Featured Artist Alisa Shea

Artist Alisa Shea’s masterful watercolors fairly leap off the page with her attention to detail and texture. See more of her artwork by visiting her website.

 

Watercolor painting of a detailed close up of the spines of record covers by Alisa Shea

“It’s Only Rock & Roll” Watercolor, 39” x 19”

 

I like to joke that I had a mid-life crisis because my dramatic career change came just shy of my 40th birthday. It was really a crisis I’d been having since the age of 18; it just took me that long to work up enough courage to change direction.

 

Watercolor painting of a close up detail of a saxophone by Alisa Shea

“Jazz is Jazz” Watercolor, 20” x 22”

 

Making art was the only thing I wanted to do for as long as I can remember. Growing up, this passion was encouraged, but less so as I began to approach adulthood. I applied and was accepted as a student in fine arts at the university of my choice, but before I could even set foot on campus, my parents got cold feet and insisted that I change course. As an 18-year old kid whose parents were still writing the checks, I went along with their plan to study occupational therapy instead of art, not fully appreciating the impact of this decision. Not surprisingly, I found myself unhappy with OT very quickly. However, convinced that art was no longer an option, I continued working in the health field for many years.

 

Watercolor Painting of a close up of mason jars filled with honey sticks by Alisa Shea

“Catch More Flies (Honey Sticks at the Tea Shop)” Watercolor, 19” x 15”

 

But then my husband was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. Our sitter became wildly unreliable. I felt like I was juggling chainsaws trying to manage my demanding job with two young children and no stable support system. Amidst this chaos, I finally sat down to do the math and realized that after childcare expenses, my salary was barely enough to cover our monthly grocery bills. On top of that I was deeply unhappy, so I quit my job in the fall of 2013.

 

Watercolor painting of a basketball trophy lying on laundry by Alisa Shea

“Tired of Winning” Watercolor, 18” x 24”

 

Shortly after I quit my job, I signed up to take a six-week Watercolor Kindergarten for Adults class at my local art league because I wanted to start my foray back into creativity with something challenging and new. Watercolor was a medium I knew absolutely nothing about and found completely intimidating, so it seemed like a logical place to start.

 

Watercolor painting of a post with three dog collars on it titled "In Memoriam" by Alisa Shea

“In Memoriam” Watercolor, 20” x 20”

 

I could write a whole essay about why I love watercolor, but it’s the medium’s less sexy qualities that I probably appreciate the most. I can start and stop at random intervals, and there’s virtually no clean-up. With two busy school-aged children and a needy bulldog, my ability to sit down and paint uninterrupted for long stretches of time is extremely limited.

 

Watercolor painting of the peeling paint on a house by Alisa Shea

“Painted Lady” Watercolor, 10.5” x 14”

 

Like many artists, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since early adulthood. Arguably, spending two decades trying to ignore my creative side only exacerbated those issues. Conversely, I’m an infinitely happier person now that I’ve allowed myself to start indulging those needs. When I’m working on something, I think about nothing else. I have zero anxiety and it is glorious. Time passes in the blink of an eye.

 

Watercolor painting of several cut glass salt cellars by Alisa Shea

“Worth My Salt” Watercolor, 20” x 20”

 

l’ve always been a sucker for intricacy and tedious detail. Anything less simply doesn’t provide me with that same immersive, focused experience that I crave.

 

Watercolor painting of a close up of baby grand piano strings by Alisa Shea

“Requiem for a Baby Grand” Watercolor, 14” x 19”

 

With watercolor, I have to do much more problem solving, figuring out how to save my whites and in what order I should approach the various components and layers of my subject. I have less ability to correct for errors. These additional challenges amplify the level of concentration required. That only enhances the experience of flow and enjoyment for me.

 

Watercolor painting of a snuff jar by Alisa Shea

“Up to Snuff” Watercolor, 16” x 20”

 

I also push myself to paint things that intimidate me because the payoff in the end is just so good. Sometimes when I’m done I’ll put my finished painting on the fireplace mantle and stand across the room to evaluate, and I can hardly believe that I’m the one who painted it. It’s the most gratifying feeling ever.

 

Artist Alisa Shea invites you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

 

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