Dreamy Watercolor Portraits Capture Subjects in Moments of Introspection

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

Unlike oil and acrylic, watercolor can often feel like it has a life of its own. And while some artists find this aspect of the medium challenging, others find the unpredictability a source of creative inspiration. Painter Ali Cavanaugh harnesses these mysterious qualities in her series of exquisite watercolor portraits, which capture different subjects in moments of introspection.

Cavanaugh received a degree in painting from Michigan's Kendall College of Art and Design, specializing in oil. It wasn't until 10 years after graduating that she fell in love with watercolor. “For me, there was a sharp contrast between the two mediums,” Cavanaugh tells My Modern Met. “Watercolor is light and airy. I have more control. [Additionally,] because the visual effects are weightless and ethereal, watercolor created a wonderful balance to the serious and sometimes somber expressions of my figures.”

Cavanaugh's watercolor portraits depict people that are a part of her life. “Certain moments jump out to me and those are times that inspire me to paint,” she continues. “There is a look, or composition, or feeling that comes over me…and I know it needs to be painted.” Each subject floats in a delicately-made composition, shrouded with layers of pale, translucent colors. Their enigmatic expressions are hard to pin down to one emotion. And since we can't determine what the figures are thinking, they make us reflect on ourselves and how these pensive, gauzy worlds make us feel.

Scroll down to see more of Cavanaugh's amazing watercolor art. You can purchase original paintings and signed prints via the artist's website, and keep up to date with her latest work by following Cavanaugh on Instagram.

Artist Ali Cavanaugh creates expressive watercolor portrait paintings of introspective subjects.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

She turned to watercolor painting after many years of working in oil paints.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

Cavanaugh's watercolor portraits depict people that are a part of her life.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

“Certain moments jump out to me and those are times that inspire me to paint,” she tells My Modern Met.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

“There is a look, or composition, or feeling that comes over me…and I know it needs to be painted.”

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali Cavanaugh

Their enigmatic expressions are hard to pin down to one emotion.

Watercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughWatercolor Portrait Paintings by Ali CavanaughAli Cavanaugh: Website | Instagram | Patreon

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Ali Cavanaugh.

Related Articles:

Colorful Watercolor Paintings Capture the Mood and Energy of Cities Around the World

Delicate Watercolor Paintings of People Capture Fragile Human Emotions

Young Artist Who Found Success With Her Ethereal Paintings Is Helping Others Do the Same [Interview]

Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content