Fraser artist uses unconventional methods to paint landscape
Ryan Summerlin March 29, 2012
Fraser artist Greg McFadden incorporates river water, snow, ash, soil, vodka, and the cochineal bug into his paintings while using a Frisbee for a palette. His unconventional methods add texture and color to his watercolor paintings.
Landscapes provide his inspiration.
“I am absorbed by them and want to express them,” said McFadden.
A river rafting guide in the summer and a cat skiing guide in the winter, McFadden has ample time to be exposed to the beauty of nature and practice his plein air painting.
Growing up in Maryland, he moved to Colorado to go to college, and to “ski, of course.”
A Grand County resident since 1991, he spends six months out of the year here and the rest of the year on the Salmon River and on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. He recently started his own rafting company, Canyons River Company.
McFadden takes advantage of the rest stops along the river by finding vistas to paint. It’s there he adds “local elements” to his paintings.
Water from the river he is painting is used to mix the paint he is using at the time.
The fine, dusty soil from the Grand Canyon gives texture and a red color, made up of the mineral hematite. McFadden used ash from the banks of the Salmon River for black pigment.
First used by the Aztecs and Mayans, the cochineal insect also lends its vibrant carmine color to McFadden’s work. The bug attaches itself to the spine of the prickly pear cactus.
McFadden’s process for extracting the color is to pick the cocoon-like insect off of the spine and rub it between his fingers. “All that is left is a little gray fluff and the red colored liquid.”
Painting on the river takes some forethought. Having to keep his load light, he is restricted in his supplies.
After finishing his works McFadden floats them down the river in a dry box in order to get them home.
Painting the surroundings of the Fraser Valley in the winter, McFadden melts snow to mix his paints. When the temperature is too cold and the water freezes, he uses vodka.
McFadden’s paintings are on display through April 5 at Framewerx in Winter Park. His works can also be viewed at www.riverpainter.com.