Christel- Thank you for creating this interesting thread. It's great to know everyone's art inspiration. My story is simple and goes like this:
I was born and raised in a small town located in the far-western region of Nepal. As a kid, I liked to draw, mostly with pencils, crayons, and some watercolor. I didn't receive any proper training on art; there were not any resources available for it in my town. However, my first inspiration came from one person in our town. He was homeless but he had got an artistic talent. He went to everyone's house begging for money and food. He often came to our place and my father asked him to draw something, and I watched him doing so. He drew line arts and was very good at drawing portraits of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. I learned the very basics of portrait drawing by watching his live work. I started drawing portraits of my father's friends and other relatives who came to visit us. But again that was all line drawing and I tried to capture unique features of the subjects to get some likeness in the drawing. I remember my father's maternal uncle came to visit us every winter and he asked me to draw his portrait. He used to be my favorite person for portrait drawing because of his big curly mustache covering his mouth and cheeks pretty well. I knew I could capture his likeness very well if I did his mustache correctly. He loved it anyways and always rewarded me with a bottle of fresh honey that he harvested.
Time went on, I got into high school, my interest in art was put to the side. I had to think about my career. Painting was not considered as a career. Soon I grew interest in science, specially physics, then went to engineering school, and became an electrical engineer. I came to US in 2007 as a grad student and settled here. Life went super fast after I moved here. Full-time job, family, kids, mortgage, etc., a busy and rushed American lifestyle.
In 2017, I visited an art exhibition from some local watercolorists. I was amazed to see their inspiring artworks. That was a trigger and I rediscovered my old childhood passion for art. I tried watercolor first, and did some paintings using line and wash techniques. I watched lots of Peter Sheeler's line and wash tutorials on YouTube. I had some success with it but not much. Some of it had to do with my limited knowledge of color theory and lack of practice with brush handling. Because I was good at pencil drawing, I thought I might have a better control over strokes with something that I can grasp tightly in my hand while painting on a surface. I was right. Soft pastels worked really well for me. But I had to stop working with them soon as my kids are allergic to dust. Then I started exploring oil pastels. I immediately liked their simplicity and portability, but I didn't know where to begin with and wasn't sure what I could achieve with this medium as it was hard to find good books/resources/works published on oil pastels. It's only after I discovered the oil pastel works of David Berridge, Mary, and Rich's on the internet that I was convinced that one could create incredible artwork with this medium. Then I joined WetCanvas, a fantastic place to learn painting. I learned from other artists' works posted in this forum, and more from their feedback.
I am not seeking to be a full-time artist anytime soon, may be after I retire from my current profession. I am still a beginner but I enjoyed painting a lot and want to continue it as a hobby for now. Landscape is my favorite subject. I find endless fascination with nature's complexity and get immense pleasure and satisfaction from painting nature. As others have said, creating art is a therapeutic process, I agree and it helps me keep both hemispheres of my brain active and be creative at everything I do.
At last, I would like to share some of my old sketches.
This one was a trial sketch I created on my notebook on the night before I had an art contest in school. The actual painting was kept at school, and got lost eventually. It says 'Napoleon's grand army on its way back from Russia'. I drew this art after we had a history lesson on Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Please don't be fooled by the date (2050/5/17) printed on it, that's in Nepalese calendar. The corresponding English date is Aug 1, 1993.
This is my portrait from 1995 using pencil and watercolor.
This is my nephew's portrait using pencil from 2004.