Charlie O’Shields is a watercolor artist and creator of Doodlewash®, an online community of watercolor artists and enthusiasts. He is also the founder of World Watercolor Month, an online celebration of watercolor art and charitable event that takes place every July.
(To participate, just add #WorldWatercolorMonth when you post your watercolor art on social media!)
Charlie’s artistic journey:
I actually received a B.A. in Studio Art in college, but my focus was computer graphics. I tried one painting class in acrylics during that time and I was such rubbish at it that I set my brush down and never painted again. Then in July 2015, my partner decided to try watercolors and I thought that seem like fun and gave it a go as well. I made a little painting of a tree. It wasn’t very good, but I signed it anyway as I was just so proud of myself for doing it. I’d never tried watercolors before that day and really felt like I’d found my medium. I started Doodlewash the very next day in my excitement! My motto was simply “DO” and so I created a little manifesto, and yeah, even had buttons made. That’s how excited I was.
Watercolor as his medium of choice:
I really love how the colors blend and flow together. It’s completely impossible to fully control and so it’s fun to see what happens next. The wonderful transparency of the paints feels really magical to me. As much as you can’t quite control it, it’s equally a forgiving medium that allows you to sort of create the illusion of reality by just focusing on light and shadow. And it’s not messy or difficult to tidy up, requires the tiniest kit to get started, and so there’s never any excuse not to simply jump in and paint, even with only a few minutes available in the day.
It’s a bit sketchy. I started using ink pens and have since tried going directly in with watercolor, but my love of drawing and doodling is always apparent. Since I also write, my final piece is always an illustration for a written story. In the end, I’m just ‘sketching stuff’ in order to paint a piece of a memory I had, that I hope resonates with people reading my stories or simply looking at my work. Many of these memories come from food, so that’s my favorite thing to paint.
Brushes of choice:
When I very first began, I bought brushes in the Princeton Snap!™ Series and I just love them! And they look hip and cool as well, which is a lovely bonus. And the price is much more approachable than many other options, while still delivering quality. I still recommend them to folks who visit my site and are interested in watercolor sketching.
Creative inspirations, including Doodlewash and its community of artists:
I love the diversity of artists that have come together to celebrate watercolor as a community. We’ve nearly 50,000 members in our World Watercolor Group™ on Facebook and seeing the work posted there each day is truly inspiring. What I love most is that the community we created accepts artists of all levels. For me, I’m far more inspired seeing all types of work, from beginning to masters. No matter how well you’ve mastered the medium, it’s the ideas and choices artists make that I love to see. Those happen regardless of skill level. Beyond that, I’m simply inspired by memories of my childhood. Thinking back to a time when life was simpler and the objects around us each held a special kind of allure and feeling of discovery.
I think my first artistic influences came in the form of illustrations in my favorite children’s books. My style is quite different, but what I enjoyed most was the ability for an illustration to both enhance the text, but also, be a little mini story entirely on its own. Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Roald Dahl books and Peggy Fortnum’s illustrations for the Paddington Bear books did this so incredibly well. That’s really what I always try to do with my illustrations that I make each day, even though I don’t sketch people or bears very often.
And the creation of World Watercolor Month™:
I’d done a couple of monthly themes for my daily sketches celebrating all those wonderful and obscure days, like Ice Cream Day and Donut Day. It struck me as odd that there wasn’t anything official yet for watercolor. As I was approaching my one-year anniversary of painting last July, I set out to change this. A single day didn’t seem like enough, so I knew it had to be a month to celebrate properly. Since I fully believe that daily painting is the best habit one can form, I made it a 31 watercolors in 31 days challenge. Over 4,500 artists came together from across the world to paint with me in that first year. It was truly overwhelming! I could never have imagined that would happen. Just a year before, I had simply been happy to successfully paint a tree. An appropriate start to it all, now that I think about it. It’s amazing to see just how much things can grow when you allow yourself to follow your dreams.
Official World Watercolor Month Page: https://doodlewash.com/world-watercolor-month-july/