GUEST ARTIST: “The Moonlighting Watercolourist” by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

The expression “moonlighting watercolourist” comes from the fact I almost always paint at night, after coming home from work. Of course, it would be so much more romantic if it was truly by the light of the moon, but I do so with the aid of lights set up over my desk. I work at a hospital by day and am a painter by night. I am enamored with watercolours, even though I have only been using them for just over a year (the last time I used them was as a child). I still have a lot to learn about watercolours, but I am loving the journey!

When not painting, I enjoy reading, camping, canoeing, hiking, crocheting, writing in my journal and graphics/website design. I am also a self-taught bookbinder, making handmade leather journals since 2007 – it keeps me well stocked with sketchbooks! I’m married to my best friend and we have 4 indoor cats, although the latter would prefer that I had mentioned them formerly.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Sketchbook by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

I am a self-taught artist and have never taken a formal art course or lesson. I guess you could say my childhood spent drawing and painting was my education in art.

Growing up, I was most contented to be alone either painting, drawing, reading and writing in my journals – one of those quiet types. My father taught me about colour combinations and how to use watercolours when I was a little girl. He was a natural artist, also self-taught, but rarely had a chance to paint due to the demands of raising and supporting a family.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

I have fond memories of Dad entertaining my two sisters and I with quick little paintings with whatever was at hand (usually just general store watercolour paints for kids and plain paper). They often included landscapes from his childhood in Hong Kong. We would watch the paint swirl and come together in a lovely work of art. Having lost Dad to cancer in September 2016, only 5 years after losing Mom, those memories are very cherished ones.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

I painted a bit with acrylics throughout junior/high school and dabbled in pencil and ink, and even sold some pieces. After I graduated, I just stopped painting and drawing, as I let the practicalities of life get in the way and allowed other things to whittle away my rare leisure time. I had convinced myself that I had “no time” to draw or paint. Of course, I could kick myself now, but you know what they say about hindsight!

It was in my Dad’s memory over a year ago that I finally picked up my paintbrushes again, after a long hiatus from art in general. Initially, I think it was part of my grieving process and a way for me to unwind, but it gradually blossomed into something much more. On a camping trip with hubby, I made myself a watercolour journal and bought my first set of watercolours.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

I spent 4 lovely days painting for the first time in years and re-acquainting myself with the beauty of watercolours. It felt like coming home! The plethora of hours I spent drawing and painting in my youth came flooding back. It was like meeting up with a dear friend with whom you share such a close connection that you can just pick up where you left off. I enjoyed it so much that I asked myself “WHY am I not doing this more often?” It was truly an ‘aha!’ moment for me. After that, I was determined to start painting more regularly, even if for only minutes at a time. Now, when I take a break and paint, it is a place that I can go where I find peace, quiet and rest.

TIPS FOR WATERCOLOUR

I have just one = there are NO RULES! Enjoy watercolours the way YOU like. Too many times I’ve been told that watercolour has to be this or that. Balderdash! There is no one set style. Enjoy painting in a realistic style, a loose style or somewhere in between? Just do it.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor Sketchbook by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

Creating art is an extension of yourself – so do not measure yourself by someone else’s ruler, nor compare your work to others. Comparison is the killer of joy. Just paint and paint often, enjoy the moment… it’s your moment, all yours.

INSPIRATIONS

Most of my watercolours are inspired by the beauty of Canada’s flora and fauna, still life, as well as ‘salty’ landscapes and townscapes of the Maritimes (especially my home province of Nova Scotia, aptly known as “Canada’s ocean playground”).

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

Painting local wildlife, especially bird life, is my particular happy place! I am drawn to painting realism, but at times attempt a more loose style which I find more challenging, as it does not come naturally to me. I’ll be the first to admit I have a persnickety/perfectionistic streak, which is often how I approach painting; it’s my comfort zone, I guess.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

Favourite artists include the work of René Magritte (love his cheekiness), M.C. Escher (mathematical brilliance), as well as the atmospheric and stirring Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper. Favourite references in my art book library include Edith Holden’s “Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady“, John Muir Laws and Gordon MacKenzie. I credit Everyday Matters for cheering on daily art time back in the early days.

