Joanne Swanson, Inupiaq Eskimo

The Wind and The Washboard


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On one of our Alaskan bed and breakfast travels, I came across our host's antique washboard. As an artist my desire is to capture the uniqueness, character and nostalgia of "Village Alaska" as I knew it. It is a pleasure and delight when someone says "I remember when we used to do that or . . . I remember how our mukluks got all wet."

This painting began as one such remembrance. My thoughts were "My hands are much too small for THIS kind of work; my knuckles hurt... how can clothes get clean this way?" Legitimate complaints, I thought, even if I get nostalgic.

Like some of my painting ideas I began using the pouring paint technique. It's easy. I mixed four different paints each in its own small plastic cup. For this size painting I used three or four pea-sized squeezes of watercolor paint straight from the tube into a small plastic cup. Add only a teaspoon of distilled water and mix carefully so there is no undiluted paint particles. Saturate your stretched 140 pound cold pressed paper and staple to gatorboard. Wait until your paper is flat then begin pouring with the lighter colors first. In this case; yellow, red (I used the wonderful color called opera), green and then blue. You may tilt the board slightly. Allow to dry completely. Once dry you can do a light sketch and begin painting in glazes. For some of the shapes I wiped off the paint using a damp natural sponge, pat it, let it dry completely then paint over it with a different color. For the sunlit shapes I used zinc white gouache.

I had my wonderful sister-in-law Marilyn pose for me holding the washboard. She wore my oo-kithl-hawk or a traditional Eskimo garment. I am not certain of the design of this garment but usually they are made of printed lightweight cotton. Perhaps the style of the garment with a flounce was adopted from the style of the western dress. I changed Marilyn's face and hair to look more like an Eskimo woman. I am often asked what inspires me to do a certain painting. An object like the washboard or the discovery of an old gas-operated washing machine inspired this painting.

Actually, once the above background of colors had dried I liked the movement (in some artistic terms this simply means how the observer's eyes moves around a painting) and flow of the different colors; they reminded me of wind. I had recently received my summer's collection of photographs and knew then what I would include in the composition. This technique of pouring paint is probably my favorite way of painting..

Joanne Swanson


Title: The Wind and The Washboard
Type: Watercolor Giclée
Order No.: N-JS005

Edition: Unlimited

Signed Print - $125
Print Size: 19 1/4 Inches x 17 1/2 Inches
Image Size: 17 1/2 Inches x 15 1/3 Inches

Order From:

Joanne Swanson
P.O. Box 338
Unalakleet, Alaska 99684

Shipping $10 per Order.
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