Tanya Haynes (1962) was born in Canton, Ohio, on the 31st of July. She has been living in Curaçao since 2010.
Her work is semi-realistic and she uses the impasto technique in which paint, straight from the tube, is applied by brush or finger. When painting waterscapes and the underwater world (which are not painted underwater), she doesn’t apply layers of colors, but works directly on the canvas. This makes her paintings vibrant and colorful.
“Who says I can’t paint a person in green? It is still a person!” Her fearless approach to painting is inspired by the five following artists: Frank Francese, Joseph Bohler, Lian Quan Zhen, Malcolm Farley and Tom Lynch. Each one of them inspires Tanya for the way they work or their use of bright colors and contrasts. All of them make bold, direct, colorful paintings.
Tanya spent her college years in Denver, Colorado, earning an associate’s degree in advertising design at The Art Institute of Colorado. After graduating, Tanya worked as a graphic designer in Colorado and eventually decided to become an artist.
Tanya knew that if she wanted to be a successful artist in her home state, she needed to do something that would set her apart from the others. As almost every other painter was doing landscapes with mountains, barns and flowers, she decided to focus on her passion for the underwater world and paint underwater sea-life. With Colorado being the state with the highest number of certified divers in the US, she knew there would be an exceptionally good market for her art.
Before moving to Curaçao, Tanya had ‘working-vacations’, filled with lots and lots of diving. She would take pictures and make sketches to work out back home. Her diving adventures took her all over the Caribbean and South Pacific. The biggest impact on her paintings came from diving at the Fiji reefs. These were incredibly colorful and teaming with aquatic life. While Fiji and Australia where high on her list of locations to move to, Tanya chose to make Curaçao her permanent home 2010. Here she found an adequate market for her art and lots of diving locations to choose from.
Curaçao is where Tanya made her first painting underwater, opening a whole new direction for her art. It was a completely different experience in a very challenging environment. Tanya states, “A bit like moving to Curaçao, it’s really cool sitting at the bottom of the ocean with my paints and canvas, watching the fish accept me in their neighborhood. Over time the same fishes come and swim around me. They look at me, look at my painting and start to accept that I am a part of their environment. Eventually, they even pose for me.” The more Tanya dives the more she is able to capture her experiences with the critters living under the waves.
Painting underwater requires Tanya to know her paint colors inside and out. One loses the red and yellows because of the light spectrum going through the water, making everything look blue and grey. “Getting my values correctly, I create this very dull painting under the water, but the surprise comes as I surface and I see the results, a beautiful, colorful painting,”she says, “I know I have the drawing and structure correct, my values, the lights and dark within the painting are correct.”
“But I don’t really know how it’s going to look, until I start swimming in shallower water. Meter by meter the painting exposes itself. Oh, and then there is the part when I exit the water with my equipment and wet canvas, where the wind catches that painting, smacking me in the face or sending the painting for a tumble on the sand. I than either have a pleasant surprise or a sandy mess.”
Through her paintings, Tanya reveals her experiences underwater. “Every one of my paintings is an experience. Sometimes it’s a turtle or a porcupine fish that comes right up to my mask to give me a kiss. Another time it’s an octopus handing me his breakfast on Christmas morning. At times I paint the sun refracting across the reef, or the “underwater-ballet” where everything is soft, fluid and flowing. I may also paint the goby in her condo or the eagle ray patrolling his acres of real estate.”
For someone who feels so connected to the underwater world, one wonders which her favorite painting is. “It’s not about favorites, it’s about painting the next painting, I always push myself, as I know the next painting will be even better.” Until she mentions the Sea Turtle Ascent painting. Her experience with the green sea turtle happened on her first visit to Bonaire.
She just watched the turtle swim along the reef without a care in the world for 60 to 70 minutes. The sun was setting and there were sunrays behind him and he was just chilling and eating, not even bothered that there was someone watching him. For Tanya, it was one of the most incredible experiences ever. After that she knew what she wanted to paint, but she wasn’t sure how she was going to get what was in her head, translated to a piece of paper. She made sketches, drew out the painting and then put it aside for 2 years.
One night, about 2:00 AM, she suddenly went back to the painting and finished it in a few hours. Exactly as she had it in mind. Exactly as she had watched the turtle swim so close to her that afternoon.
However, even more amazing is the technique used for the green turtle. It is one she rarely uses. The entire background was painted first, then parts of the turtle were scrubbed out. She would add water and scrub it with the paint brush, then take a piece of cotton cloth and take the paint away. What also makes this green turtle painting so special is that usually all of Tanya’s paintings are from different pictures and experiences combined, except this one, which was strictly from that experience, that one afternoon at the reef.
Tanya also paints residential and commercial murals in Curaçao and Aruba.
Check Tanya’s webpage or follow her on Facebook to see where her next underwater adventure will take place.
Click here to visit Tanya Haynes’ website.
Text by Susi Kleinmoedig (2019).
Photographs by Tanya Haynes.
This text may only be reproduced with reference to the source: Curaçao Art®️, www.curacao-art.com. Copyright of the artworks remains property of the artist.