Becoming an Artist: What does it take?

If I’m interested in creating a painting career and becoming an artist, what does it take? This is a difficult question to answer.  One reason I wrote all this information to share was to jot down some thoughts, shuffle them around in my mind, and see whether this might lead to some useful answers. This subject, of course, is a very personal matter.  Each artist will have a different answer.  But some discussion about it may help you come up with an appropriate response.

Click to Purchase: “Fishing Boats, Morro Bay, CA”

I will discuss career issues, how to accomplish and present a painting, but I will also discuss other aspects of an artist’s life. Then I’ll suggest some ways you can share your experience with others.

You’re most likely reading this to learn how I became a watercolor artist.  So let me begin by telling you a bit about my career.


Painting and drawing, in particular, are things I’ve been involved with all my life.  I was introduced to them very early by my father who was, like me, an architect.  We were both trained in the “beaux arts” tradition at architecture school.  In those days architects were expected to be skilled in presentation techniques: watercolors, goache, pencil, ink, drawing freehand, executing two-dimensional work and perspectives.  I had a solid background in these areas as well as in the history of architecture and art. And my experience working over 40 years as an architect also provided me opportunities to develop my skills as an artist.

My father was an accomplished draftsman, but also a watercolorist in his own right.  He, of course, did a lot of “drawing” in his office, but he was not a renderer, per se.  “Rendering” has to do with the execution of three-dimensional illustrations of a building design.  There are people who specialize in this line of work. Though I did a number of renderings during my career, I was not a professional renderer.  And though I practiced architecture for a number of years, I eventually ended up doing something quite different… managing a unique energy conservation consulting practice.

With respect to painting, I learned a great deal from my father. He used to take me out painting with him when I was very young. He was very orderly in the way he developed a painting, as he was with most everything in life.  He was a realist; and I guess to a large extent, so am I.  I’ve done a few abstractions on occasion, but you can certainly tell what I was attempting to portray!

Click Picture to Purchase: “Cherry Blossoms, Mission San Fernando; 15×22”

Many artists are not able to do much painting until later in life. My career as an architect kept me in touch with art, but I was too occupied with the technical and business aspects to actually produce much art.  I did some painting, but it was only on occasion.  I got where I am now by focusing and working hard on my painting career later in life. But if I’d taken this route earlier, most likely I’d have achieved the same results sooner!  I often wonder what kind of work I might have produced if I’d devoted my entire life to becoming an artist.


The advantage of being a young artist is that you have much longer to enjoy the rewards of your efforts. At my age, there’s a limit to how many more years I’ll be able to paint.  What I’m trying to say is… start your painting career by becoming a successful artist as early as you can!  Don’t put it off any longer than necessary!

Douglas Stenhouse also wrote a book about watercolor painting.

“I decided to write about how I paint, not only to share my observations with others, but also, frankly, to do some self- examination. I wish I had done this earlier in my life! But then, how was I to know I’d benefit from doing so, certainly at a time when I had no aspirations of becoming a professional artist.” 

To learn more about Doug’s Watercolor Painting Book, click here. To purchase a signed copy, use the link below.

Douglas Simms Stenhouse, watercolor artist, transparent water color art, watercolor painter, painting with water colors