My name is Carsten Wieland and I am from Essen, Germany (follow me on my blog and on Facebook!). I am 50 years young and I love watercolor painting. In 2014, I came in touch with it for the second time in my life and since then, watercolor painting became the most important part of every day.

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - Louisiana Bayou ShackMy first contact with watercolors was about 25 years ago, when I was a comic book illustrator and a student of graphic design arts. But my career did lead me more into digital artwork, since I worked as a game designer for computer games and graphic designer for TV commercials in my own company for about 20 years.  I lived in Hamburg during these 20 years and I always wanted to come back to analog painting – but working in my own company was so time demanding that I never did.

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - Mehr RostBut then, in 2012, something happened, that would probably be considered as something bad, but now, looking back, I am glad and grateful that it happened. I had a complete breakdown, you might call it the burnout syndrome. Working 16 hours, 7 days a week, brought me to my outer limits so much that I really had to make a radical decision about my life. I decided to leave everything of the past 20 years behind me in Hamburg, and to go back to the city of Essen, where my family lives.

First, a few months after I arrived and settled here,  I got busy with 3D Stereoscopy to start something new, but when it was about time to make it a business I had the feeling I am not ready for a new business again. After some time, I decided to work in a “normal” job (I am still working as a call center agent) and thought that I would probably never work as an artist again or try something creative. Of course I was wrong!!!

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - Block Island Lighthouse

It happened that I met a beautiful lady on Facebook and after two years of talking via Skype (and a 3 month visit of her here in Germany) we decided to marry in Detroit, Michigan, where she comes from.  While I was spending the bitter, cold winter with her in the Detroit suburbs, I got very impressed by all those abandoned houses in the Detroit area. And when we got caught at home because of a snow storm we both started to paint and draw.

One of my first motifs was an abandoned house. I became more interested in the history and background of these houses and discovered the Brush Park quarter in Detroit that once has been called the “Paris of Michigan” because of the beautiful mansions there that were now abandoned and rotten for decades or even completely demolished over the years.

My interest in the history of the single houses and the wish to do something creative with them first resulted in a collection of a few hundred sketches and drawings. But pretty soon, I had the wish to do something more colorful and I remembered my old favorite media: Watercolors. Of course my first attempts to watercolor were really stiff after a 25 year break, but the simplicity of the medium itself caught me in the same moment I started my first painting.

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - Pinsel-Übung

Since then, there hasn’t been a single day where I haven’t painted at least a little sketch. In the last one and a half years, I filled about 800 pages of my sketchbooks with old abandoned houses, gnarly trees, rusty car wrecks and some old industrial sites of the area where I live now – all in watercolor, all painted before or after work in the call center. Painting watercolors became my therapy and my obsession and after a year of practicing in my sketchbooks I finally tried to use some professional watercolor paper, which makes painting a lot more enjoyable.  

The process of painting is much more important for me than the result. Among the hundreds of watercolors I painted during the last 18 month, there might be 5 or 6 I still like. I still feel like a beginner (which is a good feeling) and I don’t know where the watercolor journey will lead me to. When I started to paint again, I discovered many great watercolor artists work around the world. There are some whose amazing work I really admire, but I decided that it wouldn´t make much sense to try to paint like they do.

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - An-der-LahnI think the most important thing about happy painting is that you know some rules and forget about them when you are in the painting process. I think watercolor is a medium that is brought to life by the artist’s personality. It wouldn’t make much sense to try to paint like Alvaro Castagnet because it will never look like one of his masterpieces. Of course, you can always learn from watching masters at work but it shouldn’t do anything else than inspire you to do your own stuff. I think I am old enough to be patient with myself and find my own way.

Lately, I spare the pencil sketch under the painting because I would like to achieve a more loose and breathing look. Because of my drawing background this isn’t always easy for me, but I have the feeling that it is a good practice for me to start with the biggest brush I have and some rough and wet shapes on the paper. If I don’t have to follow the outlines of the drawing, the painting process is much more relaxed although I have to concentrate on the painting completely.