Liz Steele’s blog and her sketchbooks full of lovely loose architecture and tea-cup watercolours showed me that I should not be timid with painting even in public and to have fun with my sketchbooks. Of course Doodlewash®, created and founded by the very talented Charlie O’Shields, has also become a great encouragement to paint on a daily basis and an awesome resource for like minds.

MATERIALS & TOOLS

I primarily paint in sketchbooks. I use a combination of my own refillable leather sketchbooks which I fill with inexpensive 140 lb. cold-press paper, or Stillman & Birn Alpha sketchbooks. In studio, I generally use Arches hot-press paper which I like for detail painting. I haven’t yet really had the opportunity to try too many different papers. Though the majority of my paints are Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton, I’ve recently tried Da Vinci watercolours and I am very impressed; they’ll have a permanent place in my palette.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

As for brushes, in studio I tend to reach for small inexpensive synthetics with good snap – as I don’t use a lot of water when I paint in detail, these are ideal. My travel brushes include some from Rosemary & Co. (I especially love the travel dagger and travel mop), Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin 488 series and Escoda Versatil travel brushes. My favorite pens include Lamy Joy and rOtring Isograph technical pens.

PROCESS

Most of my non-sketchbook painting is done at home, usually after dark, in my …um… “studio”. I hesitate to call it that because it’s really just a corner of our small study which I’ve set aside for my painting. I have LED lights set up overhead so I do not have to rely on natural light for my painting sessions. I usually don’t get home from work until dark. I’m still trying to strike a balance, trying not working too late into the night; that can be difficult when you enjoy doing something so much, but one does require sleep! (Reminder to self, ad infinitum.)

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

I always begin any of my paintings with a sketch as lightly as possible with a 4H pencil and sometimes a first layer of neutral tint to get the values right if it’s a larger picture. I’ve tried to improve on my drawing over the years; this has proved helpful in proportion, perspective, etc. I do my larger paintings slowly over several days; it may even take weeks if I’m working on a larger piece. While it may sound monotonous to some, it’s something I take pleasure in. I settle in with multiple cups of tea and enjoy. For me, it is like a comfortable ‘old worn shoe’ and is definitely my comfort zone.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - Doodlewash

When I’m doing a larger piece, I will often do small-scale studies in a sketchbook initially to decide on the best shades to use, evaluate tones, value, etc. I know, it sounds very circumspect and at times I wish I could be more spontaneous with my painting, but I suppose it stems from my personality.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - DoodlewashWhile in my teens, I was always too focused on the end result – so much so that I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the actual process of painting, pressuring myself (feverishly so!) to complete a “polished” finished work in one long and arduous sitting. Of course, now my sketchbook paintings are usually done in 30-minutes or less, on break time at work. Personally speaking, having a short amount of time to paint is a challenge for me, but keeping a sketchbook in particular has helped me recapture the fun of painting, even in short sessions.

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Watercolor by Beverly Wong-Kleinjan - DoodlewashI am continuously finding that art is an experience of DOING and that it’s not all about the final result. Since I’ve resumed painting, I find myself more aware of my surroundings and have formed a deeper appreciation for the wonder of creation that we have around us. Painting for the sheer joy of it, not expecting masterpieces and being okay with that, has become my happy place.

Beverly Wong-Kleinjan
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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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43 Comments
  1. Sleepless Sweets 2 weeks ago

    I really love the guest artist feature today! Also, your pieces are absolutely beautiful, I can’t believe you are totally self taught!

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      How lovely! Thank you very much. 🙂 When people ask me how long it took to do a painting these days, I usually tell them almost 40 years (I’m 40, LOL). Still so much to learn!

  2. Jansi King 2 weeks ago

    Really exquisite work!! I enjoyed your story very much. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Janneke Booister 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for your story and your art!
    I always thought there is one very important rule in watercolour painting: Have Fun!! Your works look like you do obey that rule 🙂

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      That’s so true, Janneke! Painting is so much fun. I also find it a great source of relaxation and joy. Thank you so much for sharing your comment!

  4. kimbidraws 2 weeks ago

    I love this, I can relate so much. Got to work late this morning cause I got carried away in my art journal again……………every single morning…………………. I just can’t stop tho.

