Painter Sheila Underwood works with watercolors, silk dye and persistence
Sheila Underwood didn’t think she’d become an artist when she started painting. She threw out most of her work for a while as she learned the craft.
In fact, she says she’s still growing and improving — and she loves the process.
She was an interior designer when a painter hired her. The two became friends, and Mrs. Underwood was inspired by her work.
“I told her I want to paint more than anything in the world,” she said. “I just struggled with it and painted some horrible things.”
She learned from her friend and took a watercolor class weekly. After some persistence, she began creating pieces she was proud to display.
“It took me a while. I threw away a lot of stuff,” she said. “I would do some work that I liked and that I was excited about and six months later, I’d look at it and say ‘that’s awful.’”
She painted a large piece for her daughter’s home and a year later, snatched it off the wall to paint a better version.
Her daughter is an enthusiast for her work. During an annual studio tour, her daughter rings up sales while her granddaughter wraps up the artwork for customers.
Mrs. Underwood’s paintings are displayed in three galleries: Gallery Los Olivos, Park Street Gallery and Gallery by T&T.
One of her distinctive talents is her ability to paint on silk. She participated in a silk painting workshop eight to 10 years ago and ordered all the supplies the next day.
She starts by stretching her silk on a frame that pulls it tight. Then she outlines her desired border with a material called gutta to keep the silk dye from spreading.
Once the painting is finished, she wraps it in muslin and steams it for two hours. Then she irons out any wrinkles.
She works on about six pieces at a time so she can paint whatever inspires her each day. She often doesn’t know what she’ll paint until she walks into her studio.
“I practically live in my studio. I have a big two-room studio with glass all around,” she said. “It’s an exciting place to be.”
When she and her husband decided to build a home, she designed her studio with windows all around. She looks out on her garden and is inspired by the beautiful blooms outside.
“This COVID thing hasn’t bothered me; I enjoy staying home and painting,” she said. “As soon as I get into my studio and turn on my music, I’m raring to go.”
She doesn’t mind isolating at home, where she can spend her time painting and walking her dog.
“When you have something you’re doing that you enjoy, you don’t really mind not being able to go out,” she said.
She took an eight-week workshop over Zoom to improve her watercolor skills and have fun practicing.
“You never stop growing,” she said.
She can’t choose a favorite painting. She always likes her latest piece the most, constantly improving the result while enjoying the time she spends in her studio.