GUEST ARTIST: “If At First You Don’t Succeed…” by Susan Bond

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”
~ Thomas H. Palmer (1840)

My name is Susan Bond. I was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, though I have spent most of my life here in Sydney, New South Wales. Like many artists, I began my art journey at a very young age, as you can see from this piece at only 4 years old!

Susan Haley aged 4 years old

This passion, in my case, I believe was inherited. My Grandmother, Charlotte, loved to draw with me and was very talented.  My mother, Ute was extremely good at painting, but unfortunately, never really pursued her love.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

I can remember quite clearly, those rainy days at primary school, where we had to stay indoors at lunch time and our teacher would provide us with LARGE sheets of fresh new drawing paper to either paint or draw on…heaven!!!

I eventually became a Draftsperson working for architects & engineers.  It paid well, but was rather constrained for me.  After nine years, I gave it up and spent the next 10 years flying around the world as a Long Haul Flight Attendant.  Soaking up all the wonderful places, sights, sounds, smells and colours.  I dabbled here and there with watercolours on my downtime like this piece I did of Singapore.  Gosh I wish I had taken many more interesting photos of my favourite places back then.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

When I gave up the flying, I settled here in Sydney and married Gavin.  I returned to drafting and was lucky to be able to work from home.  I’m now retired, yippee!  I decided to use my now free time and ready made study to take up painting again.

This time around, I tried oil painting but it just didn’t do it for me.  So I went out and purchased some cheap watercolours & pads by Reeves along with some cheap brushes in a multipack by Mont Marte and began to doodle around and experiment.  I was hooked and never looked back.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

I had also been creating my own greeting cards, inspired by our two little dogs, Otto & Pippa.  It gave me great joy to share their antics with relatives and friends.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

Gavin and my dear friend Martina, also an artist, suggested I join an art class.  I joined a local art class at our community centre.  I tried out 2 different classes but went back to my 1st one, where the Tutor, Bernard has an amazing insight into many mediums of art and inspires us with information about the great artists of our past.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

My second Tutor, mostly taught acrylics, despite telling me watercolour was welcome.  Not so, as I was berated by a few in the class with taunts as to why I only did watercolours.  Or, after the Tutor gave instructions, she would frown at me and sigh with “Oh, yeah, you do watercolours”.  It’s very important to find the right Tutor, who not only supports/encourages but guides you and allows you to develop your own style.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - DoodlewashIn my first lesson with Bernard, he looked at some reference photos I brought with me.  Eventually he asked which one did I like the best.  It was a photo of my favourite elephant, Apu down by the river at Chitwan National Park where I holidayed in Nepal in the mid 1980’s.  He couldn’t have picked a more difficult picture for me to embark on.  Bernard guided me patiently through the process and I was pleased with the end result.  As I look at it now, I can see what I could have done better.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - DoodlewashThe following year, now 2017, I wanted to do a portrait.  I love to try new things.  Bernard showed me a picture of a stunning Indian man. It was taken by renowned photographer Steve McCurry, from whom I was granted permission to paint, exhibit and sell. Very important to always seek permission.  I was chewing at the bit to start the drawing.

Instead, Bernard made me first do a drawing of the human skull . ”Oh no!” I thought.  It was to be a priceless exercise in helping me to understand the bone structure of a skull.  The painting became a love-hate journey.  There were many times I just wanted to tear it up!!  However, I persisted (I hate giving up) and managed to finish “Raj” in time for our annual exhibition of all our community art groups.  I was deeply humbled to be awarded First Prize by a judge from the Royal Art Society of NSW.  A very proud moment not for just me but for Bernard too.

I’m still trying to complete a painting of an Indian palace on a lake with floating golden leaves.  I am currently on my 5th attempt!!  Martina keeps telling me I’m like a dog with a bone!  Hence my appropriate quote.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

As I’ve progressed over the last 2 years, I’m becoming more organised in the planning of artworks.  I’ll research a particular thing I’m interested in until I’m worn out. I really love to paint animals, birds and fish.  I still struggle with landscapes, although I love to do snow scenes, probably due to living in Germany with my family for a time.

I will often, after researching, do a rough sketch on paper and paint a sample version, noting what colours I’ve used or mixed in my little notebook.

