, I wasn’t intending to study Graphic Design at Whitworth, but after taking Adobe Suite with Jessica Earle during Jan term, I realized its value and efficacy, and it opened me up to even more possibilities with my art. There are so many parallels between both the fields of 2D Art and Graphic Design. Both are about creating an engaging composition while hinting at a narrative with the goal of captivating the viewer’s eye. I began to study design to see if my art could flow between both fields and if I could make art with specific constraints and purposes with programs I have never used before. I’ve always wanted my work to be perfect (which honestly is a losing battle because imperfect art is more interesting) and when I began designing, I strove for that same perfection. However, I soon realized design isn’t about being perfect or knowing how to do everything. It’s something that you have to be relentless about solving. It’s a visual image and language puzzle that can be solved many ways but everyone will solve it a bit differently. It’s constantly asking questions like “Should my work be printed in RBG colors or CMYK? How do I select a textbox in Indesign? How do I make a perfect circle in Illustrator?” Persistence is the key to Graphic Design to me. Trying out ideas that I’m not sure I have the skill to do but figuring it out anyway and having those experiments lead me to an even better idea is so satisfying. Seeing an idea come to life, fit the design brief, and be unique to me and the way I solve problems is also strangely rewarding. I’m still developing skills as both an artist and designer, and in the end, I find that being an artist makes me a better designer, and being a designer makes me a better artist. I’m not sure where design will take me, but I know that the skills and persistence I have gained from studying it will be invaluable to me in my career and in my life in general.  

Book cover design for Agatha Christie’s “Towards Zero” 
Playing cards design (2, back and Jack) 
Playing cards design (back and Queen)  
Playing cards design (King) 

Part 4: Figure Drawing

My figure drawings are closely related to my paintings. When I started figure drawing class with Professor Gordon Wilson, I took a different approach to drawing than I had in the past. Like my Watercolor Exploration Series of paintings, I started with a medium that flowed and was easy to experiment with and move around, although in this case it was charcoal, not paint. Professor Wilson gave students the freedom to try different types of materials and mediums, and he challenged us to draw the figure with movement and in combination with other objects.  

Dancing Stag, 2022, charcoal on paper, 25.5×19.5 inches 
Details from 3 Figure Combo Drawings, 2022, charcoal on paper 

When beginning a drawing, I start with a very loose gesture drawing in order to understand the weight of the model’s pose. I try not to worry about perfect lines or anatomy until I go back to clean it up and fix proportions later. Instead, I focus on the placement of the figure on the page and cropping the figure in dynamic and interesting places. Typically, the live model would switch back and forth between two poses. I enjoy combining the poses and layering the figures on top of each other much like I do with layers of watercolor and other materials. I strive to push charcoal’s inherently smoky, fluid and dirty qualities. Oftentimes, I’ll draw with my fingers, wipe out areas, or selectively erase detailed areas like the face and the hands. Through this process, I find myself creating fantastical creatures and weird combinations of humans and nature. One of my current favorite drawings is a nymph-elvish depiction of the model that shows her in two poses and fills the entire page. I placed the model in two sitting positions, abstracted her features, accentuated the drapery that clings and blends into her legs, and mixed the fabric with root-like imagery. 

Nymphs, 2022, charcoal on paper, 19.5×25.5 inches 

A story of wood-nymphs blending into a damp, twisted forest came to fruition the more I played with the drawing and added new elements. My gestural use of the charcoal lends itself well to combination drawings, and as I observed the model, I thought about how I could emphasize certain areas, blend others, and give the drawing an enticing element of mystery or invention. I pull from the scattered parts of my mind and give in to the intuitive thoughts that tell me to start a whole new drawing, erase an entire area and add horns or branches to the leg or face. Switching back and forth each day from painting to drawing has been very helpful in my artistic practice. It has made me realize that there is a common thread of whimsy, flowing compositional elements, personal narratives, and mark-making between all of my artwork. 

Woodland Figure Combo, 2022, charcoal on paper, 25.5×19.5 inches 
Untitled, 2022, charcoal and conte on paper, 19.5×25.5 inches 
Layered figure and landscape drawings, 2022, charcoal on paper 

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