Hi, my name is Susan Chiang and I’m from Orange County, California. My earliest memories of creating art are happy ones. My mom enrolled me in classes alongside my younger brother when we were in elementary school. I remember sitting at tables in a makeshift garage classroom with my brother, my best friend and a few other kids learning everything from pencil drawing to acrylic painting.
Our teacher had us enter the same local art contest every year. When I was 16, I won the grand prize, and the prize was a scholarship to take two summer art classes at a local Southern California art college. I was the youngest person both classes: a nude drawing class and a still life class. I probably don’t need to mention that it was quite an experience for a 16-year-old. That summer was one I will never forget and really solidified my love of art.
At university I attempted to take the “sensible” route by looking into majors like Economics and Business, but ultimately I decided I had better stick with something more creative and ended up in the architecture program. I loved it and graduated with a BA in Architecture which became my career for over a decade.
After leaving the profession for health reasons, I found myself with a lot of time and a lot of anxiety just trying to get healthy again. That’s when I decided to turn to watercolors. It had been over a decade since I created for myself (not a client) with a traditional medium (not a computer). I loved it and have never looked back.
My minimal art aesthetic probably comes from my education and former career as an architect. Architectural design requires making clear decisions on everything you’re putting into your drawings. Every line you draw on a floor plan has a reason to be there.
It requires methods, problem-solving and patience. I learned a lot about being thoughtful about the creative process from architecture, and I really believe it has contributed to both my artistic style and approach to sharing what I know about watercolors.
Favorite Art Supplies
I always encourage others starting watercolors not to be afraid of buying good quality supplies because you don’t need many to start and the right supplies make a big difference in your success with watercolors.
I started with old student-grade supplies and when I finally researched and treated myself to better supplies, something clicked and painting became a lot more fun!
Here are some of my favorites supplies:
Paper: Arches Cold Press
Paints: Daniel Smith Tube Watercolors
Brushes: Princeton Artist Brush Co. – Heritage Series
I know there are a lot of different supplies you can buy and it is overwhelming for anyone just starting. For that reason I’ve dedicated quite a few blog posts to supplies and also have a helpful supply buying guide for beginners on my website.
After getting supplies, the next hurdle is usually figuring out what to paint. I definitely had that moment where I sat down with all my new supplies, started at the blank paper and had no idea what I should do next.
I find that I feel the most inspired when painting from real life. Nothing can replace the ability to observe the object right in front of you. So I tend to draw from my immediate environment for inspiration. Some examples are:
My refrigerator – for vegetables and fruits
My backyard or neighborhood – for leaves, trees, flowers
My house – for random objects
If I’m not feeling inspired by things around me, I’ll look at reference photos I either have from my daily life or travel photos. If there are no photos that I have that feel inspiring, I’ll search free reference photos. There are many resources on the internet (like the ones right here on Doodlewash!)
Finally, if I’m really feeling like mixing it up, I’ll join a challenge like the art challenges hosted by Doodlewash on Instagram. It’s both challenging and fun to paint using prompts that are already made for you. It takes away the effort of trying to come up with something to paint!
I am always excited when I sit down to paint, even if it’s just for 20 mins a day. I know there is a lot for me to learn when it comes to watercolors and every time I paint I know it’s progress towards getting better.
The act of creating is so powerful – it can transport us to a place of joy and give us a feeling of pride and accomplishment that we made something with our own two hands. It’s certainly what drives me to keep wanting to learn and improve.
And I love helping others who want to be creative learn how to watercolor. So they can prove to themselves that they’re capable of making beautiful art too!
I enjoy sharing what I know and encouraging others because it’s a medium that anyone can learn.
My hope is that people feel encouraged and inspired to use the creativity they have and find a way to express it – whether it’s through watercolors or another medium!
Just Watercolor (My Beginners Watercolor Course)
Photography by Joy Theory Co. and Susan Chiang
24 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “Getting Started with Watercolors” by Susan Chiang”
What truly happy work!!! Thank you for sharing your story!
Hi Mary! Thank you so much for the kind words! 🙂
Love both the earth in space and sonogram pieces 😍. Thanks for sharing your story!
Aw thank you so much, and thanks for reading 🙂
Beautiful art! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.
Hi Laura! Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey here <3
I love your work and thanks for sharing!
Hi Karen! Thank you so much 🙂
Such simple yet compelling images! Thanks for your honesty in describing both your life story and your art which helps you cope with life. Many of us depend on the “out of time” quality of watercolor. It’s a lot like fly fishing: time spent on the stream is not counted against you as part of your time on earth. I’ve added my name to the waiting list for your upcoming watercolor course. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Robert, I love your description of my images, never heard them described that way! You are so right about watercolors being a lot like fly fishing – what a great metaphor. Glad you’ve joined the waitlist, I’ll be sending out invitations to enroll next month!
Interesting to hear your journey. So lovely to hear you helping others aspiring to improve too.
Hi Eve, thank you for reading. I love being able to help others who want to get started too, I truly believe we all have it in us to create beautiful things that we’re proud of 🙂
That ultrasound image is beautiful! Wonderful idea and execution.
Hi Sharon! Thank you so much!!
Thank you for sharing your story. I love hearing how people got to where they are in art. I travel to OC a couple times a year to meet up with some sketching/painting friends at DL. Maybe one of these times we can coordinate a time around one of your classes. That would be fun! Your work is beautiful.
Hi! How fun 🙂 I assume DL is… Disneyland?? It would be fun to meet more watercolor friends in real life. I have been taking a break from in-person classes since have a little baby now at home but perhaps in the future!
Thanks so much for sharing. What an incredible ride!
Hi Pat! Thanks so much for reading 🙂 It’s been a fun ride for sure!
Those kissable lips, Susan. The peaches look nearly as sensuous. What fun. I really enjoyed reading about your art journey and hope that your health is fully restored.
Hi Sharon! Thank you so much for the well wishes and kind words 🙂 You are so kind!
hey, very inspiring it is for me as i left art way back. I’ll probably start again♥️
Hi Ananya, I hope you get a chance to start again too!
Love your style, your taste for colors. And I liked your story.
robert, absolute beginner
Susan, your art is so full of expression! Thank you for sharing your artistic journey with us!