Ali Cavanaugh’s Watercolour Portraits

WORDS Mary Garner

American artist Ali Cavanaugh paints dreamy watercolour portraits of women in a style she refers to as “modern frescoes”.

“My dependence on the visual world began when I lost much of my hearing through spinal meningitis at 2 years of age,” she says in her artist statement on her website. “This loss was a blessing in disguise as I learned to depend on body language and reading lips to communicate. So, from my youngest days, I became sensitive to the people around me and the unspoken language revealed through compositions of the human body.”

Reminiscent of the fresco-secco wall painting technique, the pieces are painted onto wet clay panels, which adds to the dramatic effect achieved by layering translucent pigments on white surfaces.

“I strive to paint not only the delicate features of the external person but to capture the tender unseen presence that transcends understanding in the depth of a soul,” she adds. “In my experience in working with the people that I paint, I repeatedly discover the profound mystery of existence.”

For more information, visit