GUEST ARTIST: “Taming The Wild!” by Esther Moorehead

Eileen Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands watercolor Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

I’m Esther Moorehead, a Canadian watercolor painter currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve been an explorer; an adventurer; a wonderer at nature’s glory. My creative journey began while I lived in Northern Ireland as a child.  I fell in love with that land and sea, its tiny villages and beautiful people.

I thrived on observation—whether it was something as everyday as the details of a dahlia in our garden, or as epic as discovering an ancient castle ruin on the cliffs of the sea.

Watercolor by Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

Building up shadows and layers

Since then, I have lived in several countries, traveled all over the world, and can’t help but paint the places I have seen. This passion for exploration and an excitement to share what I find is what fuels my work as an artist.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Maine, USA - watercolor Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, Maine, USA

Watercolor didn’t find me until after I had been teaching art for several years! I always admired it but I was intimidated, because it was so elusive; wild almost.  It had a mind of its own. I couldn’t control the results of my brushstrokes like I could with other mediums.

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, London, England watercolor Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge, London, England

But one evening after teaching a miserable 9th grade lesson on basic watercolor techniques, I was decidedly annoyed at myself for not having more ability or confidence. It was time to tame the beast!

So it began—trying, failing, learning, growing, trying again, failing again…you get the picture! Instead of being intimidated by how out of control I was, I loved it. A crazy combination of intense focus to be intentional with every brushstroke, yet relinquished control so the water and pigment can work its own magic!

My process grows with me. It adapts to my surroundings, my subject matter, my goals.  Sometimes, I sketch on location, but the majority of my finished paintings are completed in the studio (a fancy term for literally any free table space that can be claimed, depending on where I live!) using photo references (mostly my own).

I’m super particular about painting on a clean surface that isn’t soiled or stained by unwanted pencil lines or eraser marks.  So I sketch and refine my drawings using layers of transparent paper until I’m happy with the design, then I transfer the final image onto watercolor paper using carbon paper.

Cold press, minimum 140 lb watercolor paper is my preference—the more texture the better! So far Saunders Waterford is my favorite brand to work with, but Arches is wonderful too. I use a combination of dry pan and liquid tube watercolors in a variety of brands, but right now Daniel Smith is winning.  There’s an array of brushes at my workspace, but really the 4 go-to’s are a #2 and #8 round, a ¾ inch flat, and a #6 quill.

After my second daughter was born, I stopped teaching but realized how badly I needed a creative outlet! I jumped on Instagram in 2017 under the name Glendale Studio (after the street I lived on in Belfast as a kid) really as an incentive to paint regularly in order to build more skill.  But as I started being able to sell my work online, I realized how much I wanted to grow my portfolio and create a steady income through art.

It’s a slow process because my kids are still young and I’ve made the decision to wait until they’re all in school before I really put the pedal to the metal. But so far, I’m loving the ride (and realizing how MUCH I need to learn about growing a creative business!).

Watercolors by Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

Playing around with a variety of styles and subject matter helps prevent creative stagnation.

My paintings have now been exhibited in Canada and the USA in several galleries and shows and are housed in private collections all over the world, which is a dream come true!

Paris Photo Esther Moorehead - Doodlewash

Paris is always full of inspiration for me!

There are so many beautiful parts to my creative process of traveling, dreaming, sketching, refining, and painting. But by far the most rewarding part is when I can connect someone to a place in the world through my art so that they can relive a memory, remember a love, or find the courage to embrace their inner explorer.

Esther Moorehead
Studio Website 
Etsy Shop

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Les Grindey 5 years ago

    Great work love your story how you a porched your work lovely to see and read about you

  2. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    Esther, what beautiful work you do! Your travels have influenced your work and you share a piece of that with each painting. Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us.

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Sandra thank you for reading! Our creative journeys are so beautiful in their diversity, aren’t they?

  3. Mary Roff 5 years ago

    Beautiful paintings! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Marty Garland 5 years ago

    Lovely work and article Esther (from a fellow Belfast born watercolourist)

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Oh wonderful! Belfast is where I lived! That’s why my studio is named Glendale–after the street in Newtownbreda we lived on:)

  5. Laura (PA Pict) 5 years ago

    Beautiful work! I love your use of colour and the way you balance the looser areas with tighter work. I took heart from what you wrote about playing around with different styles. I often worry that jumping around between styles prevents me from really developing an identifiable style of my own but I also know myself too well and know I get bored just being in one creative mode all the time.

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Hey Laura! I’m glad you appreciate my multiplicity of “styles” 🙂 Truth is, I’m the same as you–I don’t like the thought of being locked into one specific thing. As I’ve grown artistically, I’ve realized that searching for a personal “style” can be so hindering to my overall creative progress. So I just gave up on that and began experimenting with different approaches and subject matter. The fun part is, when I survey the progression of my work, my own distinct “style” has emerged subconsciously, even amid the variety;) So keep painting and your own artistic fingerprint will show!

      • Laura (PA Pict) 5 years ago

        Thank you. I appreciate the pep talk.

        • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

          Oh! I get so carried away on that subject because it’s so close to my heart:):):) Didn’t mean to turn on the teacher mode there haha! Looking forward to reading your blog!

  6. Les Grindey 5 years ago

    Great work and how you got over the problems and never letting it beat you . Learning ,finding your style its beautiful love London bridge its amazing

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Les, thank you so much! I have a soft spot for London–I’ve done so many paintings from that city:)

  7. Rod Fletcher 5 years ago

    Inspirational Esther. Love your use of colour.

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Thank you Rod! To be an inspiration inspires ME to keep going:) It seems vibrant colour can’t escape me, no matter how hard I’ve tried to mute it 🙂

  8. Sharon Nolfi 5 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story and beautiful paintings.

  9. Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

    It was my pleasure to be able to share it! Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

  10. Magdalena French 5 years ago

    Wow, Esther, I absolutely loooooooove your style and your work, for me it’s truly inspirational. My dream is to be able to express myself through watercolours in a way that fills me with joy. Like you, I’ve experienced many many failures but after 3 ½ years at it things are beginning to ‘click’ into place. Thank you for sharing – seeing your work has made my day!!!

    • Esther Moorehead 5 years ago

      Wow Magdalena thank you so much! Yes, the failures are the hard part but the only way to get better I guess, right? Even just yesterday I threw out a painting I had spent quite a while on!

  11. Tim Olden 5 years ago

    Love your work especially the multi coloured ones at the end of your resume

  12. June Hadaway 5 years ago

    Beautiful work and story. Congratulations on all your acomplishments. Thank you for sharing,

  13. Janneke Booister 4 years ago

    Thank you for your story, Ioved to read all of it! Your art is inspiring 🙂

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