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Nature Art: No Water? No Problem! - Explore

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Nature Art: No Water? No Problem!

Say you're in Honolulu. You're sitting in the shade, on a seawall, and you have your sketchbook, brush, tiny traveler's paintbox next to you. And your ice-coffee. Birds whistle as they fly past into the palm trees. In front of you is Waikiki Beach, all amazing blue-green water and pale sand. A woman opens her beach umbrella in front of you, and it is the perfect complement to the water, a gorgeous orange-red. You have to paint it.

You sketch the scene, open your paintbox, grab your brush and...you have no water. You can't paint. Unless you empty out your full cup of ice coffee and fill it with sea water. So...

I painted with iced coffee.

I poured a bit of coffee into the lid and used it instead of water to wet the paint. The colors are duller than they would have been, but the coffee-stained sand is the perfect shade of tan. The coffee dried slick and shiny, so I couldn't go back and fix the color once the sketches had dried. When I tried, the new paint simply beaded up on the surface. The colors in my paintbox smelled like ice coffee for a few days afterward but it didn't affect the colors.

French ultramarine, second from the left, is the blue-gray of the Atlantic up in Boston. But Honolulu takes its water from the blue-green Pacific. For the trip, I treated myself to a tube of cobalt teal, a color one I use nowhere else, and the perfect color to use on Waikiki Beach. Cobalt teal runs along the bottom of the card.

So, iced coffee will work, but I hope you won't have to sacrifice a cool drink to do your painting this summer!

-- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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