Paint Wild Member of the Month September 2023: Mariam

September 2023 | Member of the Month: Mariam G @llewey1

member of the month

I am originally from Quincy, IL, but have lived mostly in California since the age of 10. I loved drawing as a child, but as happens, was pulled away from it for various reasons. As an adult, I lived for a year in Frankfurt, Germany; moved to Arizona, then back to Southern CA, where I have remained since 1979. The majority of my working years were spent with one company (my husband worked for them as well), and we retired (sort of) in 2012 when they opted to relocate to Texas. We simply could not leave our little home by the ocean. We have been putting our desire to leisurely explore the western states on hold for the past four years due to family concerns, but are hoping to jump back in once I get my knee repaired! We would also like to go back to Alaska (fell in love with it during a two week trip and have wanted to return ever since).

Once we stopped working, I felt that creative longing, and spent a while 'dabbling' in any number of crafts. But when watercolor entered my life - that was it! Emma's 'Aussie Animals' fund-raiser was a turning point for me. I have since explored and enjoyed watercolors almost exclusively, and have been painting with Emma for a few years now. I do love painting animals - birds in particular - but I love landscapes as well. I will never be a 'professional' artist, but that's not why I paint. I paint to satisfy my soul, and I love that this medium will always offer me something new to learn. Oh, mustn't forget the hummingbirds - our 'children'! Our entire outdoor area is dedicated to feeding our hummers and we are blessed to have them year round! Babies and all.

As I mentioned, I loved drawing at a young age. I did take art classes in high-school, but for many years I simply drifted in and out of different crafts and mediums (boxes full of supplies I finally donated or gave to other local artists). Zentangle was something that brought me back to feeling creative after I stopped working, and I did spend some time with colored pencils. But from there I somehow met up with watercolor. I wouldn't say it was easy - but everything about it thrilled me. It did, and still does, challenge me, but isn't that part of the allure? I don't think it will ever get boring as there are just so many wonderful possibilities. And I've only just begun to realize how much it has to offer.

Animals, landscapes, and even abstracts are appealing to me. Birds are just such a big part of my everyday, that they are a natural favorite, but really, painting any animal not only challenges me, but brings me joy. Most of my paintings are rather small - 4x6", 5x7" and on the rare occasion an 8x10". Mainly because I hate wasting paper, so small seems more logical (?). But I have recently learned that sometimes the smaller the painting, the more difficult it is to achieve your vision. And I am still learning about paint. While I love working with mixing from the primaries, I have also found a number of paints that have just grabbed me and I find myself returning to over and over again - particularly granulating pigments.

I painted a picture of a friend's puppy from a photo I saw on their facebook page. The puppy was mostly white and black, and I opted for no background. I still am learning how to have confidence in my works, but doing this one was stressful and ultimately so satisfying. I told no one that I was attempting this portrait, so there was no outside pressure; however my inner critic was running wild! I managed to ignore it (for the most part) and rely on what I had already learned. When it was done, I was more amazed than anyone. I think it renewed my desire to keep moving forward and trying to trust in what I may be capable of doing. I still lean heavily on tutorials, but have been trying to do more on my own.

When I first began painting with Emma (Aussie Animals - way back!), I had mostly been watching some you-tube videos here and there, using student grade paper and paint (as well as brushes), and was feeling overwhelmed. Painting with Emma seemed so relaxed and the lessons over the years - whether it was animals, water, whatever - have all brought me another step closer to becoming comfortable with this medium. Oh, I still make mud, overwork my paintings, and get to caught up in trying to make it 'perfect', but the Academy has taught me that sometimes the mistakes are indeed just happy little accidents that, after looking back on them, make me love the paintings even more.

If I could just whip out the perfect painting every time I sat down - well, it simply would have no meaning to me. All the emotions and desires are what really show up on the paper at the end. I can tell when I have painted something that is not interesting to me as I can see there was no love involved in it's creation. The Academy has given me the comradery of a community of like minds, all simply wanting to create for the shear joy of creating. We are kind, yet honest with one another and I believe we are all learning - not just from Emma, but from one another as well.

I would still like to learn more about landscape painting. I love loose, flowing landscapes that seem to have a mysterious life of their own. I have yet to learn the 'loosening up' part, so that's a goal. I really have no interest in selling my art. I have given some away to anyone who expressed an interest. Maybe one day I'll get bold enough to enter a painting into the county fair or something, but none of that is foremost in my mind.

I do post to Instagram and hope that someone out there gets some joy from one of my pieces from time to time, but I'm not aggressively pursuing the whole 'being seen' side of it. Again, I simply enjoy painting! (I recently lost my biggest fan, my Mother, so most of my art has returned to it's boxes. That cardinal painting was for her, but she passed just hours before I finished it - one of the reasons it is my favorite.)

I would reiterate to anyone starting out that if you truly want to learn, get yourself a few artist-grade paints as well as paper and some good brushes (finding brushes that I truly love seemed to be the biggest challenge for me). Start small, learn at least a little about color theory before you begin, and don't be afraid to just 'make a mess'! It's the best way to find out what happens when all those colors and techniques meet up.

Play with the paint and learn not to be afraid. And don't try and make a masterpiece right out of the gate. Paint a rainbow, a water droplet, a simple dandelion. Then move on to whatever inspires you. Try and get a feel for what style or type of painting appeals to you the most, and learn from those you admire. And finally - never, ever give up in frustration! Your inner critic is the worst one, so learn to slam the door on it. (Am still learning that lesson myself...)