The History of Watercolor

The watercolor medium is defined as pigments suspended in a water-based solution. Overall, watercolor paint is known for its translucent qualities and its ability to dilute in water.


Watercolor painting is extremely old, dating perhaps to the cave paintings of paleolithic Europe, and has been used for manuscript illustration since at least Egyptian times but especially in the European Middle Ages. However, its continuous history as an art medium begins with the Renaissance.


The famous Lascaux Cave paintings in southwestern France that use a watercolor-like medium, dates back to 15,000 BCE to 9,000 BCE.


An example of Renaissance manuscript painting with watercolor detailing on the side panels and center image.

The Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer is generally considered among the earliest exponents of watercolor. He painted several fine botanical, wildlife, and landscape watercolors to use as scientific imagery.


Young Hare by Albrecht Dürer using early watercolors, 1502.


However, botanical and wildlife illustration perhaps make up the oldest and most important traditions in watercolor painting. Botanical illustrations became popular during the Renaissance, both as hand-tinted woodblock illustrations in books and as tinted ink drawings on vellum or paper. Botanical artists have traditionally been some of the most exacting and accomplished watercolor painters, and even today, watercolors—with their unique ability to summarize, clarify, and idealize in full color—are used to illustrate scientific and museum publications. Wildlife illustration reached its peak in the 19th century with artists such as John James Audubon, and today many naturalist field guides are still illustrated with watercolor paintings.


Watercolor painting from John James Audubon’s book Birds of America depicting a wild turkey in full detail and color.

In the late 18th century, the English cleric William Gilpin wrote a series of hugely popular books describing his picturesque journeys throughout rural England. He also illustrated them with self-made monochrome watercolors of river valleys, ancient castles, and abandoned churches. This example popularized watercolors as a form of personal tourist journalism. The combination of cultural, engineering, scientific, tourist, and amateur interests all culminated in the celebration and promotion of watercolor as a distinctly English “national art”. William Blake published several books of hand-tinted engraved poetry, provided illustrations to Dante’s Inferno, and also experimented with large monotype works in watercolor. Among the many other significant watercolorists of this period, were Thomas Gainsborough, John Robert Cozens, Francis Towne, Michael Angelo Rooker, William Pars, Thomas Hearne, and John Warwick Smith.

The three English artists credited with establishing watercolor as an independent, mature painting medium are Paul Sandby, often called the “father of the English watercolor”, Thomas Girtin, who pioneered its use for large format, romantic or picturesque landscape painting, and Joseph Mallord William Turner, who brought watercolor painting to the highest pitch of power and refinement, and created hundreds of superb historical, topographical, architectural, and mythological watercolor paintings.

Turner’s method of developing the watercolor painting in stages, starting with large, vague color areas established on wet paper, then refining the image through a sequence of washes and glazes, permitted him to produce large numbers of paintings with “workshop efficiency” and made him a multimillionaire.  Among the important and highly talented contemporaries of Turner and Girtin, were John Varley, John Sell Cotman, Anthony Copley Fielding, Samuel Palmer, William Havell, and Samuel Prout.


View of Avon Gorge, watercolor by Joseph Mallord William Turner, dated 1791.

Watercolor painting also became popular in the United States during the 19th century; outstanding early practitioners included John James Audubon, as well as early Hudson River School painters such as William H. Bartlett and George Harvey. By mid-century, the influence of John Ruskin, a famous social thinker and art patron, led to increasing interest in the watercolor medium. Late-19th-century American exponents of the medium included Thomas Moran, Thomas Eakins, John LaFarge, John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, and, preeminently, Winslow Homer.


Winslow Homer, The Gulf Stream, 1889.

Among the many 20th-century artists who produced important works in watercolor, Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Paul Klee, Egon Schiele, and Raoul Dufy must be mentioned. In America, the major users of watercolor included Charles Burchfield, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Demuth, and John Marin. In this period, American watercolor painting often imitated European Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but significant individual styles flourished in the “regional” areas of watercolor painting from the 1920’s to 1940’s.


