Rebecca Elfast: Expressive Watercolor Paintings with Few Brushstrokes

By Lisa Orgler in Featured Artists > Watercolor Paintings

This week’s featured artist is Rebecca Elfast, a Swedish architect and painter whose dramatic watercolor paintings prove that expressive paintings don’t have to be thickly textured oils or acrylics.

Rebecca’s goal for each of her paintings is simply being “able to express a lot with as few brushstrokes as possible.” Even before I read this quote, I was already impressed with her minimal, yet powerful approach to painting, and the way that her technique allows the viewer to fill in the “blanks” to create the final image.

Many of Rebecca’s paintings depict landscapes of simple buildings, turbulent skies, and rippling water. What makes these landscapes remarkable is how she combines light and dark washes across an entire image.

As shown in the painting below, Rebecca often juxtaposes basic geometric shapes against a riotous display of inky washes. She also uses color sparingly to create her focal point, such as an orange-roofed building set among dark sky and water.


This contrast of solid vs ephemeral, light vs dark and geometric vs abstract strengthens her architectural subjects and their setting in the natural world. . . which for Rebecca is a world of thunderstorms, fogs, and gentle breezes.

But those simple geometric forms paired with strong washes are just one interesting angle to Rebecca’s work. Another is her careful use of light.

In the previous painting, one can see that all of Rebecca’s structures are either facing a sunrise or sunset. They are flooded with light, and then delicately reflected in the water with darkness falling (or rising) behind them.

Rebecca’s manipulation of light is even stronger in the painting below. Streetlights hover over a busy road while streaks of headlights pass by. The sky—once again—is filled with both dark and light, alluding to either the beginning or end of a stormy day.


And what’s most amazing about Rebecca’s paintings is that her minimal use of paint doesn’t change, no matter what the subject is.

In the painting below (one of her figurative works) she continues to use just a simple watercolor wash of gray and yellow to strategically shape a somber face. She ignores the finer details and still manages to capture our interest by blending broad washes of color and creating large fields of contrast.


The end result is a painting that demands attention, while proving once again just how talented Rebecca Elfast is at creating dramatic interest through simple techniques.

To see more of Rebecca’s watercolor paintings, with their expressive washes of color and minimal brushstrokes, please visit her website at


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