Here is the next of inspiring interviews with creatives who reveal exciting details of their journey and what it took to make things happen.
It is a great honour to give you Charlie O’Shields - a Creative Director, Storyteller, Producer and founder of Doodlewash®, World Watercolor Group™ and World Watercolor Month™ (July).
I learned about Charlie thanks to an
interview on CassArt (my favourite art suppliers in the UK ) and I immediately fell in love with his work. After looking some more at his professional profile, it turns out he is a true example of a thriving creative, having
explored the roles of a playwright, screenwriter, copy writer, actor, singer, graphic designer, set designer, costumer, packaging designer, editorial cartoonist, game designer, programmer, dance
instructor and violinist - not necessarily in that order.
As we are only a short while before July, I am most excited to have Charlie share a bit more about his World Watercolor Month™ initiative and what led him to where he is today.
NB: As Charlie is an American, I am keeping the original spelling in official brand names.
Hello, Charlie! Thank you so much for agreeing to take part in Just How Cool Is That?!, the website for creatives to share and learn about the Journey behind the scenes!
Doodlewash® all started with your curiosity for the newly “discovered” watercolour medium only to kick-start the world’s largest watercolour community. What was the key to this tremendous success? How can one become a part of the community?
Charlie O'Shields (Charlie):
Thanks so much for having me here!
I think the key to success has been the type of watercolour community that I wanted to form. It’s completely open to anyone and everyone who uses watercolour in their art.
Many groups were formed around the concept of “how” people use the medium, which is cool, but then not everyone gets to play. The little kid in me always wants everyone to be able to join in!
You can join in with the community by simply tagging your work #WorldWatercolorGroup on social sites, joining us in our Facebook Group, or jumping into our newest little watercolour club right on Doodlewash®!
You set up monthly challenges for
watercolourists, giving them daily ideas for inspiration. How is World Watercolor Month™ different and how can
I join in?
The monthly challenges are a way to keep people excited about painting and giving them optional prompts to try throughout the month. World Watercolor Month™ in July is the official celebration and a 31 watercolours in 31 days challenge.
It’s a chance to jump in and paint daily with people from all over the globe!
All you have to do is add the #WorldWatercolorMonth hashtag to every piece of watercolour art you post on social media (a global gallery of tagged work can be found here) or in the groups I mentioned above!
Why did you decide on July as a World Watercolor Month? Why not another month?
Any month is a perfect month for watercolour! True!
I was coming up on my first year anniversary of painting with watercolour. I began July 3, 2015 and I still remember the feeling when I first watched that paint swirl around on the paper. My enthusiasm led me to launch Doodlewash® and spread the word about just how cool watercolours are the next day and then found World Watercolor Month™ the following year.
Stories are an essential part of your Doodlewashes. As if the illustrations are a mere pretext to unlock a whole unexpected journey serving us a slice of life. Have you thought of
publishing a book with your Doodlewash® illustrations and stories?
Oh, I’d love to do that someday!
I tend to ramble on about whatever comes to mind, but a story of some kind does manage to emerge most times.
I’ve thought about collecting the best bits and pulling them together into a book, but simply haven’t had the time to do it yet.
I do think my writing is a bit part of my art. And what’s stranger still is that my word count on my blog is now the equivalent of two full novels. Wait, that’s probably what makes compiling them so daunting now that I think about it!
How do you choose the featured artists on your blog? What criteria do they need to meet?
I either hand pick artists I see online or artists can contact me directly and request a feature.
The only criteria is that the artist is actively painting with watercolour and that they have a website or social media account of some kind where they share their work regularly so people can see more!
What’s a bit different about Doodlewash® is that I feature artists who are just starting out alongside master painters. I feel that every artist has something to teach us and it’s wonderful to learn about their journey, even when it’s just at the very beginning.
You have a whole load of skills and talents. How do you view broad creative spectrum as opposed to narrow specialization – what are the pros and cons? How do you find balance between
your many interests?
I think it’s always good to have a lot of various creative endeavours. Each one informs the next and makes each richer with better ideas.
I do think it’s possible to have a bit too many creative things going at once and I’m guilty of that quite a lot. I think that’s why when it comes to painting I chose to specialize in watercolour only. The more you do something, the better you get, so you’ll always be best at that creative thing which is given the most time to blossom.
We are lead to believe that haters are everywhere, especially in the online world. Have you faced harsh criticism, claiming your technique of blending pens and paint is not “right”
(or something else)?
When I started it was all lovely supportive comments and it mainly still is.
I don’t have many haters, but I do get a lot more critiques and suggestions than when I started. Constructive criticism is awesome! But yeah, my style doesn’t always fit into a single group, so that’s why I started my own and just accepted all styles of watercolour!
Your main objectives in this project are having fun, experimenting, exploring, celebrating the medium and un-following the rules – until you adopt a certain style which works best for you. Is this how you approach all of your creative activities?Charlie:
Pretty much! Hehe… I think I live my entire life by my “DO” manifesto (below). There’s such a fear of failure when it comes to trying new things, but I’ve learned that the regret of not trying something is the worst thing of all.
So, I say, “DO!” and let your inner critic run off to have a cup of tea while you have a lot of fun!
Give me an example from your practise when you managed to turn failure to success:
What compromises did you have to make? Did it turn out better or worse than you initially imagined? What were the learning outcomes?
That’s a bit of a tough question.
In many ways, I feel like being a creative person is all about failing and then failing some more before you break through to something awesome. I’m not sure there’s a single failure that stands out above the thousands I’ve experienced in my life.
I think the compromise is always that things never quite turn out exactly like you envisioned.
The cool part is, they’re often even better!
I’ve learned to start with a vision, but then let it morph into what it wants to become naturally. I don’t try to force my ideas to work in the way I initially thought they should. I just let them develop into what they want to become. Some are definitely bigger and better than others, but every idea that I try feels like a bit of a success just because I actually made it happen.
How do you picture yourself in 5-years time? What would the World Watercolor Group and World Watercolor
Month™ ideally look like by then?
Wow! In 5 years? That seems so far away, so I guess I would hope that first, everyone on the planet who loves watercolour would have heard of us and joined in!
And most of all, I just hope that the community, and the wonderful connections it creates for artists, continues to grow and thrive. It can be rather lonely on an art journey. It’s nice to find people you can interact, with in a safe space, who love what you love.
What is your final message to anyone reading this?
I hope anyone who loves watercolour, or has ever considered trying it, will join us throughout the month of July in celebrating World Watercolor Month™!
And if you have a creative dream of any kind that’s been rattling around in your heart, then don’t wait to pursue it. There’s really no time like the present to chase your dreams. It’s the only way they’ll ever come true.
So my ultimate message is always summed up in that one little word: DO!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions! Good luck on World Watercolor Month™!
My ultimate message is always summed up in that one little word: DO!
Charlie O'Shields Today
· I’m attempting to go ink-free for my recent work and diving right in with watercolour. My pens will return though at some point, as otherwise they’ll get too lonely.
My main current focus and responsibilities are overseeing awesome packaging projects as Creative Director of Venn49 Creative Lab, and keeping my daily painting and writing habit going each evening before dinner.
Upcoming stuff: Gearing up for World Watercolor Month™ in July and starting a
full social community, currently called Doodlewash Club, right on my
site where artists can share watercolour paintings in lovely chronological order and interact without distractions.
People can reach me via Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or send me a note through the contact form.
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