Interview: Artist Maria Zinca Discusses Her Watercolor Journey

Since beginning her artistic journey in watercolor, self-taught artist Maria Zinca has created an abstract world that’s both visually dreamy and soothingly surreal. The artist’s strength comes from her innate ability to draw the viewer’s attention to a pre-determined focal point location through the use of color, lines, objects and reflection. 

Zinca’s dynamic use of angles and ubiquitous vision of rainy day and night scenes of her bustling Bucharest city tastefully captures the feel, essence, and energy of the streets.

Zinca continues to challenge herself with every painting she does and believes the type of materials you use is crucial in allowing you to ignore the timing and struggles with the watercolor medium itself, and focus more on putting the vision into the finished painting. 

See more of Maria Zinca’s art on her Instagram.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Zinca about her art and career in this exclusive new interview.

How did your artistic journey begin?

Maria Zinca: I don’t know exactly when but I’ve liked to draw ever since I was a little child. I’m a self-taught artist who was born with a need to paint. At some point, when I was between twenty and thirty years old, I started decorating my house and was looking for pictures or paintings to fill up my walls. I wasn’t painting much during that time and started looking for ideas on places like Pinterest. I saw a few watercolors and thought, I can do this myself.

I started painting but was using cheap paper and everything was a mess. That’s when I started seeing what other people were doing with watercolor and knew I had to learn more. I started getting better quality paper, brushes, and pigments with the ambition of painting more and more.

How did you overcome challenges and struggles in those early paintings?

Zinca: I still struggle at times with not being able to do exactly what I want. When I started out, I would struggle with pigments, because I used cheap paints. When the painting dried, the colors were not very saturated, so I’d put another layer and then another layer. The paper was bad and didn’t help me. That’s when you get a feeling that you’re not good and think, I won’t do this again, but then tomorrow you’ll be back to paint another one. It’s a carousel of being on and off. 

How would you describe your style?

Zinca: I like abstract paintings and am always trying to get away from reality as much as I can. To build a painting that doesn’t look like a photo. You can always take a photo, print it and then put it on your wall. With painting, you can go into a different reality you can’t mimic in other mediums. I want the viewer to be able to see the car, the building, or the man walking the street, but I don’t want to paint the entire car window or the detail on the man’s face. I want the feel and energy of the street. That’s what I try to put in my paintings.

What’s your creative process like? Where do you draw your inspiration?

ZincaI like to take walks and when I’m in the street, I feel all this light, people and life around me. I try to express that in my paintings. I’m always looking for the mood, feeling and story from the street. I like to take a lot of pictures of my city and sometimes I’ll watch YouTube videos of someone walking down a city street with a camera for two hours on a rainy day. I’ll watch and then screen shot an image of everything I like. Most of the work is made even before I even start painting. I spend a lot of time preparing by thinking about composition, focus points, colors, and mood. I use a tablet with the Procreate app and draw what I visualize. When I have the sketch on my tablet as close as I visualize, I start painting. But I don’t copy an exact sketch of the image. Sometimes a painting asks for itself what needs to be done.

What do you think is the most challenging part about painting in watercolor?

Zinca: With watercolor, you have to express everything in that hour and second from when you pick up the brush. Sometimes I’ll be tired when I come into the shop and that can be seen in the painting. Watercolor sees your state of mind and energy when you’re painting. I love that challenge.

What are the keys to creating a great watercolor painting?

Zinca: There are a lot: The focus point, the message and concept of the painting. You have to tell a story and not just paint a pretty painting. Make the painting interesting using different methods like dry brushing and wet on wet. Having one part of the painting where it’s evenly blended and another part that’s very harsh. Build interest with color, composition, and different techniques to make the viewer go to the focus point. When I’m sketching, I think about all of that. Guiding the viewer to the focal point with color, composition, and technique.

What’s the best bit of advice you can give to an aspiring watercolorist?

Zinca: The most important thing is to paint every day and not give up. Just like exercise, if you paint every day, you’ll get better. Get used to the medium and brushes. Know your pigments and paper and get rid of the unknown element. It’s like when you’re in a car and you just focus on the drive. Know your materials so well that you don’t have to struggle and can focus only on painting. You also have to study. Even if you didn’t go to art school, look at books on composition and learn from others.

Are there any projects you’re currently working on?

Zinca: I do have other activities I do. I have a tattoo workshop and a gallery. I’m working on exhibitions and trying to help other artists here in Romania. I’ve also started focusing on making large portraits in watercolor. It’s very challenging. This is the next thing I’m going to do. 

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