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      It’s easy for it to take over, for sure… I totally hear you! It’s hard to tear yourself away from it no matter when or where you start working on it. 🙂 I have to set a little timer for myself at work to make sure I don’t lose myself.

  5. Kati Brooke 2 weeks ago

    Your artwork is so gorgeous! 😀 I especially love the hummingbird with the flower and the cup on top of the books.

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      Thank you, Kati! 🙂 The hummingbird was one of my first detailed watercolours… it was so much fun. I love watching them at the feeders.

  6. Mary Roff 2 weeks ago

    Your work is exceptionally beautiful!!! And, I love your watercolor rule!!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      That rule has never steered me wrong, Mary. Paint for the love of it, and you can’t go wrong. 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment!

  7. Sandra Strait 2 weeks ago

    I’ve been enjoying the paintings that you’ve posted here at Doodlewash, and it’s wonderful to learn more about you. Thank you for sharing your process and tools. Your leather sketchbooks look fantastic as well!

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      It’s been so nice getting to know you and others here in the Doodlewash community. <3 Thanks so much!

  8. Rod Fletcher 2 weeks ago

    Your lessons as a child must have been exhaustive and well-learned to produce such wonderful work so sonn after re-starting. Thank you for sharing.

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Rod! 🙂 Painting and drawing was my favourite pastime as a child, so I certainly got a lot of practice in. Watercolours are still taking a while to get accustomed to – but I’m love learning more about them!

  9. Kari Hegdahl 2 weeks ago

    I love your art! 😍

  10. Jyotsna 2 weeks ago

    Stunning work and beautiful story. Loved your rule – there are no rules and don’t compares your work. Overall beautifully written. I can visualize your study with led lights and painting over cup of tea 🙂

    Happy painting…

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      You visualize accurately, Jyotsna! Just add 4 cats trying to “help” me out in my studio and you’ve got it just about right. Haha! 🙂 Thanks!

  11. Sharon Nolfi 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing your story and process. I particularly like your bird and wildlife paintings – they are excellent!

  12. Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

    Thanks so much, Sharon! 🙂

  13. June Hadaway 2 weeks ago

    Beautiful work. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Every painter is an artist.

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      So true, June! The best motivation for painting is for the joy of it. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  14. Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

    That rule has never steered me wrong. Paint for the love of it, and you can’t go wrong. 🙂 Thank you for your sweet comment!

  15. Pamela Smith 2 weeks ago

    Wow,only a year,,,I love your work and the advice you gave…inspiring,,thank you…

  16. M. Caulder 2 weeks ago

    Lovely memories, lovely paintings, lovely sketchbooks, and lovely style! 💕

  17. Jennifer McLean 2 weeks ago

    YAY a hello Canadian! I’m out in the west coast of BC. Love your painting and advice, to use watercolors any way YOU want to. Well said!

    • Beverly Wong-Kleinjan 2 weeks ago

      Thanks so much, Jennifer! It’s been a pleasure getting to know you and rest of the Doodlewash painters. You’re all so inspiring and friendly, and have shared so much helpful information to us all!

  18. Kathy Delumpa Allegri 2 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing your recollections of your dear Dad, your inspiration, and your beautiful, honest artwork!

  19. Lilian (sky + sea) 1 week ago

    This is stunning, my friend! I love your story. And your paintings are… whoa. I could never achieve that. xP Keep going on!

    (Also, I’m starting up my blog and would love it if you would follow me! No pressure, though. 😀 A review on Strathmore paper will be up very soon. Thanks! theskyandthesea13.wordpress.com)

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my story and work. 🙂 Thanks for your comment! I look forward to reading your blog posts!

  20. Kaye Boggs 1 week ago

    Your paintings are wonderful and as I was reading your story and looking at your paintings I thought of my very favorite artist. So I was not surprised when you wrote Andrew Wyeth was one of your favorites too,. I also like Hopper. I have been painting a very long time and I’m hardly ever satisfied with my work but I never give up.

    • Wow, what a compliment, Kaye! Thank you! I can easily get lost in Wyeth or Hopper’s paintings. I’m glad you don’t give up. Keep painting and keep that joy!

  21. Beautiful artwork, Beverly. Keep up the good work!

  22. Beautiful paintings and interesting read. And that white cup is something I really find super !
    robert, absolute beginner

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