Outside Farmer John – Vegan Watercolor Painting

Here’s my first vegan watercolor painting. It’s based on a photo I took of pigs in a truck arriving at Farmer John slaughterhouse in Vernon, Los Angeles.

Rebecca Schiffman Vegan Watercolor Painting Pigs Outside Farmer John
Rebecca Schiffman “Outside Farmer John,” 2019, Watercolor on paper, 12″ x 16″

First, some notes on the image, then a list of vegan art supplies used.

The Pigs

The pigs, probably only 6 months old, have been crammed into a truck for days with no food, water, or room to move. They all would be killed within hours of this moment. I took the photo at a Los Angeles Animal Save vigil. If you’re curious, I wrote about attending these vigils, giving water and baring witness to pigs here.

I have mixed feelings about painting from this photo. I thought it might be worthwhile to meditate on this image, and this pig, during the many hours the painting would take.

On the other hand, I felt uneasy about using the suffering of living beings as artistic fodder. During the painting process, the sad context of the image never left me, but I wasn’t always sure on what to base my aesthetic decisions. I decided I wanted to make an eye-catching image that someone would be drawn to and then have to look at for a few moments in order to grasp what is going on.

After I posted the original photograph on Instagram last year, two friendly acquaintances told me they went vegetarian because of it. That was a huge deal for me. I don’t know if turning this image into a painting will be as effective, but I hope so.

Although I went to art school, I’m self-taught when it comes to watercolor technique. And because I’m a little rusty as well, I’ll probably paint this same image one more time, and try to get a looser (more emotional?) feel.

Since watercolor can be pretty unforgiving, I have done many of my watercolors twice. It’s amazing what you can learn from the first go-round. Sometimes I end up showing the second version, sometimes the first, sometimes both if they’re different enough. I’ll post the second version of this soon, assuming it’s presentable.

Vegan Materials Used in the Painting

As I mentioned above, this is my first vegan watercolor painting. Until I went vegan, I had no idea that the watercolor paints and paper I had used for years were not even vegetarian. After that realization, I took a bit of a painting hiatus while figuring out what materials to switch to. That’s also when I started the Double Check Vegan list of vegan art supplies.

Vegan Watercolor Paint

I used vegan watercolors from Daniel Smith, but in kind of a weird way. First of all, Daniel Smith watercolors are vegan except for Ivory Black, Sepia, and Payne’s Grey.

I’m not that comfortable with watercolor tubes and Daniel Smith only started selling pans a few months ago. But before this, I bought a bunch of Daniel Smith watercolor sticks and made them into pans myself.

As of now, Daniel Smith only sells pans in sets, and they’re half-pans. If you want to make a custom Daniel Smith full-pan set and also have plenty of watercolor sticks leftover to play with, here is my Daniel Smith vegan watercolor pan set tutorial.

Vegan Watercolor Paper

I used a Canson Heritage Hot-Pressed Watercolor Block.

Vegan Paintbrushes

I only decided to post this painting after it was done so, unfortunately, I’m not totally sure which brushes I used. I have a bunch of cheap old synthetic brushes lying around. If you saw the tips of some of them, I’d be embarrassed. I’m pretty sure I used some by Princeton, Utrecht, American Painters, and Cotman – mostly tiny liners, and then 3/4″ wash brush.

Recently, I got a few new vegan brushes and I’m exciting to try them in the next painting. I will definitely record which ones I use next time.

Check out our growing list of vegan brushes, and types of brushes to avoid here.

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