We just finished shooting a video workshop with watercolorist Shuang Li (get on the VIP list here). Looking at Shuang’s work, you can’t help but get a sense of the water in watercolor. You probably wouldn’t be surprised to find out that her professional training began as early as 15 or 16. However, you might be surprised that this award-winning watercolorist didn’t discover watercolor until much later in her artistic journey.
“Because I got all this academic training in China in the 70s,” explains Shuang, “I was told no watercolor at all because that was considered a non-professional medium.”
Shuang realizes now it was probably because the pigments at the time weren’t as good as they are now, but the result was that Shuang painted everything from oils to pastels “but watercolor was never on my list.”
Everything changed when she came across the book “Learn Watercolor the Edgar Whiteny Way.” (Whitney, by the way, is a huge influence to John Salminen as well.)
“I looked at this book,” she says, “and realized that this is what I wanted to paint...I just saw the possibility of painting watercolor the way I wanted it.”
She began chasing down every painter in the book. If they had them, she read their books and took classes with the artists who were still teaching.
But even though she was hopeful about the newfound medium, she was frustrated.
“I pretty much had to relearn everything because the process was pretty much the reverse from the oil painting perspective.”
In watercolor, you save your whites and work light to dark. In oil, an opaque medium, you work dark to light. That reverse-thinking was a challenge.
“The first five years of doing watercolor was pretty much a struggle to get my mindset reversed.”
Eventually, it happened. Her thinking reversed and she began to learn to let watercolor do what it does. “It’s effortless,” she says. “If you let it do it. That’s the key.”
Since discovering watercolor, Shuang has earned her signature membership to the National Watercolor Society, San Diego Watercolor Society, and Watercolor West just to name a few. She also teaches all over the country and world.
“I wouldn’t go back to paint oil because watercolor is magic,” she says. “It gave me the freedom to paint how I wanted to paint.”
Get updates on Shuang Li’s video workshop and a discount code when it comes out by getting on the VIP list here.
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