I started to paint with Schmincke Horadam watercolors, but then I discovered watercolors from Russia called White Nights. I do really like them for my everyday paintings. Lately, I bought some tubes of another German brand called Lukas Aquarell 1862, because I started to paint some full sheet watercolors and it does feel more convenient with the tube colors. I use all types of papers for my smaller paintings, but for the full sheets I prefer Hahnemühle mould made rough which feels very comfortable to work on. Brushes? The bigger the better!!! It is just a few months ago that I bought a big 18´ Mop – how could I ever try to paint watercolors without it??? Sometimes I use a rigger-brush for some fine lines. 

Doodlewash Watercolor Painting by Carsten Wieland - SomewhereMy initial inspiration to start painting again came from the abandoned houses in the Detroit area. And I think this kind of remains in the process of being conquered back by nature and will keep me busy for the next 10 years. But the more I paint, the more I find inspiration in a lot of different things. So far, I did keep human figures out of my art although I did spend most of my early years with artworks about human characters.

But figurative art might be something interesting whenever I should get tired of abandoned structures.  I don’t have too much plein-air practice yet – that is something I definitively want to change this summer. If you would like to see more of my artwork and the other stuff I am doing, feel free to follow me on Facebook. I join several groups there where I post my stuff daily along with my blog.

Carsten Wieland

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Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

64 replies on “GUEST DOODLEWASH: How Brush Park Made Me Paint Again

  1. Already following your blog – interesting to hear your background. I never would have thought that you are relatively new to water colour work. Your paintings look like you really know what you are doing – beautiful. I particularly like the abandoned cars you have done

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wonderful story Carsten. Detroit can use your beautiful watercolor paintings and tribute to the city. It has had such a hard time these last years. Thanks for sharing, I’m so inspired by your incredible art. Thank you Charlie.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Sharaon. It seemed to me that something is going on in Detroit the good way, lately. A few of those old structures have been rescued and renovated lately. It will take long – but Detroit has the chance to become a very special place. To inspire somebody is one of the greatest compliments an artist can get – i feel grateful.🙂

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  3. I’ve loved your paintings from the first time I saw one, and what a fascinating story. To think that so much beauty was inspired by abandoned houses in Detroit! Thanks for sharing the story and your art. Your blog is one of my absolute favorites.

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  4. I loved reading about your background and your start in watercolor….I have never been to Detroit but I can imagine with all those buildings, what a treasure of subjects to work from. I agree with you about not trying to look like someone else’s paintings, I agree with that so much. Beautiful paintings and of course, my favorite of the gnarly tree has been included.🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Memadtwo!!! I am sure Detroit will raise again – and it will be something pretty new and exciting. It might take time … but there is something good going on. I did only marry there in Detroit – i am no resident. But the city did impress me in a certain way and i feel connected to that place.

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      1. My uncle and family lived there when I was young. It was vibrant then, and I know it will come back. Your drawings are a good way to witness where it’s coming from now.

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  5. I’m so glad you decided to share this with us. You do beautiful work. I’m a newbie to watercolor and my first love is acrylics but I’m trying to learn sketching daily and watercolor. You have been an inspiration. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Dottie!!!🙂 Before i started with watercolors i had some attempts with acrylics, but it was not really my thing! May be i will come back to it one day – but for now i am really happy with watercolors. To read i do inspire you does even make it happier!!!🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m curious as to why so many houses are abandoned in that particular quarter of the city. They look like old mansions. I’m glad you took up watercolour work, Carsten; you have a talent I look forward to seeing more of on your blog. Thanks, Charlie!🙂

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  7. Hi Charlie, this was a nice surprise this morning to see your E-Mail and that i am now a proud member of the doodlewashers family!!! Yay!!! It is an honor to me. I feel proud about your invitation and it feels great to be part of the family!!! You did a great job with the layout and everything. I am really happy! Thank you so much!!! And thanks to all the friendly bloggers who reviewed my story already, who liked it and wrote so many kind comments. I am grateful. Cheers!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wonderful paintings, the painted buildings have such a nice air of mystery and faded elegance to them, and such a wonderful inspiring tale of the journey back to painting. Brilliantly done. Thank you for sharing such an enjoyable feature.

    Liked by 2 people

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