Hi! I’m Sarah Liuson Ongsun from Manila, Philippines (follow me on Instagram and Facebook!). As a homeschooling mom of 3, I don’t really have hours to spare painting, so I love watercolor because it is easy to set-up and clean. Sometimes, I just splash paint around for 10 minutes while my daughter is writing on her worksheets and on occasions it even turns out nicer than something I work on for an hour. I love bold splashes of color and both the predictability and unpredictability of the water and the paint.
I try to read the Bible first before painting. I find that starting the day with the Lord sets the tone for the rest of my day. I started journaling last month to keep a record of my paintings and my thoughts on what the Lord has been teaching me. I also post my sketchbook pages and paintings on my Instagram.
I discovered watercolor last April 2015. I was looking for a summer class for my 9-year-old nephew and it’s funny because I enrolled in the class instead of him. Here is my first ever watercolor.
Not very impressive, but I was fascinated with the way colors moved on the paper and I did this over and over again because it was the only thing I knew to paint at the time! I was intimidated to paint from life or even from pictures because I didn’t know how to draw.
On the second class, we had some chrysanthemums on a glass vase and I had absolutely no idea where to begin. My teacher just encouraged me to just paint what I see and not what I think I see. I found it quite challenging but rewarding as well. Since then, I’ve really enjoyed painting from life because there is something about the experience that you bring home with you with every swish of the brush.
When I see the postcards I made at the beach, I remember the smell of the sea, the sticky humid air, the glaring sunshine, and the peaceful lapping of the waves. The whole time I was painting was recorded in my memory like a 4D movie.
There was a time things got really busy at work and I stopped painting for 8 months. I saw the posts for July’s World Watercolor Month in one of my Facebook groups and was encouraged to start painting again. I was really rusty so I just started painting color swatches. Eventually I joined in on the daily painting activities and now I try to paint something everyday no matter what. I try to paint a variety of subjects: landscapes, animals, flowers, food, and portraits. It is a challenge to go out of your comfort zone but sometimes you will surprise yourself. I’ve recently stopped working following the birth of my baby last month. (Yay! More painting time!)
Process for painting loose florals
Before I begin painting, I study the composition of the flower: how its petals are formed and the shape of the leaves. I don’t draw in pencil but I usually start with a very light wash of color (usually new gamboge or quinacridone gold) to sketch things in their place, leaving spots of white paper in dry places. While it is still wet, I squint to see where the dark shadow areas are and immediately add a thicker color in the dry spots, sometimes touching the wet areas to have the “lost and found” edges.
I also like to drop in different colors like new gamboge on red petals or crimson on the green leaves to make it look more interesting. I love watching the colors dance on paper. Finally, I add very dark and thick paint on top to add contrast. Usually I finish a loose floral painting in 30 minutes or less depending on the size.
Sometimes, I don’t like how the whole painting turns out so I crop it and slice it into smaller cards.
I’m currently using Strathmore Mixed Media 500 Series Journal 5.5 in x 8.5 in and for bigger paintings, Arches cold pressed 300gsm. My favorite tools include an Isabey Travel Mop Brush which I use almost exclusively for my sketchbook paintings, a #10 Princeton Neptune brush for painting larger sizes, a waterbrush for portability, a Lamy Safari for writing notes, and a White Water-based Sharpie for emergency purposes when I want to have white highlights or sign against a dark background.
My favorite colors to use for are Daniel Smith’s Hansa Yellow Medium, New Gamboge, Quinacridone Rose, Pyrrol Crimson, Green Gold, Transparent Red Oxide, Raw Sienna, French Ultramarine, and Indigo. I also like Winsor and Newton’s Violet and Quinacridone Red.
When I was a complete newbie, I chanced upon the blog and instructional videos of Angela Fehr and immediately fell in love with her style. It is very loose and fluid and she didn’t draw before painting which is good for me since I didn’t draw too! Then I discovered Yao Cheng’s class in Creative Bug where she demonstrates how she paints with intentional brush strokes and not just “coloring in” the picture.
Recently I’ve just finished Shari Blaukopf’s class in Craftsy where I appreciated her use of juicy colors and how she builds up a scene and creates textures for landscapes and cityscapes. I especially enjoyed the part about painting different kinds of clouds! I’m currently enrolled in Liz Steels’s Sketching Now Buildings class because sketching buildings is the most intimidating subject for me.
Thank you Charlie for this awesome opportunity to share my passion. I started painting with the goal of using art to inspire and encourage others so I am really over the moon to be featured in this blog. Try something new and do something you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t let age or life’s business get in the way.
I believe that everyone is blessed with creativity and all kinds of talents. Some people are truly born with a brush in their hand, but painting is also a skill that you can learn. All you need is a passion to learn and put in the hours to practice.