GUEST ARTIST: It’s Never Too Late

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh Harper - L'Artiste - little girl painting watercolor - #doodlewash

My name is Susan Walsh Harper and I’m currently living on the beautiful north coast of California in McKinleyville. Art and music have been part and parcel of my life for as long as I can remember. Hailing from San Francisco, California, where museums and art galleries abound, gave me plenty of artistic nourishment while growing up in the City by the Bay.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh - Members Of The Wedding - #doodlewash

It was there that I met and married my husband of 50 years and together we raised four children. During that time, I kept learning new art skills, finally settling on watercolor painting in 2008 and not looking back. In 2003, Jim and I retired to Humboldt County where many opportunities to indulge my new passion were to be had.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh Harper - Still Life - #doodlewash

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh Harper - Mary, Mary - #doodlewashPrimarily self-taught, my efforts have earned me 1st Place in Creative Calalyst’s Summer Art Fest, 2013, the Silver Award in California Watercolor Association’s National Exhibition, 2014, the Richard Barrett Memorial Award in CWA’s National Exhibition, 2015 and was awarded signature membership in the California Watercolor Association in 2016.  I’m also a member of the National Watercolor Society and of the art cooperative, Old Town Art Gallery, Eureka.

Teaching others is of great satisfaction also, and I teach at a local Academy for the Arts and in my own studio. I do believe that God is the giver of gifts and that there is no statute of limitations on those talents. In other words, if life kept you too busy to create art when you were younger, the gift isn’t going anywhere and there is no age limit to when you can start creating again.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh Harper - Anyone Home - Little girl at front door - #doodlewashThe Process

My painting style is pretty straight forward.  Stretching my paper, which is almost exclusively Arches 140# cold press, is the first order of business.  When it comes to getting the sketch on the paper, I prefer to do all my drawing on tracing paper and transfer it to the watercolor paper with homemade graphite paper after it’s stretched or on my light pad before it is stretched.

M Graham and Sennelier tubes are my watercolors of choice because they are rich, stay moist and reconstitute very quickly. I do have the odd color from Daniel Smith, Schmincke and Winsor & Newton.  As for brushes, I’m a true brush junkie.  However, right now I’m loving Raphael’s Extra Fine Pointed round, series 8408.

Glazing, glazing and more glazing. That’s about it, building the color up in successive washes, dropping in pure colors, mixing some, working from light to dark and then some final dry brush work. This method is the reason I need a strong paper like Arches. I’ve tried others but by the time I’ve finished punishing them, they have long since turned to mush.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Susan Walsh Harper - Peonies - #doodlewash

Subject matter ranges from floral and still life to portraits.  I do very little in the category of landscapes and paint from photos for the most part.  When doing portraits, I do prefer to take my own photos and interact with the subject whenever possible, because painting a likeness isn’t as intimate as painting a spirit. Other reference photos are from free sources and some I pay to use.

In the relatively short period of time I’ve been painting, I seem to have established myself as a painter of children and have been asked often why I paint so many small children doing what children do.  I think because they are innocently and unabashedly truly themselves and no one else. Their joy is profound and contagious, their spirits are still somehow tethered to God, they never apologize for asking questions or not knowing, they notice everything, even the inconspicuous and insignificant, they love sunshine, puddles and mud, butterflies, pill bugs, puppies and kittens.

They have a reservoir of courage and nobility that can astound you when they have cause to call upon it.  And the wisdom that occasionally falls from their rosebud lips can make you feel like you know nothing of the world or life or love.  In short, they are everything we should be, but have forgotten how to be. I’m trying to remember, and painting them feeds my soul.

Susan Walsh Harper
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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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20 Comments
  1. Heide 6 months ago

    What extraordinarily beautiful work! Thank you for going into such detail about your process and preferred materials — I was wondering how you achieved those almost-opaque colors in some of your shadows. Just gorgeous. And a big shout out to Charlie too!

    • Susan Walsh Harper 6 months ago

      To my great horror, I’ve seen that I didn’t thank Charlie for this lovely opportunity and the time and trouble he took to create this page. Charlie, my undying gratitude and God bless you for the work you are doing to continue to put watercolor painting into the mainstream of fine art. <3 <3

  2. whitefeatherfloating 6 months ago

    Susan, your work is beautiful! It is evident that you have worked hard at learning watercolor! I live near Redding, Ca. and have been to McKinleyville a few times. We almost moved to Blue Lake at one point several years ago, but it didn’t work out. I am so hoping my husband and I can retire up there somewhere near Eureka also in a few years or so. I would love to get connected with you either on WordPress at my blog or on Facebook! 🙂

    • Susan Walsh Harper 6 months ago

      Thank you so much. It would be wonderful to meet you. I believe my FB page is published here at the end of the write up.

  3. Karen Elaine 6 months ago

    Great post! I enjoy seeing all the wonderful featured artists. 🙂

  4. memadtwo 6 months ago

    Wow, hard to believe this is watercolor. The detail is amazing. (K)

  5. Jessica Seacrest 6 months ago

    Absolutely amazing and beautiful.

  6. Susan Walsh Harper 6 months ago

    Thank you everyone.

  7. Inge Torchia 6 months ago

    Greetings from Toronto, Canada!

    Susan, you already know that I am a huge fan of your work. I love how you have glorified God for the gift He has given you. He has blessed me too, in this later season of my life and I am ever thankful. Keep posting – it is a huge encouragement to many of us. Wonderful, wonderful talent.

  8. Susmita Datta 6 months ago

    Nothing much to say about your work…. You are a Master Watercolor Artist….I am huge fan of yours….your skills, step by step WIP inspired me very much…. Am learning from you …. Thank you so much Susan ….You are an encouragement for me …

  9. Alice Clark 6 months ago

    Love your work, Thank you for sharing. And Thanks to Charlie for all he does.

  10. lambonganmaribeth 6 months ago

    Godbless you

  11. Laura 6 months ago

    What beautiful work! Thank you for sharing, and thank you Charlie for giving us another peek into the wonderful world of watercolor.

  12. Audrey 6 months ago

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  13. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 6 months ago

    You have certainly worked at expanding that natural born art talent, Susan. Your work is breathtaking, simply beautiful. It’s art to linger over and enjoy every little revelation within it. I like what you said about “painting a spirit.” It’s that unique vision that impels art rather than copying. I’m off to explore your website and Facebook. So much wonder here – thank you for sharing.

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