Hi guys, my name is Angela Emsen-West. I am a watercolour and mixed medium artist. I was born and bred in the fantastic city of Liverpool, UK. I moved over to County Mayo Republic of Ireland 13 years ago. It was the best decision I have made to develop my art! Here in Ireland life is so much slower, people chat to you and life is good. My studio, which is my pride and joy, is 4 steps outside my back door (which is used as the front door by most people in Ireland).
Somebody must have put a paint brush in my hand and glued it on at around the age of 3 years. I never let go, even through the general trials and tribulations of life it stuck, and I am so blessed it did. I left school at the age of 15 years, and after working in a sewing factory, I met my then husband and had three beautiful daughters very young in life. Not once in these times did I let that paint brush go, although it was an oil painting brush in those years.
As my youngest daughter went to school I decided to chase my own dreams of being a professional artist. I took my “O” and “A” levels then my first-year art foundation in Liverpool polytechnic. It really did not suit me. I was looking for art techniques to learn. I was like a sponge and I wanted to learn techniques of all kinds and the foundation was a “feel your way” course.
I ended up taking fashion and design which, to be fair, did help me pay my way in life more so than I could have imagined my art to have done at the time. Through all those years that paint brush, now a watercolour brush, stuck fast to me. At one point, I became ill and now I do say to myself there is always a blessing in even the bad, it gave me the time to develop my watercolours and it also became a therapy for me.
My inspiration comes from the every day, I suppose it began when I was ill and unable to go out much. I found real enjoyment in seeing the regular every day things in life with colours that are so complimentary to each other without even trying and without all of the effort of setting up a composition. It seemed so simple to use what was around me, so I used it.
My appreciation is of the ordinary everyday objects that we miss in this very busy life that people lead now.
My work generally focuses on still life arrangements and animals however, more recently, I have been working on portraiture. My thrust for learning always pushes me further and keeps me moving forward in my own way and at my own speed. I like to push my boundaries, even if it’s only “how many more glazes can I achieve to how loose can I be”.
I love wandering around art shops to see what new inventions they have in the watercolour department and if I see something I fancy it is always kept in the back of my mind for the future. The good thing is, when I have new equipment it usually lasts some time.
My favourite water colour paints are Winsor & Newton artists paint tubes, I find that the colours are so vibrant and great to work with. I could start going in to lightfastness and a few technical things but, to be honest, I like these paints and if the cap fits! I must say though, I have bought myself some Daniel Smith paint tubes. I haven’t had a chance to try them yet but hopefully soon. Polychromos pencils are one of my favourite pencils to use. Their very bright colours add greatly to my work when a bit of depth or drama is required.
I just love my pencil holder. Mike, my husband, made it for me from a Lazy Susan that I had never used. Also, in my arsenal of equipment that I regularly use are watercolour pencils, Water-based inks for their bright pronounced colours and Pitt pens for my looser work. I use them to “map” out areas of colour, not necessarily around the subjects I am painting but more so around the differing colours that I drop into the painting just to highlight areas.
I buy tubes of paint because I love the feelings when I push the paint into the palette. Well, yes, I do realise this sounds strange. I also think that they last longer because I use the dried paint in the wells after wetting them slightly.
I do feel that too much store is put on to what paints we use and what paper we use. My own thoughts are, if you feel comfortable with what you are using then stick with it until you feel like a change. Most paints and watercolour paper are of such a good standard now that there is little to choose between them. I am sure I will cause a fury over these comments, but life is too short and wasting it thinking of what paint and paper to use when you are happy with what you have seems like wasted painting time to me, just saying.
Paper comes in so many ways, but my own choice is Sanders Waterford 300lb weight sheets. They are expensive but my reasoning behind this is with multiple glazes on my still life works and lots and lots of water and flowing paints on my experimental work Saunders Waterford paper takes all the punishment I can give it. Although when I teach a class I would suggest that students (if they don’t already have paper) to buy Langton cold press by Daler Rowney 140lb weight as it is quite forgiving for beginners and professionals alike. Another paper I like is Cornwall 210lb weight rough by Hahnemuhle, it can give such lovely effect to the paint because of the roughness of the paper.
Brushes can be a minefield, but most of the new synthetic brushes are practically as good as sable. You can see sizes from 0 to 12 round brushes in my collection of sables plus a 2“ flat for washes. I have been painting for such a long time now and I suppose it’s a natural progression to move on to sable when one can afford them. I do look after them well so I hope they will last me a long time.
Generally, for beginners to my classes I suggest buying only two main brushes size 6 and 10 round synthetic as most, if not all, paint jobs could be achieved with theses, it just takes a little care. As my students progress they tend to find out the brushes that suit their needs and slowly add to their equipment.
My techniques can vary, however one thing I do with every painting I work on, no matter what style I’m painting, I will always draw out my piece on to plain drawing paper. I am finicky I would not transfer the drawing on to my watercolour paper until I am totally comfortable with it. My reason being, you may ask, is because I am heavy handed, unfortunately. I am not a delicate soul, and the process of drawing and re-drawing on to watercolour paper can ruin the paper.
The paper can get undulations and ridges in it from a heavy hand and then if I rub out, which I do a lot, whilst trying to get the image right, the effects of the rubber can sometimes be picked up by the paint which can leave the colour looking grubby. There is one advantage to working like this, for me anyway, I get to know the image, its curves, straight lines, circles and all the features of the subject. It helps me when I get to the painting stage.
My main work of still life develops through constant glazes of many, many colours even in my onions” peeling back” which took some time to paint, has so many colours in it that you most probably cannot see them but trust me they are in there. The depth has been achieved by allowing one glaze to completely dry before adding another, which as you can imagine, makes painting one picture a long journey. Although it’s what I love to do.
When I need a change of rhythm I play with my paints, pencils and inks to see what I can achieve and how one paint mixing with other mediums reacts. Vain Glory came from one of my play times. Looking closer you may see my mapping with Pitt pens and the wiggly lines used to break up the edges of the subject to defuse things a bit. You would most probably notice just how loose and free the paint has been applied on as well.
My paintings are selling all over the world for which I am truly grateful. But, with the thought of a less expensive adornment for our walls, I do hold a selection of my work in limited edition prints of 25 never any more than this. You can find more information on my paintings, prints and workshops at the links below.
I have personally gained so many benefits from painting, both mentally and physically. I love to share my love for watercolours with others that’s why my teaching is a big part of my art. Truthfully teaching for me is not a one-way process. I learn so much from my students as I hope they do from me. I teach one evening a week from my studio at home. Then, I also have one day, two day and a four-day workshops throughout the year.
I do hope I have not bored you silly with my tales of becoming an artist? I suppose we are all struggling to find our gift in this world and I wish for you, the joy of finding a gift that makes you happy.Recommended7 recommendationsPublished in
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!