Flower Merchant Watercolor Painting by Matthew Bird - Doodlewash

GUEST ARTIST: “Yes, It’s Watercolor” by Matthew Bird

My name is Matthew Bird and I am a realist painter working in transparent watercolor. I am drawn to complex details and portraying the richness and beauty of everyday objects and scenes. Through the use of many washes and layers, I create vibrant color and deep darks. One of the things I hear most often from people who see my work is, “That’s watercolor?!”

But before I get to that, here’s a little bit on how I got where I am today.

From a very early age, I knew that God made me to be an artist. Even though there are no artists in my family, my parents embraced and nurtured my love for drawing. At the same time, they were concerned with my difficulty learning to read. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age seven, and getting through school was never easy. My mother used to tell me, “One day you will get to do what you love.”

Volkwagen Bug Vintage Matthew Bird Watercolor Painting - Doodlewash
Punch Buggy Red

It took years of hard work, but I mastered the great literary classics and to this day, I enjoy reading. I do think that this obstacle during my formative years was instrumental in my drive to not accept labels and to fight for what you want.

I have a vivid memory of an elementary art class, where the teacher was telling me to use all of the paper and draw bigger. But I was very focused on getting the small details correct. This was something that I would fight all through my education.

Matthew Bird Watercolor Painting - Doodlewash
Looking Forward

In high school, my parents encouraged me to write to Walt Disney to find out where they hire their artists from, thinking they would recruit from the best schools. One of the schools mentioned was Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NYC. They offered a partial scholarship and I really wanted to study in New York.

Flowers Watercolor Painting - Hyperrealism - by Matthew Bird - Doodlewash
Magnolia Still Life

I was pursuing a career in illustration thinking that was a good way to make a living as an artist. I also had schooling in design and photography, so like many artists, I began working part-time as a graphic designer to bring in extra money.

Watercolor Painting Hyperrealism by Matthew Bird - Doodlewash
Not Interested

This temporary arrangement turned into a career path, and a decade later I was an Associate Creative Director in a large agency. I was burnt out, unhappy, and barely painting at all. This was around the time that my wife and I were expecting our first child, which actually became the catalyst for leaving my full-time position so I could be home more and be able to paint.

Matthew Bird Watercolor Painting - Doodlewash
Angel Of Music

My wife is pretty amazing. Being married to an artist isn’t easy, and I wouldn’t be where I am without her love and support. In addition, it was when I started to paint my wife and children that my art stepped up to a new level. I began entering exhibitions and winning awards, which gave me the encouragement to keep going.

Although frustrated at the time, I wouldn’t change the career choices I made. I learned valuable skills in business, marketing and networking. But I was born to paint and now embrace the challenges and joys of the artist’s life.

My Advice On Materials

If you are just starting out, materials can be expensive. I encourage people to spend first on the important things. Do not skimp on your paint, brushes or paper—use professional artists grade materials. Watercolor is a difficult medium, there’s no need to add to the challenge with inferior products. Student grade paint uses less pigment and more binder (filler) so it is difficult to get deep rich color. I recommend Daniel Smith paints, Fabriano Artistico paper and Escoda brushes.

Hyperrealism Watercolor Painting Still Life by Matthew Bird - Doodlewash

Looking back, I’m so grateful for finding watercolor, and for being able to focus on developing my craft to capture the beauty of what surrounds me with precision and clarity; and strive to convey that to all people through the universal language of representational art.

Still Life Realistic Watercolor Painting - Doodlewash
Branzino For Two
Matthew Bird Photo Headshot - Doodlewash

I enjoy demonstrating the versatility of watercolor, as it’s often associated with loose, colorful washes, and a look that is easily recognizable. But it is a very versatile medium and much can be achieved. And to those that think I work in acrylic or oil, and say “That’s watercolor?!” I smile and reply, “Yes, it’s watercolor.”

Matthew Bird
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53 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Yes, It’s Watercolor” by Matthew Bird

  1. This wannabe artist is humbled as well as moved deeply by your story. Your art looks like excellent photography — and you worked that with your hands! There are times when my writer side has no words. Thank you Matthew for sharing your gold.

    1. Thank you! It is a difficult medium, and sometimes people ask why I don’t just paint in oil. That would be a long answer (perhaps I’ll write a blog post on that) but I love the properties of watercolor.

