I Picked Up a Paintbrush — And Changed Everything

kateri ewing painting autumn landscape

In 2013, an evening spent playing with art supplies changed the course of my life. I was recently divorced, recovering from four years of surgeries and a long hospital stay for a MRSA infection. My beautiful children had both flown far from the nest for exciting new lives in Texas and Ukraine.

As a 49-year-old homemaker, I was suddenly faced with making my way in the world with no college degree and no real job experience. I was feeling more alone, and hopeless, than I ever had in my entire life.

A Stroke of Inspiration

But something magical happened that first night I spent painting a maple leaf from the cover of a field guide. It wasn’t perfect, but it taught me that with simple materials I could depict my world right around me, and that there was a way I could fill my time before and after my long days at an unfulfilling job.

Painting became my solace: colorful paints, paper and brushes my constant companions in a time of great loneliness and strife. I was learning a secret that so many before me already knew: the act of creating even the simplest art has great healing potential.

Unstoppable Curiosity

I painted and painted, voraciously read everything I could about watercolor, and researching artists that inspired me. Every moment of my free time, I filled sketchbooks, lost in my own comforting world, from sunrise until far too late in the night. It never stopped feeling magical to watch vibrant pigments mix and mingle on wet paper, to see a bird come to life on the page.

Over time my paintings improved and soon I started sharing my efforts with others. People loved my tiny paintings of birds, flowers and leaves, and some even wanted to buy them. In less than a year I was earning extra income from my passion for watercolor. An unexpected miracle. Yes, art was saving me.

From Student to Teacher

The real magic happened when I was asked to teach others. Me, a teacher? I was only a beginner myself! Once again I was astounded to realize that I didn’t need to be an expert, but simply to share my passion and my belief that giving ourselves even a few moments a day for a creative practice can be transformative.

Within another year’s time I was asked to teach my first class for Craftsy. How could I possibly have enough to offer? But my editors believed in me, and helped me to believe more in myself.

Spreading the Joy

Today, I’m so proud of the classes I’ve made. They’ve given me the gift of being in touch with people just like me, all over the world. People who have a dream of giving art a try. People who may not have any idea how art might transform their lives, but are just looking for a way to spend some time. People who have never believed that they were good enough to make art. But I know they are. I know what’s waiting for them, if they will only let me help them begin.

Kateri Ewing is an artist and instructor of Craftsy classes Improve Your Paintings: Luminous Watercolor Mixing, Startup Library: Painting With Watercolors and Startup Project: Nature in Watercolor.

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5 Responses to “I Picked Up a Paintbrush — And Changed Everything”


    What a heartfelt article and it’s so generous of you to share your story. I have your book on seeing better to draw better. Your art is so sensitive and gentle, reflecting what is inside of you. It’s beautiful!

  2. Nancy Cadjan

    Thank you for sharing both your talent and your story. I am 52 and have had some of the struggles you mention (including MRSA) and I just started to paint. I hope my journey heals as yours has.

  3. Denise

    What a great teacher and genuine person you are. Truly appreciate your ability to feel what it is like to be a beginner, even though you have come so far.

  4. maureen love

    I have just started with painting and have been following along with your start up class and now the nature class. Your story is inspiring, as are you classes.

  5. Pamela

    Very inspiring.