My Little Notebook - Susan Bond

From there, if all looks well, I will begin starting with the lightest of washes working to the darkest.  I do use things like masking fluid and these handy tools (rubber tips by Mont Marte) to apply them.

My Study - Susan Bond

My Study with Rubber tools to the right of paper pad

I will occasionally use white gouache, even though many purists will argue about using any form of white.

An important part of my process is the drawing itself.  Sometimes it’s just a simple set of guidelines or more detailed.  For this I just use a 2B pencil and a kneadable rubber.   A good example is my “Sardines”.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

I began with drawing each and every fish, that was exhausting.  When I began to paint it became evident that I wasn’t happy with the ‘flow’ of the fish.  So, I started again!!  This time, I just sketched the shape of the flow and painted each fish as I went down the page.

Drawing/sketching, I feel is important.  I’m fortunate that I can draw reasonably well.  My tutor suggested I partake in his Life Drawing classes, 2-3 classes each term.  Whilst this is not “my thing”, over the last 2 years it has become invaluable.  It teaches you to “look at what you see” and trains you into drawing what is really important in a subject like structure, shape and shadows.  My Zebra is a good example.  Had I not done these classes, I doubt I could have drawn him as quickly or as accurately as I did.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

My materials vary, I like to try out different brands.  I use 300gsm hot or cold pressed, so I don’t have to waste time stretching.  I’ve used Arches, but now prefer Fabriano or Hahnemühle pads.  I also use cheap ones too for practice.  I used a cheap large A3 pad I bought from our local Aldi Store as it was a lovely crisp white, 300 gsm with a light criss-cross texture, which I painted my Zebra on….I know!!

My paints are also a mix of tubes and half pans of various brands.  Mostly Schmincke, some Winsor & Newton, which I find somewhat too granulated.  I was also given a few tubes of Maimeri, which are very nice and rich in pigment.

I have a whole range of brushes, probably too many!  I’ve learned to stay clear of the synthetic brushes, they just don’t hold enough pigment.  I have some cheap hair ones by Mont Martre.  They wear down quickly but are great for taking out an area of paint.  I recently treated myself to a set of 6 red sable brushes by Da Vinci – just love these.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - Doodlewash

My point would be to buy what you can afford… said many times, I know!  However, cheap doesn’t always mean not useful.  Don’t waste an unsuccessful painting, use the back to either practice on or test your mixes.  Off cuts can be used to make bookmarks or gift tags.  I sometimes use left over mixes in my palette to try out a new idea.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Bond - DoodlewashMy passion to try new things drives me along this wonderful watercolour journey.  There is always something new to learn and the joy of sharing what little knowledge I have with others. Be brave with your choices of subjects and most of all, spend as much time as you can painting, even if it is just an hour of doodling.  Which is how my “Little Bunny” came to be!

May I also thank Charlie not only for this invitation and the wonderful work he does, but his enthusiasm to all who are here.

Enjoy your painting!

Susan Bond
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Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. 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!

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33 Comments
  1. Pamela Smith 7 months ago

    Susan. I loved reading about your watercolor journey and I love the bunny so much,I like your style.Thank you for sharing.

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Thank you Pamela……I’m still working on my ‘style’….not there yet! I hope the article inspires others in their watercolour adventure.

  2. June Hadaway 7 months ago

    Great article

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Thank you so very much June…..it was truly wonderful to be featured and share with all here.

  3. Sandra Strait 7 months ago

    Your paintings are amazing – even the one you did at age four! Your perseverance is inspiring and I’ve enjoyed reading about your artistic journey!

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Dear Sandra, Thank you for your lovely comments. So happy you enjoyed my article and gained some inspiration to keep painting.

  4. Jyotsna 7 months ago

    Loved the story. I felt I was with you when you painted elephant or Indian man or won an award or bunny. 🙂

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Oh, thank you Jyotsna…my aim was to not make it just a read but as if I was having a conversation with you!

  5. Suzanne Labrecque 7 months ago

    I admire your perseverance. Inspiring ! It gets me the courage to pick up my brushes and go for it !
    Suzanne, Québec, Canada.

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Hi Suzanne, thank you kindly. My aim has been achieved…….now that you have that courage, get going with those brushes and do it ASAP. Then get it posted on here so we can see your latest creation!

