Hi, my name is Kusum Shabong and I am a watercolour artist from Wokingham in the United Kingdom. As with most artists, my love for painting is rooted in my childhood. Growing up in the tea gardens of North India at the foothills of the Himalayas, we had an idyllic childhood by any standard. Nature surrounded us in all its splendour which I think might be where my love of nature and all things related to it took shape.
Anyone who knows tea gardens, would know that you are surrounded by acres of greenery with no one/house in sight for miles. My parents left my sisters and I pretty much to our devices and we grew up like wild children. My mother would buy craft supplies during school holidays and I would find myself experimenting with different paint materials. At school, I used oils and acrylics to paint. My mother still has one of my paintings 35 years on!
I went on to study Botany at University and subsequently went on to work in an IT company. I got busy in raising family soon after marriage which took all my time. My husband’s job took us to various countries – South Africa, Singapore and finally UK. Art took a backseat for quite a long time.
After my children went to secondary school, the longing to be connected to the creating process grew stronger. I started painting at home with different mediums with cheap art supplies before finally settling on watercolours. There has been no looking back after that.
I have been trying to balance work with my love for painting. I am primarily self-taught although I did enroll myself in the local college to learn watercolour techniques. The whole point in reliving the past is perhaps telling myself and others to pay heed to your inner voice! Despite this, I am happy with what I have achieved over the past six years.
I was drawn to watercolours as a medium due its aura of mystery and unpredictability. The results that I could achieve from it and the immediacy, luminosity and transparent quality were hard to obtain in any other medium.
Mark making in watercolour cannot be duplicated, and that has been a source of a love-hate relationship. Although I am fairly confident of what I can produce these days, along comes such a fail painting that I feel I have gone back to the drawing board! In fact, there have been countless times when I have just wanted to throw in the towel.
Although it’s true we are our own worst critics, it is important to find parts of the painting that you are proud of. It’s also important to look back at your progress from time to time. I often pick up my old sketchbooks and am so very happy to see how far I have come.
I started practicing using a limited palette of artist quality paints synthetic brushes and cheaper paper. Very quickly, I realized that using artist quality paints and paper are integral to getting better results. Daniel Smith, Winsor & Newton, Schmincke, M Graham, Mission Gold and Sennelier are some preferred brands. I discovered I had favourites for certain colours with certain brands. For example, I love the Cobalt Blue Deep or Raw Sienna from Schmincke or Perylene Maroon from M Graham and wouldn’t buy them from anywhere else.
I also use travel pan sets for when I am out and about. A wealth of information is also available at Handprint regarding watercolour. This website has really helped me in knowing about the pigments and picking supplies. Before I would often end up with the same colour from different brands as they have different names for the same colour.
As for paper, I have used many brands before settling on Bockingford 300gsm for practice sketches and Saunders Waterford 300gsm for most of my paintings. I also like Arches, Blick Premier and Fabriano. My favourite brushes are my squirrel mops, Hake, a sword liner, a few synthetic round brushes and Chinese brushes.
I draw inspiration primarily from nature, although man-made structures are great subjects. I like to paint architectural features, birds, animals, florals, landscape, still life. I love to paint a variety of subjects as sticking to any one thing is tedious for me. In my mind I am constantly deconstructing a subject to its different stages and then gradually building up the layers so to speak. A composition comprised of deep contrast is a good place to start and capturing light at the right places is rewarding.
I find myself painting in a loose impressionistic style using the medium in transparent washes either plein air or from reference photos. Achieving looseness was difficult for me as I was inclined to painting tightly and have arrived at a happy medium although the journey is ongoing.
I have been learning how to draw alongside as it is an integral part of painting the way I do. YouTube videos have been very helpful in this regard. I have taken a few art classes with some UK artists to see their process and techniques and feel awed and inspired by watercolour master painters of today and their different styles.
I am particularly impressed by the works of Chien Chung Wei – love his greys!! Getting involved with your local art scene is a great place to begin as well. The camaraderie of working with like-minded people on local projects is fun and inspirational.
I am a member of Art Societies in my area which are thriving and active societies and have frequent exhibitions and demos and workshops. I am represented by a few online galleries and have taken part in some art competitions with good results. I have had some success in selling my work as my artwork is affordable and feel humbled when someone admires my artwork.Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in