Are you or someone you know a budding artist who loves the outdoors? Do you need a present or project for the holiday season? If so, we have just the title for you: Rosalie Haizlett’s Watercolor in Nature: Paint Woodland Wildlife and Botanicals with 20 Beginner-Friendly Projects.
A West Virginia native raised in Bethany, Haizlett has a zest for the natural world that translates beautifully to the page in her book of watercolor projects. Raised on a family farm, Haizlett recalls finding solitude and peace through art from a young age, and the natural beauty of her family’s homestead and rural surroundings provided ample artistic fodder. Haizlett’s deep-rooted appreciation of nature is immediately apparent upon opening her gorgeously illustrated Watercolor in Nature.
The book is very readable and inspiring: in addition to being a talented artist, Haizlett seems a natural teacher. The book is broken into two main parts with ten ink-and-watercolor projects and ten watercolor-only projects. It begins with a list of materials needed and some introductory information about using ink and mixing watercolors. Haizlett details how to get the most out of the book: namely, that doing projects in the order they appear will yield the best results as they build upon each other.
Each project begins with a blurb about the subject and “skill to acquire”: the green frog, for instance, will teach you how to “draw and paint a warty texture.” It also includes a palette for each project which is immensely helpful for someone still learning how to identify and mix colors. Some projects also include a “top tip” which aids the lesson itself and helps the artist hone their skills in general.
To truly gauge the accessibility of the book, I tried my hand at the first project: an ink-and-watercolor daisy. I completed the activity with my mother, a longtime educator who taught art for many years. I myself hadn’t picked up a watercolor brush in at least fifteen years and felt near enough a beginner to assess the book. Using materials outlined by Haizlett (albeit cheaper versions of them), I felt well-prepared for the task at hand. I used a no-frills watercolor palette and brush set, a Pigma Sakura ink pen, and a middle-of-the-line watercolor paper pad from Michaels. Thanks to Black Friday deals the whole thing cost me around $15, so this is not a project that will break the bank.
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So how beginner-friendly are the projects? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding: though I didn’t create a masterpiece by any means, I found the directions very easy to follow and was pleased with the end result. Though I only had time to finish one project, I felt inspired to continue working my way through the book.
Anna’s ink outline
Margaret’s ink outline
Anna’s ink with shading
Anna’s ink and watercolor
Anna’s finished product
Margaret’s finished product
After following the steps, I took Haizlett’s advice and made the piece my own by adding more ink shading for dimension, as the finished product initially looked too flat. My mom was more careful with sketching her petals, even going so far as to make sure they had the right number (15 to 30 petals, according to the book). Her end product looked more like Haizlett’s example (and hey, she’s an art teacher! Who can compete with that?) and she achieved a more dimensional look by re-inking over some lines and dots after painting.
Aside from being very easy to follow, I appreciated the little factoids Haizlett includes about the subjects themselves. This gives the reader a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the subject itself. It is evident that this book was intended to not only teach people about watercolors but to help them appreciate nature and find serenity in it.
According to Haizlett, the book was first dreamt up while she was an artist in residence at Smoky Mountain; the goal of the book, she said, was to “make nature painting accessible and non-intimidating so that more people can use it as a tool to become more mindful and appreciative of our natural surroundings.” I believe Haizlett has succeeded: in addition to being a wonderful and engaging teacher, she is a born naturalist with an infectious zest for the world around her.
Published in November 2021 by Page Street Publishing, Watercolor in Nature will soon be available at the Wheeling Artisan Center Shop and can already be found through most major retailers. In terms of reading comprehension and the complexity of projects, I would recommend this book to any budding artist ages fifteen and up. Though designed for beginners, Watercolor in Nature can be used and enjoyed by art lovers of any skill level.
• Raised in Wellsburg, West Virginia, Anna Cipoletti is a proud alumna of Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy, West Liberty University and Kent State University. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from West Liberty in 2014 and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Kent State in 2017. Anna has made a career out of a lifelong love of books and works full-time at Bethany College as a librarian and parttime as a bookseller and book reviewer. She resides in Beech Bottom with her sister and two Siamese cats. A nature enthusiast, Anna often spends her free time visiting one of West Virginia’s many beautiful parks or kayaking along Buffalo Creek.