Martial arts icon Bruce Lee once identified the complexities of water, by pointing out that it can either flow like a gentle stream or crash like an angry sea.

While Arden painter Linda Celestian doesn’t know how it feels to star in a Hong Kong action film, she can relate to Lee’s philosophy, since the concept has inspired her Waterways exhibit at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.

The exhibit, which runs from Feb. 2 through Feb. 27, will explore a collection of oil paintings that imitate the traits and behavior of water. Here are some fun facts about Celestian and her work.

1. Rather than use a paintbrush, Celestian illustrates her paintings by pouring thinned down oil paints on a primed canvas. She thins the paints by mixing them with turpentine, her secret formula. Then she layers each canvas with five to six coats of oil paints and allows the substance to freely drip down the canvas and create its own patterns.

“By pouring oil paints, it easily replicates what water does in real life,” she said. “It creates this map imagery of rivers and lakes.”

2. Whether she was riding on a boat as a child, or gazing at a gorgeous view of a lake, water has always had a special place in Celestian’s heart. As mentioned earlier, water’s ability to shape shift is one of the coolest things to her.

WHAT Waterways exhibit
WHEN Feb. 2 – Feb. 27; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wed. & Sunday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, 200 S. Madison St., Wilm.
COST Free 

3. Depending on how close or far away the oil paints are poured on the canvas, Celestian can portray different characteristics of water. She coined her far away pours as “action painting,” since paint splatters on the canvas and produces a more aggressive looking image.

4. Despite the abstract appearance of her paintings, Celestian said illustrating without a paintbrush is no cakewalk. She strategically plans where the paints will be squeezed on the canvas, she said. She said completing a painting that uses six layers takes about two weeks.

5. Experimenting with a new artistic style can be difficult, since some people aren't always receptive to new ideas, Celestian said. However, having faith in your work and remaining positive will guide you toward success.

“I think artists have to believe in their own expression,” she said. “Artistic expression is a language. If people stop to look at it, I think they’ll eventually get it.”