  6. Sharon Nolfi 7 months ago

    I love the gulls and the pig. Wonderful style!

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Thank you Sharon. Yes….those two are full of character and were a lot of fun….as animals are.

  7. Susan Cuss 7 months ago

    So enjoyable to read your story and see your paintings! Thank you.

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Dear Susan, thank you for taking the time to read my story and that you enjoyed my little journey.

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 7 months ago

    Susan, the story of your art journey is informative and your art is expressive. It’s luck you’re so tenacious as the resulting paintings are truly inspired.

  9. Susan Bond 7 months ago

    Oh thank you Sharon….it’s so good to share and I’ve enjoyed reading other Artist’s articles too, there is just so much to learn. Wonderful to see how others have begun their journey and how they have evolved their art too.

  10. Jennifer McLean 7 months ago

    thanks so much for sharing, I love Da Vinci brushes too, they’re my only good brushes!

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      You’re very welcome Jennifer..it really was a great honour. I would like to get a few more from the Da Vinci range. Do you have any large ones, for doing large washes??

      • Jennifer McLean 7 months ago

        I have the 1503 Kolinski travel brushes up to the size 8, so 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 & 8. I’m hoping to get their mop brush sometime and try their other brushes soon.

        • Susan Bond 7 months ago

          Oooh nice! These came in a pack I bought in Germany… Size 0,2,3.0,4,6 “Ussuri” Size 3 “Harbin” and Size 0 Detail Master DMS 1000. Quite a mix…but they’re really useful. Will have to look at the larger sizes and see if a friend of mine over there can send it to me. These are way too expensive here in Australia…..like everything else here!!!!!! Thanks for you info.

          • Jennifer McLean 7 months ago

            Susan, you and I seem to have the same problem, lol. I’m in Canada so everything is at least double even though the US border is only an hour away, I’m in British Columbia on the west coast. Actually on Vancouver Island. It means mailing anything costs your first born and you pay like four times what you should for aspirin, lol. It seems you have the same problem there too. I have a good friend, Tracey Fletcher King who’s in Australia and she says the health care system is aces, even better than ours. It’s lovely to have Universal healthcare here but our hospitals and medical care is so over worked.

  11. Thank you for sharing your artwork, Susan. I love your animals and your very early drawing, which is full of life and motion.
    Do you still enjoy painting dancing and motion?

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Thank you so very much Violeta. So happy you liked my animals (always a favourite to do) and the little drawing at 4!!! I’ve done 2 paintings of female traditional Indian dancers, but because I can’t find the names of the photographers, I’m concerned about posting them without the necessary reference/tribute. But yes, I would like to do more work with dancing and motion.

  12. Delores Azary 7 months ago

    Thank you for posting! I especially love your zebra!

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Thank you Delores……the zebra was a real treat to do. I found it in a “Learn to Draw” book I bought in Aldi. It’s amazing where you can find things!

  13. Kaye Boggs 7 months ago

    I could feel your enthusiasm in your written words about your art journey. Thank you for sharing your story and a sampling of your lovely artwork. It seems that many of us here at Doodlewash have dabbled in other media before finally settling on watercolors. Your art is wonderful to behold.

    • Susan Bond 7 months ago

      Oh, thank you for your encouraging comments Kaye! I really can’t see myself dabbling in anything else. Watercolours are just such a beautiful medium….fun to create and also extremely challenging!

  14. M. Caulder 7 months ago

    Great story and love your little pig painting, and I don’t even like pigs! But he’s so adorable! ❣️

  15. Susan Bond 7 months ago

    Thank you!! Well, I’m happy that I’ve perhaps changed your mind about pigs. I spent time on a farm in a little village in Germany as a child and spent many afternoons playing with the piglets….they’re just like puppies, full of personality and very loving.

  16. Janneke Booister 7 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your story! It is nice to read about your journey into watercolour.

  17. Susan Bond 7 months ago

    Thank you Janneke……just hope it is encouraging for others.

  18. Teri Casper 7 months ago

    A beautiful journey into art. Your watercolors are gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your story and your art.

  19. Susan Bond 5 months ago

    Oh thank you Teri for your kind comments. Just hoping to inspire others to keep creating and learning.

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