At the school playground, waiting to get dispersed, I heard an announcement about an upcoming painting competition. I had never held a paintbrush. My mom bought me a small paintbox. Loading and unloading paint with the brush was exhilarating. I practiced, took part, and throughout that week painted a blue-green peacock (a fascination then). Although I didn’t win, it made me happy.
My name is Megha Mehra and I’m a professional watercolor artist. I was born and raised in Bangalore, India. I loved to draw, imitating my mother’s painting styles. But like many kids, I fell into the rat race and did not take up painting for years. Eleven years ago, I moved to Virginia.
Watercolors found me when I was about to become a mom. I painted with the belief that my baby would connect with that creative energy (he has, the little painterly scamp!). Little did I know that I would rediscover my childlike enthusiasm for painting.
I paused to raise my son after he was born. Years flew, and I didn’t touch my brush. I picked up my brush again once my son started preschool. I got back in action and did my public solo exhibit. 32 paintings in less than a month was an enormous challenge.
Painting Was Painful
While I did a few art exhibits, I wasn’t happy with my work. Only limited subjects appealed to me. I drooled over watercolor portraits in art magazines but didn’t dare to try. I inconsistently read books and watched videos but failed to make progress.
My work didn’t improve until I committed to painting daily. Soon I bagged my first portrait commission from a client in the UK. My inner voice told me, “Just Do it.” Since then, I have painted many commissions
What’s My Style?
As a self-taught artist, my approach is honest, bold. I love light. It is the essence of my paintings. I strive to paint the child behind the radiant smile; the wonder in sunlight spilling across almonds soaking in a bowl of water; to bring life to mangoes that soon will bring joy to somebody.
When I find myself lost in details, it’s light that brings focus back to me. When I am overwhelmed by choice, light brings out the simpler story within each scene. And when I’m afraid inspiration has abandoned me, the fleeting magic of the light within us returns it to me.
Play & Get Your Hands Dirty
My painting begins in my head. As a realistic painter, I paint what I see, but sometimes I imagine subjects I haven’t captured yet. I paint complex still life arrangement that involves months of planning and collecting stuff them from friends, neighbors and sometimes nagging my parents to bring them from India. The constant question I ask myself is – what is the story I’m trying to tell?
I like to capture in the direct afternoon sun when the light is the sharpest. I take hundreds of pictures and sort them on my computer. This is when I’m thinking of the title to match the painting.
Once I settle on the composition, I pick the colors that match the mood and the story. With color, I’m still a kid. I want them all. My darlings are bold, rich colors and, sometimes, moody greys.
I mix my chart and do multiple sketches before I begin the large final painting. I paint wet on wet and glazing to get the transparent effect. First the subject, then the background.
What Inspires Me?
People and their stories inspire me. It’s so much fun to meet new people and always interested in their journeys and experiences. Public speaking has helped me find many stories that have played an important role in my art career.
Most of my ideas come when I’m cooking. Cooking and painting have common patterns. The variety, the mood, the color and playfulness, the sense of adventure relate to composition.
My new obsession is baking. When it’s quiet in the night, I put a loaf in the oven, turn on music and paint away.
Life is a waste if you don’t give back. In 2018 my painting ‘The Gift’ was auctioned to raise money for Sahaita, a non-profit organization committed to educating, supporting, and uplifting the underprivileged.
These mangoes were a childhood memory when I witnessed kids eating mangoes for the first time in an orphanage. To them, these mangoes were a gift.
As I painted more, my fans appreciated my work, and they wanted to learn from me. The educator in me was formed. Nothing makes me happier when I see people grow. I love supporting my students and bringing out the best in them. Look at what some of my students say.
Feathers In The Cap
Painting consistently and dedicatedly not only improved my work but gave me the courage to enter competitions and get my work recognized. My painting ‘Play, pause, reflect’ won the ‘Ralph Smith Memorial Award of Excellence’ at the VWS 2019 exhibit.
I also wont the ‘National Society award’ and the Outstanding Watercolor award at PVW and FASO Bold Brush contest respectively in 2020.
I’m a big fan of Artistico Fabriano and use the extra white 140 lb cold press paper. I enjoy different brands from Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci, Daniel Smith, and Mission Gold. I trust these fine brands. I have tried a variety of brushes but nothing can beat Silver Black Velvet brushes.
They are an outstanding balance of having pointed ends and holding lots of water and paint. I stumbled upon these cheap brushes, which turned out to be of wonderful quality.
Must-haves: Tissue boxes, magic eraser, and the value scale.
Workshops And Commissions
I teach online and offline courses from basics, portraits, moody skies, and still life. I offer commissioned portraits of pets, people, landscapes, keepsakes, and houses. My advice to beginners is to not get trapped in your thoughts. ‘Just do it’.Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in