Although the rise of abstract expressionism, and the trivializing influence of amateur painters and advertising- or workshop-influenced painting styles, led to a temporary decline in the popularity of watercolor painting after 1950, watercolors continue to be utilized by artists like Martha Burchfield, Joseph Raffael, Andrew Wyeth, Philip Pearlstein, Eric Fischl, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer, and Francesco Clemente.

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Like Fete, pictured below, has a beautiful swirling of pink and blue colors but it also has a heavy layer of texture. You can even see where the pigment in the paint has collected and pooled on the piece of paper to create a hazy purple, these up close details just make the art more accessible to the viewer.

FeteTriptychWEBIn Sarovar, also pictured below, you can see the actual individual brushstrokes of the artist. This personal touch is preserved in the painting and can be reinterpreted dozens of times by dozens of different people. The texture of the piece showing the deliberate touch of the artist.


These small and somewhat minor details humanize the artwork and the artist by letting the viewer see the steps and process it takes to produce an original artwork. To be able to see and understand the artists’ process is to understand their decision making and the reason behind their specific choices. This inside look at process will make the final artwork much more impressive to view.



Transition into Tabla

Lets just begin by saying that almost everything in the world is connected in some way. Even the body you inhabit contains information in your DNA that can be traced back to thousands of different ancient organisms. You’re a codex that links your body to other people and to the world around you in ways you would never imagine. Scientists say that humans may harbor more than 100 different genes from other organisms and that’s just what we know so far.


Example of a visual connection between humans and the observable universe.

This evolution over time translates into more than just a series of coincidences, it builds off one another and grows to change form and purpose. This concept of evolution also applies to art. Art is known to evolve in order to portray the history of time and reflect the emotions of the population. Every famous artistic movement is spurred on by changing elements in culture and influences. Over time art has been produced that references historical works but changes them to fit a more modern narrative. Like Ivica Capan who took a famous painting from Hieronymus Bosch’s The Last Judgement and overlaid it with modern predator drones to comment on unmanned bombings happening overseas.

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Ivica Capan | Bosch and Capman | 2009

This constant cycle of re-purposing and reuse of art can be seen all throughout art history. This also applies to our own creative process when developing new images, we often build off of previous work and create something completely different from the original. Not realizing how much potential there was in a particular piece of work until we were completely immersed in it. Sometimes the idea doesn’t become evident until you are halfway through processing the artwork.

For example, the piece Tabla is the end result of our evolving process. Just from looking at it you would not know that it is based off of two previous works on our site. Literate, seen below, was the first to be reformatted and changed.


Literate | 2015

Our main designer David Diskin used the colors and textures from Literate and was able to produce Matrix, which has a completely different composition when compared to its predecessor. Matrix may use Literate’s colors but it has a completely different feeling, more rigid and structured when compared to Literate’s smooth painted textures and wavy free-flowing forms.


Matrix | 2016

Then by using the lines from Matrix and transforming them into waves we were able to produce Tabla. Tabla is a reflection of digital percussion and Bhangra music. The definition of Tabla itself being a pair of small hand drums attached together, used in Indian music; played using pressure from the heel of the hand to vary the pitch. The name and idea came to our main designer when he was reminded of the instrument and the percussion beat it produces.


Tabla | 2016

Art is a human connection on its own but when you start seeing the evolution of someones artwork transform over time it gives you a whole new perspective. Combined with the knowledge that everything is interconnected and related makes it just that much more incredible. Every piece descending from the last, like a very artistic family tree.

The Collected Home

My primary focus as the designer of is to create original modern canvases. But to a large extent, even within the realm of painting and designing these images, I am curating a collection of styles. Painting is one part of my aesthetic life and I also love to  collect and design my home with a variety of interested and emotive concepts.

