I am Melanie J. Dorsey and although I’ve lived in many places across the U.S., Clearwater, Florida, is where I’ve lived the past 26 years and I happily claim it as my hometown (follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and visit my Etsy shop!). The Gulf Coast is my favorite place to be and being in the water or on the water (stand up paddle boarding) calms me and also sparks my creativity. I revel in the glory of the subtle hues of ocean, sand and sky.
A pelican swoops down to catch lunch and I am mesmerized by the angle of his bill and the rich truffle brown of his feathers. Sandpipers speckled in sandy shades beg to be painted and I joyfully oblige. The scarlet plumage of the Roseate Spoonbill is breathtaking and I long to watercolor her pale rose and vermilion feathers.
I have no background in art – not in the visual arts anyway. I began my college career as a singer on a music scholarship. My formal degrees are in Communications, Foreign Languages and Education. Through the years, as my husband and I raised our three children and I taught in the classroom, I always had a sense that someday I would paint. I don’t even know when or where the feeling originated. I simply felt if I had a brush in my hand and a canvas before me, I would know what to do.
When I first stood before a blank canvas, I can’t say my vision became reality, however! I began painting with acrylics and had lots of frustration and tears but also some success as I sold quite a lot of paintings. About a year after painting only with acrylics, I picked up a set of cheap watercolors. After the first tiny sketch and painting (of a jar of honey) I wondered, “Why didn’t anyone ever tell me about watercolors?!” I was enthralled with the very first wash of color on paper and I still am!
I practice nearly every day to develop my style, although lately I’m drawn more to a loose style that begins with a few lines of under drawing or none at all. A year ago I used a lot of pen work (Micron (black) and Uni-ball Signo (white) to add details to my watercolors. Sometimes I like to do some hand lettering as a final touch and will use either a .03 or .05 Micron pen or utilize one of my favorite colors – Payne’s Gray, and a Pentel Aquash Water Brush. I currently use Peerless, Winsor & Newton and Sennelier watercolors and the brushes I use most often are rounds, a wash and a mop. My favorite paper is Arches 140 lb. cold press.
The subjects of my watercolors are mostly flowers and birds and treasures I pick up from the hours I spend at our nearby beach. Lately I’m a little obsessed with painting oyster shells. I also enjoy watercoloring on muslin or painter’s drop cloth to make art dolls. Combining watercolor graphite (ArtGraf) with free motion stitching is another way I use watercolor in mixed media.
My heart and soul inspiration comes from my youngest son, Andrew. He was the visual artist in our family and it was some of his art supplies that I began using initially. We lost our precious son in 2009 to brain cancer. He was twelve. I’m so glad he made art and I took lots of pictures of his work and have his larger pieces on display in our home. Andrew’s interest was graffiti art. Art has been a form of therapy for me, as you might imagine. I am able to be only in the moment when I am in a creative flow. Creating is a place of rest for me.
Other artists who inspire me are Junelle Jacobsen for her playful and whimsical watercolor style, Tiffani Taylor for her loose expressionism and poetic prose, and I’m wowed by the realistic botanicals of Anna Mason. Other watercolorists I’ve recently discovered via Instagram are Steve Mitchell (Mind of Watercolor) whose landscapes intrigue me and also the host of this website, Charlie O’Shields. I particularly relate to the statement in Charlie’s about page where he confides he has absolutely no experience with watercolor. Yet, his watercolors on Instagram immediately caught my eye!
With so many talented watercolorists and the accessibility of viewing their work online, it would be easy for a novice like me to get caught up in comparison and thus frustration. However, everyone starts somewhere and some starts begin later than others. When I focus on my own creative practice and allow myself to truly be inspired by the talent and discipline of another artist, I find joy in my progress. It is not perfection that brings pleasure; it is finding that place of rest and peace in creating that is fulfilling and sometimes downright exhilarating!
Thanks, Charlie, for allowing me to be doodlewashed!