Contemporary abstract artist Darlene Watson knows no bounds.
By Adriana Ermter
Photography by Darlene Watson

Garden flowers in bursts of lilac, green and purple; ocean waves in swirls of turquoise, indigo and white; graphic slashes in thick lines of grey, moss and black are just a few ways to describe the brilliant colours that leap off every canvas contemporary abstract artist Darlene Watson paints. “They’re all abstract, no real objects unless it just happens to look like something, which I find so fascinating,” says Watson. “A lot of my art is like shapes — impressionistic fl orals, graffiti, free-flowing brush drippings. I just get in there and dig deep and try to let whatever’s inside of me to come out, to have that freedom of expression.”

Expressions so vivid, so wondrous, that even when they are captured on Instagram’s tiny squares the impact of their magnitude literally takes your breath away. The social media platform is where most of Watson’s work is featured, along with her eponymous website and a handful of prestigious international art gallery websites inclusive of London’s Saatchi Gallery, Singapore and Shanghai’s The Artling, New York City’s 1stdibs Gallery and Pennsylvania’s Zatista Gallery.

Expressions so vivid, so wondrous, that even when they are captured on Instagram’s tiny squares the impact of their magnitude literally takes your breath away.

“When I first started, a lot of gallery settings seemed like a place to go and have wine and cheese and mill about and then go home,” explains Watson. “My son, Sean, who was 16 years old at the time, said, ‘You don’t want to be dragging your paintings all over Guelph and Toronto. Why don’t you sell them online?’ It was 2011 and all I could fit in the back of my Volkswagen were 30-inch canvases, so I thought maybe he’s right. He also got me hooked on shopping on Amazon, but that’s another story!” she laughs.

Embracing a technology-fi rst approach by providing access to and showcasing her art on the internet has expanded both Watson’s reach and her sales. A prudent move for one who works remotely in her studio-converted garage in Southampton, Ont., just off the shores of Lake Huron. It’s not traditional, but neither is Watson.

In 2010, when Watson was working as an interior designer, a client approached her about creating a custom piece of art to fit inside an unused narrow wall space in her home. Inspired by a rust-hued pillow in the client’s living room, Watson created an abstract painting embellished with copper leaf. The client was thrilled. After a second client commissioned her to make a Swarovski crystal-enhanced abstract painting of a woman’s body and paid her $3,000 for the piece, Watson was hooked. “I just decided I could do it,” affirms Watson. “I have a background in design. I did consultations on paint colour and where to place furniture in previous clients’ homes. I dabbled in photography and a friend said I had great composition. I’m super visual. I see in vignettes. It was a process, but it just made sense.”

This natural artistic sensibility is evident in all of Watson’s work, from her small paper line drawings in ink, acrylics, oil pastels and mixed media to her expansive acrylic paintings. And as inspired as she may be by Monet’s use of light, Gustav Klimt’s penchant for metallic, Joan Mitchell’s messy free-form, Banksy’s graffiti and Helen Frankenthaler’s large-scale methods, Watson has found her way in both style and range.

Her large “Twilight” and “And Then I Could Breathe” paintings feature autumn-esque hues that evoke a floating-like sensation. The oversized canvases “Faith,” “Anticipation” and “Summers in Cali” radiate passion and heat with their pooling brush strokes in fuchsia and orange and pops of teal, gold, yellow and white. Subdued greens mixed with white and lapis blue allude to new beginnings and growth in the moderately sized “First Sign of Spring,” while flower petals drip down entire walls in electrifying colours in a plethora of oversized canvases. “I don’t make huge collections, which is maybe why there isn’t a lot of repetition in my work,” explains Watson. “I tend to do three or four that are similar in emotion and colour and then I move on. But everything is similar in that it all stems from my imagination. I’ll have an idea, a colour will get me thinking, I’ll hone in on it and then I’m oblivious to everything else that’s going on, until I resurface. And then I start all over again.”