As we each build a place to call “home” or “work” it’s important that we articulate a sense of soul. In the design process I often look to places and time periods for inspiration. In this installment I’m looking at the London Town House.

London is a special city in the psyche of western civilization. Not as lauded as Paris or as dreamy as Rome, it is a place where the cerebral, and the powerful tend to come to fore. Those who have kept a London house over the centuries reflect a passion for the wider world and a desire to make their home  a collection that resonates within the ones’s life. Our London Collection reflects a contemporary vision of this inspiration.

Probably no era reflects this stronger than the early Victorian period and the homes of John Soane (noted architect) and Frederic Leighton (artist). Both of their homes have been preserved as museums and each reflect an exotic and deep the aesthetic minds that collected as much as they designed a space.

Our new London Collection, is my curated eclectic array of images in a variety of sizes that express the beauty and curiosity of art and the world in a variety of ways. A mixture of plant and animal prints, soft paintings,  with a distinctly British feeling. I also added some new original graphic modern images to add a truly contemporary feeling.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be digging into this collected soul of the London Home and hopefully finding some exciting and interesting things along the way.

David Diskin

m-dc design director.

Impressionism as the origin of modernism.

Recently we’ve decide to add a collection of classic impressionist images to our collection. While our focus is always on creating and designing original, well crafted modern pieces, many of our customers love these images and our high quality renditions of them makes them a nice decorative choice. From another aspect it’s also nice to have these available as a reference point for the kind of modernism we appreciate. The progression of art in Europe from 1850 through to 1900 sets the stage for Picasso, Braque, Mondrian and others to take the collective human viewpoint on art to a radically new place. We celebrate this work most clearly with Van Gogh’s Iris painting . It’s approach takes a structural and visceral look at these rich beautiful flowers

1178px-Irises-Vincent_van_GoghIrises was painted while Vincent van Gogh was living at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, in the last year before his death in 1890. It was painted before his first attack at the asylum. There is a lack of the high tension which is seen in his later works. He called the painting “the lightning conductor for my illness” because he felt that he could keep himself from going insane by continuing to paint.

The painting was influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints like many of his works and those by other artists of the time. The similarities occur with strong outlines, unusual angles, including close-up views, and also flattish local colour (not modelled according to the fall of light).

The Getty Museum makes this image available for us to work with and for you to enjoy.



Calvin St


Our image Calvin St. is an abstract image that tells and re-tells a kind of landscape visual. The colors are rich, earthy and the influence for the piece comes from 2 painters Turner, Rothko, the Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto and the beard and suspender culture of Brooklyn.

Read more of this post

A New Year of Hope, Prosperity and Expression

Every person is disctinct. Dates of the new year and how we celebrate it can be as different as people are. From fireworks & parties to a quiet evening alone, the celebrations and traditions are all diverse but the constant is in the hopes of success and prosperity. For many people the upcoming new year represents a new beginning or a fresh start, a rebirth if you will, to persevere, overcome, do better, make more meaningful moments and overall improve on themselves.
The New Year is celebrated on January 1st but what most people don’t know is that the original New year celebration was actually the massive Babylonian Religious Festival of Akitu and it was held during the spring equinox.
Some time around 46 BC, Julius Ceasar proposed a new calendar that corresponded with the sun as opposed to the moon. This moved the celebration from March 1st to January 1st.
In the Middle Ages, the Christian church felt that many of the ancient Roman festivals held pagan roots. So they put a stop to them or altered them and as a result the New Year celebration was celebrated on different dates throughout Medieval Europe.

