In Wendy’s many bags she carted to our Antarctic environmental project with the Russian Antarctic Expedition were paintbrushes as well as cookbooks and kitchen items. She was resident artist and indispensable cook. Regretfully, Wendy didn’t have a lot of free time to pursue art but our forthcoming book, The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, includes her journal excerpts in which she documents what she was able to create with found objects and notes the ideas that brewed and shaped her future work (such as her Antarctic Chronicles). Wendy didn’t paint with vodka in the Antarctic but we drank it and our book features a home-made Russian vodka recipe. Antarctica is the place for adaptation, innovation and learning from past Antarcticans and from nature.
Which brings us to innovating and painting with vodka. A young America artist, Maria Corvell-Martin, learned from early Antarctic artist Edward Wilson about this cold-weather tip. She is a self-described Expeditionary Artist.
Maria’s major painting project in the Antarctic led her to a discovery.
“I add vodka to my waterbrushes to help keep them from freezing, a trick I learned from the journals of Edward Wilson. He traveled to Antarctica with Robert Scott in the early 1900s, unfortunately dying there in 1912 on their ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole. Wilson was a doctor, ornithologist, and artist whose work continues to inspire me.”
Her ‘recipe’: “In the real cold, I’ve just been using straight vodka! Sometimes I use gin, too. When I do mix with water, it’s typically in the range of fifty-fifty or 3/4 alcohol. Another idea is to bring a thermos with some warm water. At some point, I just give in and use pencil with color notes, then complete the piece under shelter. Experiment and see what works for you.”
Maria says “I work in the tradition of traveling artists as naturalists and educators. Since 2005, I have focused on painting polar and glaciated regions where I have often collaborated with scientific teams. In the field, I sketch with ink and watercolor, and collect multimedia recordings to build my palette of place, a record of experience, climate, and color. I develop this work into studio paintings for exhibit as well as presentations and workshops for audiences of all ages to cultivate observation, scientific inquiry, and environmental awareness.”
We love to meet people also investigating and creating in the art-science realm. Also check out her newer project, Imagining the Arctic where she also uses vodka in Greenland to paint.