Ever have this thing where you don’t know what you’re looking for, but you absolutely know it when you see it?
That’s exactly what happened when I spotted Deidre Wicks’s charming animal paintings on Pinterest recently.
Cerebral dogs and cats wearing glasses! Birdies balancing on the edges of pretty china teacups! Other animals decked out in derby hats, bowties, berets, and tutus, some blowing bubbles, others stealing cupcakes! And a good number of them with mustaches :).
Since Deidre’s watercolors got me right where I live, I had to find out more about her work. A fashion design major from Toronto, Canada, Deidre was unhappily working as a pattern drafter when she decided to follow her passion for illustration.
She’s an ardent animal lover living with two dogs and two cats who happily keep her company and provide endless inspiration for her drawings. I love the blend of realistic animals + whimsy + humor. Each of her paintings tells a story and you just can’t help but smile when you see them.
Deidre sells originals, archival prints, t-shirts and other goodies at her Etsy Shop — and yes, she takes custom orders. I thank her for visiting Alphabet Soup today along with Schaffer, Bronie, Orange Peel and Tina.
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♥ MEET DEIDRE WICKS ♥
Name of shop or business: Water In My Paint
Year established: 2010
Items you make: Original animal watercolours and prints
Studio Location: Toronto, Canada
Three words that best describe your art:
Happy, whimsy, animals!
Self taught or formal training?
A bit of both. I went to Fashion School and was taught the art of fashion illustration while there. We actually had to take a lot of drawing classes. The amazing thing about fashion illustration is that it’s a bit about technique and a lot about experimentation. I learned how to paint animals by just practicing (and practicing and practicing!).
Tools of the Trade:
Arches 140 lb watercolour paper and the best quality brushes and paint that I can afford. I can’t stress how important quality paper, paints and brushes are for watercolour painting.
Inspirations and influences:
Well I’ve always loved Tasha Tudor and Sara Midda. I love illustration in general, more so than fine art if I’m honest, so I’m constantly being inspired by great illustration of all types. Oh and I really love Canadian cartoonist Seth.
Three significant milestones in your career:
#1: Opening my store on Etsy in April 2010. Before that I’d never sold my work so I had no idea if anyone would even buy my paintings. It was terrifying!
#2: Showing my work at the One of a Kind Christmas Show last November. This was the first time I actually met and talked to my customers in person. It was a great experience.
#3: Finishing my very first set of illustrations for a children’s book. A steep learning curve but now I’m hooked on the process.
*Click on any image for full size Carousel view:
Food that inspires your best work:
Anything made with sugar! Donuts, candies, cookies, cupcakes and cakes just to name a few. With hot cups of coffee and tea stirred to the mix. In other words all the good things in life.
My coffee swilling squirrels are always popular. My best selling print is a llama wearing heart-shaped glasses.
What is your earliest memory of being creative? What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something. My parents called me the Cut and Tape Girl and supplied my creative habit with tape, glue, paper and crayons. Sadly glitter was not allowed.
Your paintings are a wonderful blend of realism and whimsy. Besides using your own dogs and cats as models, what other references/resources do you find most helpful when drawing animals?
I use any number of sources including my own and my neighbours’ pets, vintage photographs, old magazines, personal photos, etc. Usually each painting is a blend of different references. The internet can be helpful too.
“The Daredevil,” featuring a robin balancing on the rim of a teacup, was the painting that initially piqued my interest in your work. What is the story behind it?
I have a rather large collection of vintage teacups and the one in that painting is my very favourite. I painted that watercolour around the time that a real life daredevil had crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope and the idea of a daredevil robin just popped into my head.
Discuss your process by using a popular item from your shop as an example.
I always start a new original watercolour with an idea first. Often I can already see the painting in my head before I even start to sketch it. I know that many watercolour artists just do a light sketch but I prefer to have a fairly detailed sketch finished before I start to paint. Then it’s just about switching on some music and starting to paint.
Love your food paintings! What do you especially like about painting sweets?
I come from a long line of women who have a serious sweet tooth so I think about baked goods a lot I guess! Truthfully though sweets have great texture and colour and are fun to paint.
Describe your studio. How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity?
Well I’d be lying if I said I really had a proper studio at the moment. In reality I work out of a corner of the basement under a window that gets a good amount of natural light. My dogs are always at my feet and the cats make an appearance when they want something. When I’m working I always have the radio or my ipod playing. I also love to listen to audiobooks.
*Click on any photo for Carousel view featuring Deidre’s pets, Tina (Snoodle), Schaffer (Shepherd mix), Orange Peel (Tabby), and Bronie (black cat):
I just heard you recently illustrated your first children’s book! Tell us more about it and what you learned from the experience.
I had always wanted to tackle a children’s book but it wasn’t until author Magdalena Zenaida asked me if I’d be interested in illustrating her second book that I got the chance. It’s a charming lullaby story about a snow fairy that gently puts the world to sleep. It was a lot of work, more than I’d anticipated to be honest, but it was well worth the effort. In fact I’ve already written my own book and plan to start the illustrations in the New Year.
What are some of your favorite children’s books? Have any particular characters inspired your art?
Oddly enough I was read to a lot as a child but I never really had a favourite book. I do remember loving Where the Wild Things Are and Good Night Moon. As an older child I had this storybook called “Alone is No Fun” and another book about an old, ratty dollhouse that gets displaced by a big, shiny new one. I still have that book. I also adored the Where’s Waldo books. I still have my set and have spent hours with my nephew pouring over the illustrations.
How do you chart your growth as an artist? How do you define success?
I still feel like I have a lot to learn as an artist. My actual technique could improve but I also must master the art of marketing and selling my work. I guess those are things you can always improve. Maybe when I have a bit more money in the bank I’ll feel like I’ve succeeded!
What do you like best about the creative life?
I love working for myself and being able to lose myself in a project on my own time and in my own way. I’m an unrepentant night owl so if I want to stay up all night to finish a painting I can.
Any new projects you’re especially excited about?
That new children’s book I mentioned earlier that will be both written and illustrated by myself. I’d like to direct my art more into the world of books and publishing. I’m also planning to open a second Etsy shop that stocks just t-shirts printed with my illustrations.
I’ll once again be participating in The One of a Kind Show in Toronto this November. It’s Canada’s biggest and best craft show with over 850 juried vendors.
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♥ Water in My Paint Etsy Shop (most of the paintings featured in this post are available for purchase)
♥ Click here for more info about The Snow Fairy by Magdalena Zenaida and Deidre Wicks
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Copyright © 2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.