In 1592 Pope Gregory XIII once again revamped the calendar. This is known as the Gregorian Calendar. This is the calendar widely used today.
Some countries and cultures use a lunar calendar. Several hold their New Year Celebrations at different times of the year. India uses both the lunar and the solar calendar, depending on what region you are in.
Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and the first day of Muharram (the start of the Islamic calendar), are celebrated in the Fall. The Chinese New Year celebration lasts a month long and starts around the end of January or sometimes the beginning of February.
Not only are the celebration dates different around the world and throughout cultures but the traditions are also diverse. In Spain, on New Years Eve, people eat 12 grapes in the final seconds leading to midnight. In Greece, people eat circular bundt style cakes with silver or gold coins baked inside. In China, dumplings are eaten as a representation of a propitious new year. In Japan, long noodles made of buckwheat are a symbol of long life. In New York, hundreds of thousands of people watch the famous ball drop in Times Square and millions more watch it on TV.

With a new year comes a new hope, but deep down we are the same beautiful people expressing themselves as individuals. Our First Expression of the new year is called Phrase pictured below. It is a monumental black and white expressionist piece. Great for a monochrome room.


Hallway Transformation – Blog Post 3 The Finish

We completed our dark wall, big canvas hallway transformation and we couldn’t be happier. While it was a little scary to see that black paint hit the wall, once the new darker carpet went in and the pictures were mounted, we knew we had a home run.


Our choices for images were Manhattan, a great 1890’s 3D vintage map of NYC.


The Love canvas to give our home some heart.


A photo2canvas image that’s a great abstract photo of a dear family member, our little dog Cookie.


And Mission provided a great splash of red, showing off amazing painted texture using our new latex inks.

The white frames we used were the right choice, complimenting the white doors & trim.

Our old bland space is now a dramatic gallery, like something you might find in a London Townhouse or downtown NYC Village apartment. Living in Storied & literary chic Sag Harbor, we feel this dramatic look is a winner.

Lesson here, don’t be afraid to take strong chances as long as your palette is neutral.

Check out our video reveal.


Hallway Transformation – Blog post 2

When we left off last we had come up with a concept. We also showed you an example of our dark office wall with hanging prints which helped us draw inspiration. That is how we find what we like. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere but its a good idea to look in magazines, and check out various websites like Pinterest & Instagram.


This is the original untouched hallway, prior to starting the renovation.


This is the Hallway after we painted it. This dark, rich color is exactly what we wanted. This will give us the dramatic effect we were looking for.

The Power that can come from a coat of paint is insane! Just changing the color of a space makes everything different. New color gives a room a burst of energy and depth that rearranges the space into a new purview. Even though the space is the same, it now has a new look and a new beginning. To achieve our color we painted with Benjamin Moore Color Black Satin 2131-10.  Benjamin Moore even has a personal color viewer on their website where you can upload a picture of your room and see what different colors will look like on your walls.

A below par paint job is easy to see. Take care to avoid the number of mistakes many people make, like drips, splatter, and uneven lines. These mistakes usually happen when people try to rush the job. So just remember to take your time and be mindful of the paint as you go.

Check back with us again soon. There is plenty more in store for our no longer “forgotten hallway”.

Hallway Transformation – Blog Post 1

All of us have spaces in our homes or offices that are rather nondescript. Yet these kinds of spaces are opportunities to explore drama & cool design choices, often only for the cost of paint and creativity.

Our m-dc canvases are a wonderful tool to add to renovations as we can supplement color, scale and style with ease.

Our Design Director has a home in Sag Harbor, New York. It has a rather banal & long neglected bedroom hallway in need of a refresh.











The adjacent bathroom got a complete modernist overhaul and the hallway was in serious need of a contemporary & dramatic touch.


Currently suffering from boring off-white paint color & overused Hampton sea-grass sisal. A few floral prints hang on the wall & an orphaned m-dc Jumbo canvas, “Vacation”, while this is a great canvas, is currently hanging here as an afterthought.

Our concept is to create an impressive dark walled space, with bold dramatic Jumbo sized canvases. We want to both personalize it and give the feeling of a cross between a gallery wall at MOMA & something you might find in a London townhouse.

