Member Spotlight

Louise McDaid

About five years ago I was looking for a creative outlet and a friend suggested I try watercolouring. I liked my job as a garden magazine editor and writer but it was mostly computer based – I felt I needed a break from that.The only type of painting I’d ever done was the home decorating variety, so I had little idea about the different mediums and styles of painting for enjoyment. Straight away I liked watercolours and the idea of embarking on a creative journey. I’ve since given up work and instead spend as much time as I can get away with on my painting pursuits!

What does painting do for you?

When I say I liked watercolours from the beginning, that was before I realised the frustration and struggles involved – with the painting and myself! It can be so tormenting at times, but the challenges and discovery are what keep me so fascinated with it. Then when a painting or a doodle turns out really well, that euphoric feeling and sense of joy is difficult to put into words. I find watercolours confounding and still a complete mystery at times – between trying different colour mixes, brushes, papers – sometimes something will work well and the next day it’s a disaster.

I wouldn’t say I find painting relaxing as many people seem to expect – but for me it is fulfilling on many levels. It makes me see and look at things differently, and it satisfies a creative desire that makes me happy. I really love painting, mostly anything to do with nature whether it’s botanical, wildlife or of the feathered variety. My inspiration is the natural world – and I share this love with my partner Tony who I live with in Sydney’s Bondi. Strange that our home is an urban apartment, but it suits us as we have many lovely parks, gardens and coastal landscapes nearby. We often go walking to said locations, usually as an excuse to visit a cafe.

Initially watercolours provided me an outlet and stress relief, but it morphed into something quite different. It’s now a part of my everyday life, even if I don’t paint I am still thinking about it – I think it touches everything I do and that is so enriching. I’m sure it makes me a better person. It also taps into a part of me that I wasn’t using. My working life has included stints in the creative fields of both floral and landscape design, which I enjoyed for a time but didn’t captivate me enough to stay with them. I now recognise what I really liked about training as a landscape designer, apart from the gorgeous array of plants, was the hand drawing of garden plans – more love for the drawing rather than the designing. So although my drawing skills were never that advanced, I’m enjoying the reconnection with that part of me and learning how to sketch better – it seems to be an integral part of my watercolouring journey.

A favorite quote:

“It’s for the love of doing and if you knew you could do it, I suppose you wouldn’t do it. It is something to do with the challenge.”

– Margaret Olley

Two quotes I like from Australian artists – the first by Margaret Olley (above) sums up in a way how I feel about painting with watercolour. The Tweed Regional Gallery has a recreation of her home studio which is fascinating to linger over – it is jam-packed (she was no minimalist) with character including jugs of flowers which she loved to paint.

This next one makes me smile because I do look at fantastic paintings and hope that one day I might be able to do something vaguely as amazing – and to think that famous successful artists think this too:

“I think everything you look at influences you in some way. To look at a painting that’s a fantastic painting, one hopes.” – Elisabeth Cummings

How does community play a role in your creative practice?

The PWM Community is my painting community. I have attended local in-person classes and they were an ideal start as a novice, but I found that I most enjoy painting at home where I can have things set up the way I like them and with no distractions around. That convenience and solitude suit me. So finding an online community was like hitting the jackpot. PWM has been and continues to be wonderful in a way that is so flexible. Being able to dip in and out whenever I have the time or inclination is fantastic. But what I have really liked is the approach to things that Susan fosters – there is so much useful information / lessons / challenges / opportunities to be involved and to share – but I never feel pressured or that I HAVE to do something. There is help and guidance available, but no judgment – this is very precious.

I also get motivation from PWM – from the consistency of the month-by-month challenges and mapping out of lessons (whether I do them at the time or revisit later – it’s just great knowing they are there), as well as the community being available when I’m having a bad day and just need to log in to listen / read / look – it is always useful. Such an interesting bunch of members who share such fun stuff!

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Supply Recommendations

Earlier this year I tried Baohong paper and really liked it – think it’s my favourite so far. I have the Artist Watercolour Paper Cold Pressed 300g/m 100% cotton, size A4 and A3 blocks, and I like the way the colours stay vibrant when dry and how it behaves (I can’t really explain why, I just like it).

I don’t have loads of good brushes as they’re expensive (and in Australia, some are not available) and I’m trying to just buy the best quality I can when I think I know the next one I want. The brushes I probably use most and love are the Silver Black Velvet Round No 16 and No 6. I recently found out a limited range of Jackson’s Art supplies are available here and have ordered online a couple of their Icon quill brushes and a dagger (which I’ve never used) so really looking forward to trying them when they arrive.​

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Geographic location:

Sydney, NSW, Australia

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Other (Creative) Outlets:

I travel quite a bit and find it hugely inspirational in terms of creative ideas, from the natural world and also the arts and foods of different places. I incorporate different spices and flavours in cooking at home.

I also garden, which on an apartment terrace has its mix of challenges, disappointments and satisfactions (somewhat like watercolouring!).

Around the same time I started painting, I also took up Zumba – which like watercolours has become an integral part of my life because it is a really fun way to exercise (for someone who doesn’t like exercising for the sake of it) and has its own creative element in watching and learning new dance routines.

Discover A New Creative Outlet