Hey there, my name is Charles Sluga and I live in Australia. I have been a Professional Artist for over 30 years (yes, I’m that old) and have loved every minute. Apart from Watercolours, the other things I love are movies (maybe you can see a tiny hint of a frustrated movie director on my YouTube channel) and I also enjoy photography very much.
One of the things however, that has brought much joy to my life, has been helping others develop their watercolour skills and artistic eye and I have been fortunate to travel around Australia, New Zealand and Europe teaching people how to see and paint through the eyes of a watercolourist.
I grew up in a small country town in Australia. My parents and sisters came from Croatia, but I was born in Australia. I was one of those kids who loved drawing more than cricket or football and so spent much of my youth escaping into my imaginary world through drawing.
At thirteen years of age, I started to learn painting in acrylics. There was a little old lady (everyone seems old when you are 13) who was an artist living in my town and every Sunday I would visit her and she would teach me to paint. Her name was Carmen Puls and she also introduced me to the world of the old masters through her collection of books. She also had a very protective and aggressive small dog.
I remember once after I had finished copying a Rembrandt painting (Man in Armour – my version seen here), I thought it was so good that I thought I was some kind of artistic genius. That day, I walked home very slowly with the painting, making sure the painting was facing the road, as I expected a car to pull up and someone to jump out, discover me as a brilliant genius and launch my famous jet-setting career as an Artist. Ummm, it didn’t quite work out like that. Funny where the 13 year old imagination travels.
As I reached the end of secondary school, my parents wanted me to think about a “proper” career, so I went off to University and studied Engineering. I hated it and changed to Mathematics (which I did enjoy) and then studied a teaching Degree and became a Mathematics and Science teacher.
However, one day I went to an art exhibition and it hit me like a bolt of lightning – I wanted to be an artist. Not wanting to reach the end of my life and be wondering, “What if”, I took the plunge and made a transition from mathematics teaching to artist and here I am today.
I learnt classical tonal oil painting for a while from a local artist, but then discovered watercolour and loved the challenge. So that became my medium of choice (although I still do some oils) and as we all know, watercolour is the true masters’ medium … don’t we?
So after many years of tears, frustration and practice trying to master watercolour, I finally managed to get a bit of control over this very exciting medium. Don’t get me wrong, I still have tears and frustration, but maybe not as much. So even though the path wasn’t the same as in the mind of the 13 year old Charles, it did become my career.
These days, I spend my time painting, filming, photographing, running my gallery – Sluga Gallery (with my wife), teaching, travelling and raising two daughters. I love the travelling associated with my work and meeting amazing people from all around the world in my classes. It’s not a bad life. Oh, and I also run my holiday tour once a year to Croatia (where we paint a little too on our free days). After 18 tours, this is still one of the favourite things I do in the year.
Equipment And Technique
I am definitely not what you would call a watercolour purist, as I will do anything to get the result I want and need in my painting. If I have to coax my dog or cat to walk over the painting to get the result I want, then I bring them in.
I do, and always have, painted for myself. The ethos that I work by is that I need to tell my story, so there is no point painting to others’ perceptions and opinions of what and how I should paint. I have never liked trends or following the flock. Paint for yourself, otherwise what is the point in painting?
I love to challenge myself and hence have a large range of subject matter and approaches. I think versatility is important, not only to make watercolour painting more interesting, but also because it allows me to express myself better. It basically gives me more scope – a bit like knowing a few languages.
So it is difficult, if not impossible, to talk of my process here, as I have many processes, depending on what I want to achieve in my painting. Sometimes it’s glazing or wet into wet or wet on dry or any combination of these and other approaches. However, there is one thing that I find crucial to my painting process and that is planning. Planning my process, direction, technique paradoxically gives me extreme freedom in my work and I can be freer and looser in my approach. I actually have a mental process I go through which I try to teach my students.
As far as my equipment and materials are concerned, I mainly use Arches paper (rough or hot press) or Yupo as my painting surfaces. I mostly use Winsor & Newton paints, along with a few colours from other brands like Daniel Smith. I am very particular about my colours and their behaviour and choose my colours from various brands very carefully. For example, Winsor & Newton Cerulean Blue is the only one I will use because of its particular colour temperature and its granulation properties. Having said that, I could also paint with a cheap paint set if pushed and I think I would end up with an OK result. The materials are there to make your job easier, but they are not the answer to a great painting.
Squirrel mop brushes are my favourite brush type, as I like the amount of pigment they hold and the freedom they give to my work. I tend to use them frequently, but also use a combination of other brushes. For example, I often use synthetic brushes when painting on Yupo.
My goal is to keep challenging myself as far as subject matter and technique is concerned, but also to continue to tell stories through my painting. I don’t know what or how I will be painting in the future, but that is what makes it so exciting to me. I also wish to continue to help as many people as I can to discover, develop and get as much as they can out of watercolour. Whether a complete beginner or a mid-career artist, I love to help them advance, as watercolour has given me so much joy over the years and I like to give that back and help others find that enjoyment.
As long as I can continue to challenge myself, I will continue to paint in watercolours and I can’t imagine that changing any time soon.Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in