Michelle Gonzalez Watercolor Painting Peacock

GUEST ARTIST: “Art Can (and Should) Begin at 40!” by Michelle Gonzalez

My name is Michelle Gonzalez and I’m a watercolor artist from Manila, Philippines. On Instagram, I share my daily sketchbook paintings, inspirational quotes from my visual journals, and a few thoughts here and there to provide motivation to fellow artists. I’m also a Skillshare Teacher, offering online watercolor classes for beginners who want to learn how to paint florals.

I’m writing this article for those like me, who may have had to put off their artistic passion when they were younger. I’ve been there and trust me, it is NEVER too late to start creating art again.

When and How My Watercolor Journey Started

It was one evening in February 2018. My youngest son Justin asked for money so he can buy some art supplies for school. Out of the blue, I told him to buy a sketchbook and some watercolors for me. I even asked him specifically to buy the cheapest ones! He came home with a set of watercolor cakes and a regular sketchbook for pencil drawing.

Cats and Flowers Watercolor

Back then, I didn’t know that there are sketchbooks for different mediums. I just thought that all of those sketchbooks were the same. So, I started sketching a light outline of the usual things I drew when I was younger – flowers, grapes, and a braided rope. I formed the rope to be the top part of a wreath and the grapes and flowers formed the lower half. I started painting and found myself struggling for hours. It took me around eight long hours to finish this piece and after I did, I was frustrated.

So much so, that that same night, I booked a three-hour workshop on basic watercolor painting. I told myself, this would be my gift to myself for my upcoming 40th birthday in March. After I attended the workshop, I started buying better art supplies and found myself painting almost every day ever since.

When Passion Meets Purpose

The year 2018 was all about learning and enjoying watercolor. At the same time, it was about art becoming my means of practicing self love. A few years ago, I was under a lot of stress from so many angles in my life that I began having anxiety and panic attacks. I needed some means to detach from the world and heal, but I cannot leave my family obligations. Painting became my means of escape. The moment I start painting, all of the things that were causing me stress instantly stopped existing and I was at a calm and safe place. I needed that pause, and having that every single day contributed a great deal to my emotional and mental health.

Come 2019, I began having more followers. Eventually, I also started working with other artists and some art suppliers in collaborations on Instagram. I found myself in a position to spread positivity and motivation to other artists. I have experienced firsthand how art can heal and I wanted to promote this to others as well.

Daisies and Strawberries Pattern by Michelle Gonzalez

I also found myself teaching watercolor painting on an online platform called Skillshare. My first class was about Loose Watercolor Roses and now, after about ten months, I have seven classes and almost a thousand students online. I have also recently launched a new Facebook Group called Watercolor Aficionados which I have created with two dear friends, Nina Hidalgo and Beth Robles, who are also known for their expertise in watercolor painting. Our group is also dedicated to teaching online watercolor techniques based on a monthly theme.

Watercolor Flowers Never Wither

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, you’ll notice that most of my paintings are flowers – roses, hydrangeas, daisies, anemones, and sunflowers. I never decided to focus on these subjects, but I did make it a point to paint things that I’d love to see, and flowers are exactly that. The colors, the graceful forms of the petals, the beauty that brings a certain feeling of joy and love – these are what flowers are to me and the reason why I paint them a lot more than other subjects.​​

In the beginning, I would usually paint loose florals because I “lost” my sketching skills. But, as I have started challenging myself to do better, I also found myself sketching again. At first, my sketches were bad, dimensions and proportions were off and it took me a long time to make them. But as they say, “Practice makes progress.” Eventually, after so many bad sketches, I began seeing better ones with better proportions and less erasures. Now, I’m painting realistic florals a lot more often.

What Materials to Get? Here are My Favorites

If you’re just starting and don’t know if you’d be painting much, I suggest you buy good quality materials that aren’t too expensive. My go-to brushes are ZenArt brushes – their Turner Collection contains all the brushes you’ll ever need, from large flat brushes to create washes to size 000 round brushes for details. I particularly like that these brushes are made of squirrel hair and synthetic blend, so they’re not too soft unlike all-natural hair brushes which makes it hard to control the brush strokes.

For watercolors, I highly recommend ShinHan PWC Extra Fine watercolors – these are artist grade watercolor which are highly pigmented and transparent, so you are able to get beautiful outcomes. I love how vibrant the colors are and even when you mix them together, they don’t create muddy colors.

When it comes to paper, I’d recommend getting 100% cotton watercolor paper, at least 300gsm. This will allow you to experiment with the medium more freely, without having to worry about buckling. I love Arches rough and cold pressed watercolor paper, as well as Khadi.

The Best Time to Start? Now!

Whatever your age is, the best time to start painting is NOW! Don’t be afraid to rekindle your love for creating art. Even if your first few artworks might not be as beautiful as you would have liked, accept that this is part of your learning curve and believe that you will get better at it. One advantage that we have in this online age is, we have so many free resources available to us.

Watercolor, they say, is a difficult medium to master and I agree. But it is also an amazing medium to use if you need some stress therapy or if you have mental health issues. The way the paint flows on paper, the way colors blend, how a splash of water can create a beautiful effect – it’s magical. My tip: don’t focus on the final outcome. Instead, appreciate each stroke and take in all the good feelings as you paint.

Michelle Gonzalez
Skillshare Classes

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36 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Art Can (and Should) Begin at 40!” by Michelle Gonzalez

  1. So much to say about this post!!! For starters your work is amazing. That you get the little veins on the iris is just out of this world. I also loved your saying, “practice makes progress” so much better than perfect. It would be awfully frustrating to shoot for perfect! I also like how you encourage people to start no matter age, and I would say even if you have no background, that was how I learned was just someone saying, try, do. If you’re interested here is my story: https://you-just-never-know.com/2020/07/06/my-introduction-to-art/ Again, I love your stuff and your encouraging attitude.

  2. I love the way you use color and your story is inspiring! Thank you for sharing the tools that you use. I’m always curious about that. And thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us.

  3. Hello Michelle,

    Your paintings and your story are equally inspiring. Thank you for honestly sharing the fact that your beginnings were far from what you had imagined and that proportions were a struggle. If after those struggles you’ve made it to this level of creating beauty, it’s very encouraging. I love your thought “Watercolor Flowers Never Wither”. So true! Thanks so much to you and a special thanks to Charlie O’ Shields for featuring your story.

    1. Hello! Thanks for your appreciation of what I have shared. I am glad to know I have inspired through this article. And yes, I am truly grateful to Charlie for giving me this opportunity!

  4. Michelle, I think you showed much courage in sharing your story about art giving you peace of mind. Your artwork is truly gorgeous. I’m impressed by your range of subject interests and mastery of skills. The color range is expressive.

    1. Hi Sharon! To be honest, it took me quite a long time to write this article. I was holding back at first but it didn’t feel right. I then finally decided to share the truth about my art and me, so I can inspire others who might be going through the same. Thanks so much for your appreciation <3

  5. Thank you Michelle for sharing your artist journey and your wonderful art with us. I, too, know the healing aspects that result from creating. As someone with multiple auto-immune diseases, I know that creative activity can lessen my stress levels, and that can help keep my illnesses from flaring. As I enter that flow, a feeling of calm serenity blocks out the noise and hustle of everyday life.

    1. Hi Susan! Thank you for appreciating my art and I am happy to know that art is able to help you cope with your disease. Much love – Michelle

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