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When I first picked up a paintbrush in 1998 (on a dare!) I wanted to paint well enough to be a “photo-real” artist. Needless to say, that didn't happen! I took several workshops, classes and bought lots of "how to" books to learn the techniques of watercolour.

Although I was improving and was encouraged by more experienced artists to keep going, I was just not satisfied with the results .Then I was watching an episode of Mythbusters on TV. Adam Savage stated “ I reject your reality and substitute my own”. That is when the light bulb went on. I gave myself permission to stop trying to create the “perfect” painting and put my own spin on the work. Now I understood what Loreena Lee, one of my instructors meant when she said “You are the Goddess of your paper. If your say it is so, paint it so, then it is so.”

Armed with this new found freedom, I was free to experiment with techniques, incorporate other mediums and just generally have fun. I joined the Fraser Valley Watercolour Society in Abbotsford (now the Fraser Valley Watermedia Society). The helping hands and experience of my fellow artists widened my horizons to art. I experimented with pen and ink (love it!), coloured pencils (not so much) and many other techniques. Added white ink on black paper to my list of techniques after a frustrating session with pencils required a little experimentation with the ink. Played with YUPO paper, rice paper, photographic paper, gloss finish paper, poster board and so on. Their program of monthly demos presented by other members and workshops presented by established artists extended and expanded my abilities. I was finally convinced to try acrylic and after a dismal start with poor quality paint, I have found my favourite paints and quite enjoy the medium. I started out with florals as a good and forgiving subject to learn on and have now moved on to my first love – wildlife and animals. I have also admired abstract but confess to not fully understanding it, and how difficult it is to master.

However I am determined to learn as much as I can to make my backgrounds more interesting. I now consider myself an Impressionist painter but I still can't let go of the detail hence the need to explore abstract theory! To new and experienced artists alike, I offer the following: take as many workshops as you can, attend as many demos as possible, ask as many questions as you can. You get out of something as much as you are willing to put into it. Even if it is just one new tidbit of information – like how to clean your brushes- or a small idea that creeps into your bag of tricks, then it was definitely worth your time. Be adventurous. Use unexpected colours or techniques you have never tried before. You might surprise yourself – and remember – you are the God/Goddess of your paper/canvas so there is no right or wrong. Listen to the advice of others. It is free, you don't have to take it and you never know. It might be the spark that ignites a creative fire, or give you that inspirational kick in the backside to get painting. Pass on your knowledge freely. Even if you are just starting out, you may have come across an interesting tidbit worth sharing. If you follows the route of a workshop instructor, pass on your tips – that is what you wanted instructors to do when you took a class! Paint with an informal group of artists or a group of artistic friends on a regular basis. This gets you at the easel, allows exchange of ideas as you are working, gives you a nice outing with friends and maybe you will end up with a great painting! Never stop learning and experimenting. The spark of the unknown is what keeps it fresh. So take a deep breath, a leap of faith and enjoy yourself. It's the miles on the brush that count!!!!

Cheryl is past President of the Fraser Valley Watermedia Society and has received awards for her work. Paintings have been shown at Fort Langley Centennial Museum, Surrey Art Gallery, Langley Town Centre, Abbotsford Library, Kariton House Gallery, Mission Art Gallery to name a few venues. Works are held in private collections in Canada. She is currently a volunteer instructor at Jonanco Hobby Workshop in South Nanaimo teaching every second Wednesday.

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