We have a gallery wall in our offices that we painted a dark “gray” color form Benjamin-Moore.IMG_4654

While almost black we intend to utilize this backdrop to use some Photo2canvas prints of his family’s 2 dogs, an existing m-dc canvas, plus, we are going to create a new image just for the space. Hopefully, to let you inside our design process.

Stay tuned for live updates on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest as we go along & of course, here on the mdcdesignblog.

The Evolution of SoHo Loft Space

New York City is the inspiration to many trends in all aspects, but one that we take for granted is the origination of the Loft as a vocabulary of the urban dweller in most western cities. In the m-dc design studio, the kind of imagery that was generated in these spaces is found throughout our collection, and as a design style it’s something we always keep in mind. The New York City SoHo Loft is one that was built as former industrial buildings. These lofts consisted of a collection of cast iron buildings. In the early 1900’s, the original lofts were those located in warehouses and used for manufacturing plants or as storage spaces.


In the mid 1960’s several New Yorker’s came together to protest the city’s attempt to construct the Lower Manhattan Expressway, also known as LoMEX. The city’s decision to vex the LoMEX plan resulted in having several large upper story loft apartments that were no longer being used for industrial and manufacturing uses.

Lofts soon became artists’ work space, as they desired a large open-work space with plenty of windows for light. Ironically, most lofts were used illegally by artists as several of the lofts has become dormant and abandoned. The edgy neighborhoods where lofts were located meant low prices ideal for starving artists.

AndyInFactoryBecause artists were soon being questioned about their “loft space,” they formed an advocacy group called the SoHo Artists Association (SAA), which desired to improve living conditions and legalize their loft residencies. In January 1971, the Board of Estimate in New York City made it legal for certified artists to reside in the manufacturing buildings of SoHo.

Artists such as Andy Warhol utilized loft space for his work. He named his various NYC studio’s, The Factory. His first studio was located blocks from Soho in Union Square in the Decker Building.


Artist, Robert Rauschenberg, whose paintings and sculptures helped pronounce both pop art and conceptual-ism also utilized SoHo’s infamous and poverty driven loft space to create his masterpieces.


It would not be long before these artists who created their masterpieces in SoHo lofts would be pushed from their workspace. Only their artwork would remain in the soon to be chic and expensive NYC SoHo lofts.


One of the key reasons lofts soon became the desired residence by the wealthy in NYC was because of Tony Goldman, the CEO of Goldman Properties. Goldman purchased 18 SoHo buildings in 1977, with a strong desire to fill the buildings with high-end commercial tenants and re-develop the neighborhood. Soon, economic and social shifts started to transform the SoHo residence, making it much more difficult for striving artists to keep up with a higher rent demand.

Today, these artists lofts are high-end boutiques, restaurants, nightclubs, and some of the most expensive real estate in New York City.

From a decorating stand point, we feel the loft has separate stylistic demands: strong painted colors and pure photographic images.

One of the great things about the conversion of industrial space to living space is the discovery process. In this former clock tower, now an amazing Brooklyn loft, the clock has become a fantastic window.

3-1-main-st-a_650_20130710We did something similar with out “Departure” CanvasA photo taken at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. A great way to have your own “Clock Tower” on the cheap.


In the late sixties and early seventies the notion of the indoor plant, became a ubiquitous element of any home. Raw industrial spaces were often humanized with wild organic plants, rather randomly grown.  355-Bryant-Street-01As things have become more refined, the plant itself has become less stylish, but abstract photographed plants are not. Our “Air” Canvas explores this design element. Foggy- organic, yet clean and simple.

Air_web__43154.1411732104.1280.1280Words and graphic design are an increasing part of contemporary art and in some ways reflect remnant signage often found in industrial spaces.

walter-schupfer-ed10-2011-02-lgnOur “Love” canvas uses a vintage type face arranged in a graphic loose way. A great way to give emotion to your space with simplicity and direct way.LOVEMetalPrint__72973.1411729209.460.480