|Louise De Masi|
Tell us a little of your beginnings and journey as an artist:
Art was always my favourite subject at school, but back in the early '80s when I graduated high school, there weren’t many jobs for artists, and I had no idea how to pursue a career in art, so I turned my back on it.
However, my love of drawing and painting never went away, and when I was in my 30s, I went to an art studio and enrolled in an acrylic painting class. The owner of the studio noticed my ability and asked if I’d be interested in teaching. That led me to teach acrylic painting classes for about 8 years.
I took up watercolour painting six years ago, shortly after I finished a teaching degree at university. I had given out my resume to some of the schools around my home, and while I waited for the phone to ring for some teaching work, I taught myself how to paint in watercolour. I’m so glad I did because painting in acrylic paint no longer gave me any joy and I stopped painting for a while. Watercolour restored my painting passion.
I taught in schools for five years, and I would paint on weekends when I had time. Half way through 2014, my husband got a job in Sydney, so we moved there temporarily. Instead of approaching schools in Sydney for teaching work, I decided to start painting full-time. I’ve been working on my painting career since then; it’s early days yet. I was reading that it takes five to ten years of full time practice for your work to mature, and years and years to succeed. I know the road ahead will be bumpy, but I am determined and self-disciplined, and I am enjoying the journey.
Why are you drawn to watercolour and how did you learn this medium?
Watercolour is such a beautiful medium to use. I love to use it for so many different reasons. It’s quick. You can get instant colour on your paper quickly and easily—just wet the paper and drop in the colour. The transparency of the paint allows your painting to glow with light. The effects you can create with watercolour are unmatched by other mediums. It allows you to be expressive or, if you’re like me, you can create highly detailed paintings.
With each painting, I walk the line between competency and total lack of control. It’s an exciting medium to use, and I will be forever under its spell.
I taught myself to use watercolour mainly by looking at other artists’ work that I admire and lots and lots of practice.
How would you describe your style? We’d love to compare an early painting with a more recent one!
I love detail. I know watercolour is more of an expressive medium than other mediums to use, but it’s the detail that draws me in. I tend to paint loose at the beginning of the painting. I build the painting up with lots of washes, and in the final stages, I add all the detail. Lately, I’ve been adding some deliberate blooms to my paintings, and I’ve been playing with different types of backgrounds to add interest.
I use a lot of water when I work. Even though I like to show detail in my paintings, I still like watercolour to look like watercolour.
In your experience, what are the pros and cons of being a full-time artist and do you ever get creative block?
The greatest part about being a full-time artist is that I get to pursue my passion every day.
Painting gets me up out of bed and keeps me up late at night. I sometimes work 14 hour days, and I’m happy to do it. It doesn’t feel like I’m working most of the time. Being at home is another plus. I have scoliosis and I suffer from back pain. Working from home means I can sit down whenever I want and take a break.
The cons of being a full-time artist are many. You have to have some sort of other income so you can pay the bills. You not only have to be an artist, you have to be a marketing manager and a salesman. You have to spend as much, or more, time promoting your work as you do producing it. Art supplies are expensive, and your days can be lonely.
I rarely get creative block, quite the opposite in fact. I have so many ideas and so many things I want to paint that there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all.
What are your preferred art materials?
My favourite paper is Arches. I use both hot and cold pressed.
I use Winsor and Newton and Daniel Smith watercolour paints, and my favourite brushes are Da Vinci.
You offer watercolour painting classes on Skillshare and have just launched your own online school, which is very exciting! Can you tell us more about these classes and what they offer?
I’m very excited about my online classes. Skillshare approached me late last year and asked me if I’d be interested in making some online classes. I’d never heard of Skillshare and teaching online wasn’t even on my radar at the time, but I decided that I’d give it a go in the new year.
I had to learn how to film myself painting and how to edit my videos and add narration. I have five watercolour classes on Skillshare, and I’m working on my sixth now. I have nearly 900 students, and I have received very positive feedback on the classes.
Watercolour can be a difficult medium to use, and I try to simplify the process in my classes. I walk my students step-by-step through various paintings that I have completed, and I provide a reference photo and a line drawing so they can paint along with me. I think a lot of people who first start painting in watercolour have difficulty getting their water-to-paint ratio correct. They either have too much or too little water on their paper or in their brush. Understanding that is the first biggest hurdle to overcome.
My classes have been very successful, so about a month ago I decided to open my own school as well. I have one class in my online school, and I have finished filming my second class. It’s in the editing stages at the moment. Students can pay for the individual classes they want to do in my online school, rather than sign up for a subscription. I’m excited about the journey ahead!
You can visit Louise’s online school here, and her Skillshare classes here.
Do you have artists who give you inspiration?
I love the bird paintings of Karl Martens. They are absolutely beautiful. He grew up watching and painting birds. He works with giant Japanese and Chinese paint brushes for his bigger paintings, and they force him to lose control. He uses lots of water, and he makes use of salt to show greater depth. I hope that one day I will master watercolour the way he has.
What are you currently working on and what will we see next from you?
I’m currently working on a painting of a waratah. I’ve been working on it for 10 days now. It is highly detailed and it’s probably my most difficult painting to date. I’m working on the leaves now, and I’m anxious to finish it because I have other paintings I want to start.
Most of my paintings have a plain white background because I like a simple contemporary look, but I plan to start entering paintings in competitions next year and I feel that I need to begin including some backgrounds and filling in all of the paper. So I think you will start to see more of my paintings with backgrounds. I’ll be painting lots of flowers and leaves.
|Waratah work in progress|
You can see an image of Louise’s completed Waratah painting here.
What advice can you offer people wanting to learn or improve their watercolour painting skills?
Oh, that’s easy. Take some of my classes!
Use the best materials you can afford. Good quality paper is essential. Don’t be afraid to use water.
Follow Louise online:
Online School: louise-de-masi.teachable.com