GUEST ARTIST: “Watercolour: An Endless Journey” by Kusum Shabong

Cotswold Cottage watercolour painting by Kusum Shabong

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! 

pumpkins watercolour painting by Kusum Shabong

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.

Goring on Thames watercolour painting by Kusum Shabong

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.

Mahablipuram watercolour painting by Kusum Shabong

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.

Materials

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.

Process

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.

Kusum Shabong
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42 Comments
  1. Zertab Quaderi 4 months ago

    Beautiful work!

  2. JA Wilson 4 months ago

    Really love the pumpkin- gourds?

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Thanks! They are one of my favourites too.

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Thanks! Yes, they are an assortment of pumpkins and squash. I love their autumnal colours too. Thanks for stopping by to check it out.

  3. Sandra Strait 4 months ago

    Kusum, your work is so strong and beautiful! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us.

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Sandra, it was a great pleasure to share my artistic journey with like-minded people here.

  4. Manish Rajguru 4 months ago

    Hi Kusum,

    Thanks for sharing your art journey and painting with us. Your work is fresh and beautiful. I like your attitude towards your work and the way of looking at failure. These lines in particular are inspiring

    “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”

    Thanks
    Manish

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Manish, you hit the nail on the head! Our art journeys are all different and hence it’s important to see how far we have come not forgetting to pat ourselves from time to time.

  5. Mugdha 4 months ago

    Hello Kusum,

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful journey and paintings. I love the assortment of pumpkins! Best wishes for the future. 🙂

    Love,
    Mugdha

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Mugdha, thanks for reading about my journey. I just love vegetables as part of kitchen art. Glad you liked the pumkins.

  6. Migtari Vos 4 months ago

    Amazing work, all of it, but really, really loved the pumpkins.

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Migtari, thanks very much for appreciating my art. Vegetables are my favourite things to paint:)

  7. Chantel Keona 4 months ago

    Beautiful!

  8. Fatima Chamkha 4 months ago

    Thanks for sharing you experiences and journey.Lovely Art!

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Fatima, thanks for checking out my art. I hope you could find useful bits of information in there.

  9. Zoie McIntyre 4 months ago

    Kusum I absolutely love your work. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, advice and links 🙂

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Zoie, you are very welcome. Thanks for appreciating my art.

  10. Mary Roff 4 months ago

    Beautiful art, Kusum! Thankyou for sharing your story!

  11. Krisha 4 months ago

    Sharing a story may inspire many people out there. Thank you kusum shabong!

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Thanks Krisha! That was the intention. There is an artist in everyone 🙂

  12. Frankie Pinnix 4 months ago

    I’m in complete awe….

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Thanks Frankie! Appreciate you stopping to see my artwork.

  13. Claude 4 months ago

    Love your artwork!

  14. Poonam Mukherjee 4 months ago

    Awesome collections of paintings …. I’m sure mummy would be very proud of your paintings…

    • Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

      Thanks. I hope she likes these. She is liked the very large ones I used to paint.

  15. Susan Masters 4 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful work.

  16. Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

    Many thanks Susan.

  17. Sharon Sammons 4 months ago

    Thank you for the very nice presentation I enjoyed reading about your artistic journey and really love your work.

  18. Nilotpal Das 4 months ago

    Love all your drawings, appreciate your work, specially the drawing of those ducks, actually there is a pool in the backside of our house and everyday some ducks come and rome there, it never came to my mind that these ducks can make a beautiful drawing, but you did it

  19. Kusum Shabong 4 months ago

    Nilotpal, I am so happy to hear that! Ha ha, I find myself painting ducks often somehow. Its fun. You should try painting them too. Thanks for reading the article, hope you found something useful.

  20. bytheartbug 3 months ago

    Love your work!

  21. magny 3 months ago

    Great work, interesting to read about your work

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