In this exclusive interview, Florida-based artist Raven Green tells us about her painting practice inspired by the stillness within nature. Learn about her method of using gouache, the types of landscapes that interest her, and the ways in which she overcomes challenges in and out of the studio.
Raven Green, born 1992, is an artist based in Southwest Florida and honors that by spending the majority of her free time outdoors painting in the pine flats and urban landscapes around her. Practicing professionally since 2014, she enjoys plein air painting in gouache as well as spending time in the studio working with casein, watercolor, oils, and colored pencil.
Art is her way of snapshotting the world around her, with the main advantage of being able to shroud any scene with her own sense of nostalgia. Her work intends to evoke a sense of wonder and longing for the seemingly mundane scenes around us.
As an artist it is never my goal to “create” but to “capture.” The world around me provides an endless stream of inspiration and I use my emotional experience as a filter to the view in front of me. I have an affinity to winged insects and birds as they are a sort of moving artwork themselves, as well as a wistful approach to capturing my surroundings. From the repeated patterns of nature to the neon-lit corners of a deserted street, my hope is for the viewer to feel the same sense of remembrance for places they may have seen only in a memory or a dream.
When did you first feel like you were an artist? Was there a specific event or occasion that made you realize this is what you wanted to do with your life?
It was just a few years ago I realized that art was something I could do professionally. I started to notice that without much advertising and without trying too hard to put myself out there, I was getting requests for drawings and paintings from people I didn’t know. It was surreal to see my clients go from friends and family to collectors who wanted my artwork simply because they liked it for what it was. That is what made me realize that maybe I could turn painting into something bigger than I ever expected at the time.
Because of your subject matter, I was wondering if you studied nature-related subjects in school such as environmental studies or ornithology? Or did your studies focus on art?
I’ve always studied art in school but never any ornithology or natural sciences. I’m sure I would have enjoyed them. I’ve been interested in birds for as long as I can remember. I used to have a book about birds that I read until the binding fell apart. Now my bookshelves are full of field guides on them as well as other species of animals and plants. Everything I’ve learned about my interests in nature have been on my own time from books or from local experts. I am planning to do something with all of that information in the future. It would be a dream come true to write and illustrate a book.
What is your favorite thing about using gouache and watercolor mediums?
Gouache is definitely my first love. I like that it can be watered down and essentially used as a watercolor paint but can also be thickly applied on the paper in a dark-over-light or light-over-dark manner. It’s so versatile in that way and I use a very different method of painting with gouache than any other medium. There’s a freedom in not needing to plan too much ahead and being able to make bold decisions with the paint. I also love to be able to smudge it a little even after it has dried to create gradients or gentle fading. I’m so fond of the matte finish as well which gives gouache it’s distinctive muted feeling.
There is a strong sense of stillness in your paintings. Can you talk about this element of you work and its importance?
I’m so glad to hear the stillness comes across because it’s everything. It’s the entirety of the reason most of my work exists in the first place. Most of the time I decide whether a scene is worth turning into a painting if it feels like it means something to me. That can be either something or somewhere very nostalgic or a place where time may have stood still for even just a moment. My fondest memories are made up of thousands of moments just like that and painting them is a way to share them with others.
Florida has such a specific landscape. How does your surrounding environment feed into your art practice?
It took a while for me to adjust to Florida because I remember thinking the landscape felt very abrasive. Like I’d be stung or bitten if I wandered off too far. But once I got to know it I found that it has a lot to offer! First and foremost the landscape influences my color palette, leaning it toward more warm greens and browns, rather than the cooler forest greens I had remembered from my time up north. Having access to both rivers and ocean within a close proximity of my house has been a huge blessing. Since Florida is one of the most biodiverse states here in the US, I’m always being surprised by plants and animals I wasn’t expecting to see, which keeps me inspired. I think the common image that comes to mind when most people think of Florida is the beach, but there is so much more to experience. I’m constantly discovering new ecosystems and thinking, “hey! I need to paint that.”
What other types of landscapes interest you? If you could travel anywhere in the world to paint on site, where would you go?
I spent my entire childhood in New England and have such a nostalgic appreciation for dense forests. My favorite way to paint is to find a big rock in a slow-moving creek, especially in the fall when the yellow leaves are softly dropping into the water all around. On the other hand, if I could I’d really love to travel through Italy painting city streets and some of the smaller villages.
How do you overcome a challenge, whether it’s in the studio or in the business side of art?
For me, it helps to break challenges into their smallest parts. Asking myself, “what is the thing that requires my most immediate attention and what is the next possible action I can do to start to solve the problem?” Something I’ve been working more on recently is giving myself more grace when challenges do happen and treat them as a learning opportunity. I have to constantly remind myself that hardships will always happen regardless of how much I stress about them, especially on the business side. In the studio it’s been liberating to realize that if I don’t like something — I can just paint over it!
What are you currently reading or listening to right now?
Right now I’m really enjoying “Learn to See, Learn to Paint” by Joshua Been. It’s been hugely beneficial for practicing painting more quickly and translating what’s floating around in my head onto paper.