Hey there, I’m Shereen Kaur from a little country in South-East Asia called Malaysia. “I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart” – Van Gogh. Exactly how I felt when I rediscovered the power of art when I hit the big 4-0. You may call it midlife crisis, myth or reality, it exists.
In 2017, I turned 40, took a trip of a lifetime to Tuscany, Italy, and mindfully embarked on a life-changing adventure towards art and youth development. I quit my corporate job in Human Resources (though I am still finishing up some projects), dove right into volunteering and being involved in the local arts scene in Kuala Lumpur, and with a little prayer that this will be the legacy I leave behind one day. No one is ever happy with Excel sheets and slides, but a simple watercolor flower piece can bring pure joy to the tired soul.
Art moved my inner being to rethink my paradigms, and how it can be a vehicle to channel expression and self-understanding in children and youth. I took up a watercolor floral workshop late 2017, and have been painting daily, no matter what… whether it is a small calligraphy piece, a practise piece, a lesson on SkillShare or a monochromatic landscape.
A little practise in better than none. (Definitely not easy, having a rambunctious 4 year-old little boy, who is now conditioned with me having about 30 minutes to 45 minutes of painting time on the dining table). Once in a while, life happens, and though I might have the time or mind to pick up the brush, I imagine the piece that I want to paint.
I started with loose florals, and moved on to botanicals. Though not really a flower person, this subject provides the basics of watercolour, more than you know. Proportion, composition, tonal values, and yet simple to achieve, helps to build confidence and is easy to practise. I signed up on Anna Mason’s school, to learn the basics of colour, tonal values, and mostly patience to complete what you started out. After about 3 months, dabbling with flowers, I braved myself to try something else. My first misty landscape was by Kolbie Blume on Skillshare. I have been hooked since.
Somehow, painting landscapes, learning about how the different colours can move around the full space of the paper, colour combinations and the abstract element that it can incorporate, had me mesmerized.
There are so many diverse landscapes in Malaysia that are waiting to be painted and I started with the piece called ‘Bukit Tabur’, original photograph by Yong Lin Tan, a 22 year-old award winning photographer. His amazing photographs pushed me to keep on practising so that I could paint more of his work, which has so many beautiful elements of Malaysia.
Many ask me how do I find the time, amidst still working full time now, and what will I do next. How do I find the inspiration and learn? It’s a matter of priority. Instead of shoes and make-up, for me, it’s brushes and paints. Instead of Netflix, it’s Skillshare and Youtube of How-Tos on Watercolour. Instead of the latest fiction, it’s art books.
When I read Watercolours Unleashed by Jane Betteridge, it opened up a whole new world of watercolors for me. There is so much more that intrigued me deeply to try. I practised with one of the projects in the book, and called that piece “Asifa”, after a tragic child-rape in Kashmire in early 2018. So, I encourage all those who are dabbling with watercolors to explore the depth and breadth that this medium can offer and how it can touch your deepest feelings. It’s more than loose florals.
From the heart, I feel that I have found the zone that I was looking for in watercolor. It will not be easy, as art is not an economy subject in Malaysia, and is not deemed as a mainstream career. To make it work, art had to partner psychology and therapy to find a place in our community. It would have been easy to utilize this aspect to make a living and career, however, then art would have lost its true form and beauty. This is an area I am still finding my footing.
I am still experimenting with various paints, and I am loving those handmade paints, as I feel like I am helping small business and entrepreneur. I am loving my Rosemary & Co brushes, Princeton and of course Silver Black Velvet (sacrificed 2 months worth of skincare to buy this).
My happy place, more than Disneyland, is a little art shop called Stickerrific, whose owner Sze Too encouraged me first when I shared my art vision. I always recommend them locally because the team recommends supplies based on needs and budgets.
It is still a crazy journey. I am learning daily from so many great inspirations around me. I am still seeking and striving. But I am in it with ALL my heart.
Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!