My art journey – How I started painting in watercolours

I’ve always loved art, but I only started painting watercolours a few years ago. In fact, I hadn’t painted since school, and I never thought I was any good at it. I didn’t get great marks and was soon encouraged to drop the subject to focus on other studies.

Then about 7 years ago, I was working in a corporate job for a digital marketing agency, and while it’s super fun and exciting and has a slightly frantic pace, I felt like something was missing. I spent all day in front of screens and then went home to more screens and it just wasn’t that fulfilling.

Seeing other artists create

I started to see art videos appearing on my Instagram and it looked really fun, but I didn’t think I’d be able to do that. Everybody posting looked like a professional artist and was creating amazing work, and I was convinced that I couldn’t even draw, let alone paint.

Then one day I was meeting a friend and I arrived early, and there was a craft shop nearby. I wandered around and just grabbed some paints to experiment with. I started out with acrylics and made some simple paintings but it didn’t feel right – they felt like a faff to work with.

emily wassell watercolour artist with painting

Buying my first watercolours

A few months later I was back in the craft shop looking for something else when I saw there was an offer on watercolour. I bought a little palette and some cheap, terrible paper and headed home. It was love immediately and soon I was practising every day.

I bought books, online classes, tutorials – I couldn’t stop learning. I had a go at absolutely everything! I slowly upgraded my supplies when I got frustrated with the cheap ones, and my paintings started to get a bit better. I still wasn’t really any good, but at least I was having fun!

Starting my Instagram

It sounds silly to say this now, but I really wanted to share what I was doing on Instagram like the others artists who had inspired me, but I didn’t dare. I was worried that I wasn’t actually any good, and people would think it was silly. And then the New Year came around and I made a resolution to make an art account on Instagram. To make the leap, I decided to keep it anonymous – I didn’t use my real name or a photo in case anyone found it. I didn’t even tell my friends and family!

It started really slow and I tried to share work and join challenges and just be part of this community, and after a few months I had a few friends around me. And then I shared my first step-by-step watercolour tutorial and it took off. I was at a friend’s party trying to stay in the moment but I just kept getting notifications on my phone as it blew up, hundreds of likes coming in.

I began sharing my own art challenges and tutorials, and I realised that I could pass on the knowledge that I’d learned and the skills that I’d developed. I didn’t feel ready to be a teacher, but I decided to start even with the impostor syndrome. I started sharing tutorials and videos and it grew from there.

Setting up a business

Over time, friends and family found the account, and I decided to put my name and photo on it. People seemed to love the tutorials and they started posting the work they’d created inspired by my paintings. Every one of them was wonderful and it filled my heart up.

After a while the quick format videos didn’t seem like enough, and I created classes, a YouTube channel, this website and workshops. And it’s still growing every year.

emily wassell watercolour artist

What I’ve learned after so many years

If I could go back, I’d have been a lot braver and realised that what scared me was an impostor syndrome. Nobody thinks they’re any good and we are all making it up as we go along. My art isn’t the best in the world, but it’s the best I can do where I am right now. And it’s so much better than when I started! The point is to be better than you were a month ago, rather than comparing to anyone else.

I still feel incredibly lucky and privileged that people find me through my art and want to share their own amazing art journeys. I’m working on pouring as much information and inspiration into this website, and would love to hear from you if you have any questions or suggestions!

Much love,

Emily x

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