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  • Sheryl Brake

Follow Your Heart: Paint What You Love and Love How You Paint

In my late teens my dad introduced me to watercolors and ever since I have dreamt of becoming an artist and painting loose, watery landscapes in watercolor. Afterall, that's what watercolor artists do, right?

35 years later, when I finally got around to following that dream, I discovered that those idealistic loose, watery landscapes were not my thing. I struggled with painting loose and wasn't really happy with my paintings. Disappointed in my work, I searched for classes - both online and locally. It was when I took some courses at a local atelier school, that I discovered my love for realism, aka representational art.

Still life of white dinner napkin with reflective colors in purple, blue and orange.
"Dinner for One" - Palette Knife Painting in Oil by Sheryl Brake (Available)

Courses in life-drawing, anatomy, portraiture and others, energized my interest in the realism style. Realism, as the name suggests, captures life and the natural world in the form of a realistic representation.

Capturing the curvature of the arm, the sparkle in eyes, or the bounced light and color on a white napkin were challenging, exciting and intriguing.

I had done most of my course work in graphite, charcoal, and oil, before the pandemic hit and closed the atelier for good. I didn't realize it at the time, but I had already started down the path to becoming a representational artist having already painted representational pieces in watercolor.

Yet, I still felt the "need" to "loosen up", have lost and found edges and paint like a "watercolor artist." I felt my work looked too graphic and so I continued to take courses with various artists in search of what I thought was the right way to paint.

Then I discovered two particular modern-day artists whose work so impressed me that took courses from them. Canadian artist, Brittney Tough and American artist, Matthew Bird. Both these artists paint bold, beautiful paintings in a realism style. It wasn't until I painted with these highly skilled representational artists, that I realized that I had unknowingly found my style.

Above: Examples of my work and work in process, from lessons taken with representational artists Brittney Tough and Matthew Bird.

What I learned from my time with these artists was this:

  • There is no one way to paint in watercolor,

  • That watercolor paintings don't have to be loose and watery,

  • To paint what I loved, and most importantly,

  • To love how I paint

Since, this realization, I have learned to embrace my style and I enjoy every time I sit down to paint. And although I may be a realist, it is not my intent to paint a painting that looks like a photograph. My goal is to enjoy the process of capturing life's details in such a way that others might enjoy them as much as I do.

So, in whatever you do - follow your heart and know it is the right thing to do.

With a grateful heart - Sheryl


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