Diving Into Art

If you’d asked me, before Christmas 2018, whether I had any artistic ability, I’d have said ‘No, I can’t even draw stick men’. And that was barely an exaggeration. But I’d always admired people who can draw and paint, or sculpt, or make beautiful things out of steel, precious metals and stones. And I’d long been drawn to watercolour painting.

This attraction to watercolour painting manifested in the fact that if I was out and about and I saw some nice watercolour cards for sale, I could barely resist buying a couple. I have quite a stash by now, mostly done by local artists.

I thought that to be able to paint well enough to dare to sell your work, you’d have to practise for years, maybe (probably) go to art school, or at least dedicate yourself to a lengthy unofficial apprenticeship. And indeed, to truly master a skill, you must spend many, many hours at it, but I’ve been amazed by what I’ve been able to achieve with just a little bit of introductory instruction and the will to just dive in.

A little help from my friends

Well, from my niece, actually. She’s been at design school for the past couple of years and just this past holiday season, she and I had a painting afternoon together. It was pure bliss. She put me onto a wonderful teacher called Shayda Campbell, a Canadian artist and blogger/vlogger who posts a new how-to video every week. As I love botanical art, my niece thought Shayda’s style would appeal to me, and that her instructional videos would be a good place for me to start. They were, and I’ve now subscribed to her Youtube channel.

Below is the work I did that day, inspired by Shayda’s video, How to Paint Watercolor Flowers + Leaves. It’s a bit of this and a bit of that, because I was just trying the various techniques I’d seen on the video. I didn’t really intend for anyone to see this, because it’s really just an exercise, but then I thought it might inspire someone to have a go. Also, as one of my colleagues suggested, it might be fun to record my starting point so I can watch my improvement over time.

This A4 page of assorted flowers is my first real attempt at watercolour painting. In the top left you can see the colour chart I made, then my paints and brushes, and in the top right you can see a small carved wooden stamp, which I also used on this exercise.

The piece you see in the header of this post is one that I did about a week after I started painting. I was pretty happy with that one, and I ended up giving it to a friend. It’s just small – A5 – but that’s a good size to get started with, as it’s not too overwhelming. Here’s one I did for another friend:

This one was done on an A5 canvas. I bought a pad of 10 canvas sheets for $3.50. At that price, there’s no need to worry about making mistakes. I can see from this image that I’ll need to pay more attention to lighting my work when I photograph it, but it gives you the idea.


About my supplies

The paints you see above are from Mont Marte, which seems to be a mid-priced brand with a fabulous range of products. Most of the brushes you see above are also from Monte Marte, as is the paper.

Rookie mistake #1

I probably didn’t need to buy such an extensive set of paints. There are 32 colour pans in that set, but there are about 8 shades that I use most often. Maybe as my skills develop I’ll be glad to have bought this set, but I think if I were advising someone starting out, I’d say to just buy a set of 10 or 12 to start with, and see how you go. Purists would argue that all you need is five – red, blue, yellow, white and black. I’m not ready for that kind of discipline just yet, though!

Rookie mistake #2

I don’t think I needed to buy 12 brushes. I tend to use only 2 or 3 of them, although as with the colour range, maybe I’ll eventually be glad to have them once I’ve developed more skill. Another artist I’ve just discovered, Kristy Rice, swears by one brush in particular, a ‘dagger’ brush. That’s one I don’t have, but I like what she’s able to do with it, so I might look for one of those next.

More to come

I’ll definitely post more of my painting exercises here in the coming weeks, but meanwhile, here’s a slideshare of a piece I painted the day after my niece’s visit. I actually shocked myself with this one. I thought it would take much longer to be able to paint something that resembles the chosen subject.



1 thought on “Diving Into Art

  1. […] the posts I published last week about my explorations in watercolour painting, which you can find here and here, a friend sent me the following photo and asked, ‘Is this too hard to […]


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