GUEST ARTIST: “From Darkroom to Light-filled Watercolours” by Candice Leyland

Rose of Sharon watercolor by Candice Leyland

My name is Candice Leyland and I’m from Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. So many artists’ stories begin as a very young child with a package of crayons. I really didn’t discover art until high school and explored watercolour much later. I feel as though my creative path has been a long and roundabout journey to the watercolour artist I am now, but it really began in a photography dark room!

Since my teen years, I’ve experimented with just about every medium, from acrylics and oil paints to wheel thrown pottery. I was accepted to the Studio Arts Program at the University of Guelph and I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I thought, maybe I could be an art teacher. By my second year, I fell in love with fine art Photography and took as many classes as I could in that medium. I spent many hours behind the camera lens and in the school’s darkroom. I loved photographing portraits and capturing faces and seeing my visions magically appear on paper through light and chemistry.

Upon graduating and accumulating a decent amount of student debt, I took the first steady job I could find, processing payments in a customer service role. I enjoyed these first years of adulthood beyond academia, but this path leaded to a long hiatus from creating art. Through these years, I did manage to keep my camera close by and digitally photographed my own personal adventures, travels, friends and family.

White flowers watercolor by Candice Leyland

Almost a decade later, in 2015, I picked up watercolours. I started Urban Sketching and my small watercolour sketchbook soon replaced my camera on my travels and adventures. As I developed my watercolour skills, I fell in love with painting flowers. It felt so great to be creative again! During walks around the city, I would take photos of flowers everywhere. Gardens (even though I am notorious for not having a green thumb) became an endless source of inspiration for me. Just like watercolour, my life and art kept flowing. I’m now working full time as a watercolour artist and art teacher.

In my art, I am particularly interested in capturing the effects of light on flowers. I love painting the warm glow of sunlight through transparent petals or the graphic shapes of cast shadows on leaves. I enjoy exploring nature and neighbourhood gardens with my camera and finding flowers where the light hits them just right. I bring these snapshots back in the studio where I paint them. The more I think about it, my background in photography has had a huge influence on my art today. My paintings often focus on single individual flowers, or small groups of blooms. They could be described as portraits of flowers, echoing the expressive portraits I created in my 20’s with a camera.

Lovers2 two flowers watercolor by Candice Leyland

I use transparent watercolours to carefully build up layers and capture the flower’s personality. I love how you can build up a painting from light to dark with dozens of subtle washes and how the paint mingles and dances on the paper almost evolving completely on its own. I try to think of developing my paintings like a photograph, building up the entire image as a whole, instead of painting section by section like a colouring book.

pansies watercolor by Candice Leyland

Because I do so much glazing and layering in my art, my palette relies heavily on transparent, non granulating colours. I love trying new products and brands. I enjoy using watercolours by Holbein, QoR and my Derwent Inktense pencils. I also enjoy exploring colours made by small handmade watercolour makers like Humbeck Studios and Wanderlust Paints (in Canada).

Colours move in and out of my palette, but I tend to always come back to pure, transparent colours like quinacridone magenta, dioxazine purple and pthalo blue. I love cold press paper and am a big fan of Arches 100% cotton watercolour paper. I usually buy the 140lb., but sometimes splurge on the 300lb. I tend to work small, around 9 x 12 inches, but am challenging myself to make larger pieces.

The most recent step in my artistic journey was becoming an art teacher and sharing my love of watercolour with others. I find it fascinating to see students develop their own style and I love to make connections between their experiences and their work. I had a student tell me about her background making traditional quilts, and I could immediately see that influence and make that connection in her work. It really is amazing how people’s life experiences somehow flow into their art, creating a style completely unique to them. It can be challenging to notice these connections, and personally, it has taken me a lot of reflection and experience to even see these trends in my own work. I might not have even made these connections had I not started teaching!

Peony watercolor by Candice Leyland

I hope to to continue making these connections and bringing new influences and experiences into my work. I don’t know if my path will ever take me back to the dark room, but I am excited to see how my art and career further develops!

Candice Leyland
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Recommended2 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
17 Comments
  1. Sally Fox 2 weeks ago

    Candice, your flowers are absolutely exquisite, realistic yet so very painterly. I could look at them over and over. Thank you for telling your story and sharing your artwork.

    • Candice Leyland 2 weeks ago

      Thank you so much, Sally!

  2. Mary Roff 2 weeks ago

    Beautiful art, Candice! Thank you for sharing your journey!!!

  3. Sandra Strait 2 weeks ago

    You have such a talent for capturing light and shadow! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us!

  4. Karen Sliwinski 2 weeks ago

    Lovely work!

  5. Laura Hale 2 weeks ago

    Candice, your art is beautiful! You have successfully captured each flower’s “personality” so well. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Candice Leyland 1 week ago

      Thanks! They really do all have their personalities. Its like I make up these stories for each of them.

  6. Joan Byng 1 week ago

    Love your art, Candice, and your approach to sharing your know,edge amd love of watercolour with others. so glad to see you as a Doodlewash featured artist!

  7. Victoria Marie 1 week ago

    Beautiful.

  8. Lulu Segel 1 week ago

    Beautiful!

  9. Robin 3 days ago

    Wow Candice, your work is stunning and I love the negative painting you have done! I am struggling with water to paint ratio when I try that and I’m getting blooms. I look forward to seeing more of your work and I will be checking on those colour shift Wanderlust paints! Cheers from BC.

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