  2. Thank you, Charlie, for having Matthew Bird as a guest post. Good golly but I love a watercolor painted to this level of realism. I agree with Bird that watercolor is a very challenging medium but it can be taken to levels that look like acrylic or oil. Thanks to this post, I have another artist I can add to my list of favorite watercolorists. I think Matthew Bird is in good company with Paul McCormack and Steve Hanks. ^_^ Thank you again for having Matthew visist!

    1. You’re very kind, thank you! It’s humbling to be associated with those masters, they are inspirations. In fact, Steve Hanks was the artists that challenged me to work at this level with watercolor.

      1. You’re welcome, Matthew! Thank you again for sharing your art with the world. I love discovering watercolor of your quality. It just makes me happy to see it. ^_^

  3. Matthew Bird – love the beer & pretzels. Love “Winter” too, but in our house, Heritage Still Life is the featured winter painting, so. Thanks for this Charlie.

  4. Wow! I’m speechless! Just beautiful art! Your paintings do look like photographs, they are that detailed. Thank you for sharing- you certainly are a master in watercolor. 🤗👍

  5. Your work is beautiful! Kudos to you for staying with it early on and returning it when you needed a change. That early on passion resurfaced. Lucky for us!

  6. Your work is incredibly beautiful and detailed. I can’t see any brush mark at all. How long do u take to finish a painting sized 28×42cm.
    I am an aspiring watercolorist,a self taught artist.
    Hope to see u create ur masterpiece someday,with my eyes.
    All the best

    1. Thank you, I appreciate your kind words! Most of my watercolors are full sheet, 57×77 cm and take over 100 hours. It’s a labor of love, and usually I’m happy with the results. Hope our paths cross one day!

  7. I have seen your work before on another site Mr Bird I did mention to you about the lady’s face .Your work shows a great skill of learning and its a great opportunity to see your work

    1. Wow, these are jaw-dropping gorgeous! I’m so happy you listened to your heart and had great support systems throughout your life so that eventually you could pursue your passion full time. 😍 🎨

  8. thanks Charlie for the opportunity to see more art work from Mr Birds work I like the tattooed man with is dog is just the man face as he tuned around and the back ground .the other is Magnolia with a brandy bottle not sure of the title.

  9. I’m trying to close my mouth after seeing your incredible – and I do mean incredible – paintings. How wonderful that your parents recognized your artistic talent and encouraged you to pursue your dream, and that your wife does the same. I’m truly awed by what you are capable of painting. i could buy all the same paints and tools but will never get close to what you achieve – the difference between genius and ho-hum. Best wishes to you in your future, Matthew.

  10. Mr. Bird,

    I’m uncertain how your Doodlewash post managed to escape me, but I just viewed it, and nearly fainted from disbelief. I was a photographer, weddings mostly, for 25 years. And I would have uttered a familiar refrain to you about the precision, detail, 3D, accurate, sharp focus of your paintings. Your style is one I’ve not seen before, and I am deeply impressed. Some of your work is better than my photography!

    Kudos on tapping into that which brings your heart, soul and eyes daily joy. For me, there is nothing better than watercolor painting, I’m new, 2 years, and have no idea what my style is. It’s wonderful that you were able to realize yours at such a young age. I’m glad you didn’t fill that piece of paper in elementary school!

    The colors, the precision, the clarity, the sheer beauty of your paintings literally made me lose my breath. I inspected every half inch of each painting in awe, and hope that one day before I leave this earth, I can tap into my style. If it’s 50% as incredible as yours, I’ll die fulfilled.

    Congratulations for never turning your back on that which continued to call your name. I am beyond impressed. (and I signed up for your newsletter). It was with profound pleasure that I viewed your work. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hello Frances, thank you for taking the time to comment and for your kind words about my work! I hope to be able to touch other people with my art and it’s nice to read comments like yours. Style doesn’t come easily, and I’ve received more rejection letters than I can count, but eventually you find your place. Wishing you the best in the future!

  11. Matthew, your works are stunning! So much detail I can imagine the incredible amount of patience, dedication and artistry you have invested in each of them. Thank you for being such an inspiration.

  12. Enjoyed your story and your watercolors, especially the little girl sitting on a chair by a window. Exquisite! I, too, am drawn to detail with my house portraits. Every so often, someone will suggest using a photograph instead. Really? Artists can do what cameras cannot. Watercolor is a challenge and a joy at the same time.

    Mary Ann

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