If you spend any amount of time at Inventionland you’ll swiftly learn about Tess Kamban, our resident watercolor artist. Tess has been with Inventionland for 11 years and has been involved in the art world for much longer. We asked Tess a few questions that are frequently asked within the art universe regarding watercolor, her medium of choice.

“Bride of Frankenstein” by Tess Kamban

How did you get started painting?
I’ve loved painting/art/design ever since I can remember! From a very young age, I’ve been infatuated with everything from finger-paints to fine art! I once researched Leonardo Da Vinci and tried to complete his self-portrait for a project when I was only 8 or 9 and in the 3rd grade!

Is your ideal medium watercolor? What made you pick it over the rest?
Watercolor is my main focus; however, I do love working with a variety of mediums. There’s just something about how the transparency of the colors and overlaying washes play together that really peaks my interest.  Another one of the reasons I am drawn to watercolor is actually the difficulty. (Laughing) Once that paint is down there’s no bringing it back up!

How did you get your start?
Although I’ve always loved art and seemed to have a lot of fans, I’d say the real start is when I decided to share my work on social media. I was more than surprised to see all the interest I got from others, which led me to be more active in my endeavors.

“Frankenstein” by Tess Kamban

What paper surface do you prefer to paint on?
I use a few different kinds of watercolor paper.  My favorite paper is a handcrafted Eco-friendly paper that comes by the sheet. Here’s a description that can tell you more about it better than I can: Handcrafted to perfection using 100% cotton rags, every Indigo Artpapers cold press sheet is exceptionally durable and features four natural deckle edges. Produced using an environmentally friendly process with no chlorine, bleaches, or harmful chemicals, these sheets are acid-free, internally and externally sized, and watermarked, suitable for all waterbased media.

Transparent, opaque, gouache: what are these?
Transparent (which basically means that you can see through it) is again one of the reasons I love watercolor so much! Each layer of paint/color reacts with what you’ve already put down which can create a really cool effect! With other paints, you’ll get more of the Opaque effect (which basically means you cannot see through it). Those mediums are nice because you can work over an area again and again until you’re happy with it. Gouache is a type of paint/method of painting that uses opaque pigments or colors.

Where do you get ideas for your watercolor pieces?

I have a long list of commission work where I am usually asked to paint something specific, these have included a number of subjects like; pets, people, mermaids, minions, and moby dick.. just to name a few. I love a challenge so these subjects are usually up my alley! I also have personal projects that I manage to squeeze in, one subject I loved was old classic monsters! It started with Frankenstein and his bride that ended up getting me some commission work for some others like Dracula, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Wolfman coming up next!

“Nightmare Before Christmas” by Tess Kamban

How long does it take you to complete a painting?
Longer than you’d think! It really all depends on the subject/size/detail in the end, but with every piece I do it starts with research… lots and lots of research! I like to know and understand the subject before diving in. For example, Moby Dick, I read several back stories, listened to the audiobook (my inner nerd is showing), and watched several documentaries and movies before paint on the paper was even in the picture! (Laughing) Minions was a little easier but still the same idea. There was about a 3-day Minion movie marathon at my place when that piece was in the works. My favorites are still the old classic monsters! I watched all the movies (most of them more than once) to get an idea of the story I was trying to tell. All that and I still haven’t answered your question! I’ll leave you with this: “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” –Leonardo Da Vinci