Irit Landgraf, Watercolor Artist
Hi! Thank you for visiting my website, I'd love to tell you a little bit about my watercolor journey.
I paint with watercolor because it makes me happy. I use colors that sing to me and bring a smile to my face. The nature of watercolors suits my artist soul. Fast, immediate, unpredictable, impatient.
When I started learning to use watercolors it seemed there were many rules to this traditional medium. I have learned, embraced the good stuff and let of what didn't work for me.
I share my passion for watercolor freedom and fun on my YouTube channel and in my online courses.
I'd love to see you there!
Want to know more about me? Keep on scrolling!
A loose painting of imaginary flowers in watercolors
Hi! This is me, Irit Landgraf, a watercolor artist based in Austria
How Art Came Back Into My Life
As a creative child, I was always drawing, sketching and asking to attend art classes. But, I was also sensible and serious. I grew up with a family that valued professions which granted you a comfortable life and a reliable income. Secondary to those values, my family enjoyed hobbies. Art was a hobby.
I continued sketching and painting, but I studied math, chemistry and physics, so I could go to university and become a doctor, an engineer or, what I thought when I was in high school would be a good choice, an architect—a “sensible” profession. Conversations with my parents and grandparents led to an agreement that being an architect could satisfy a desire for creativity while remaining a “good” reliable profession.
In Israel, my homeland, a military period of service is required, and it is common to enroll after high school. In the army, I served for almost two years as an English and Chemistry teacher. It was then that I realized I really wanted to help people. Being so serious and cautious about life, I was convinced medicine was the best way I could assist others. (I probably still am convinced of this.)
I decided on medical school—six years of intensive studies. In 2004, I met my husband during a student-exchange vacation in Palermo, Sicily. He was from Austria and also a med student. We fell in love, each finished med school—he in Vienna, I in Jerusalem. He decided to move to Israel, and I started working in a hospital. We got married and had our first baby in 2009.
Not long after we became parents, we started thinking about moving to Austria. I never thought I would move away from my family, but the political situation in Israel was bothering us. It is one thing when both partners are from a troubled region, it is their home. But I felt it was unfair for my husband, who comes from a peaceful country, to live in such a turbulent place, and raise our child there. So, we moved to Austria in 2011.
With a partner who began working nights and weekends as a hospital resident, I found myself in a strange country, a town I didn’t know, not speaking the language, no friends, no job and a two-year old child. Good times.
And that is how art came back into my life.
I went from being a busy internal-medicine resident in a hectic Israeli hospital, to being a stay-at-home mom in a strange land. So, I did what any dormant creative would have done, I started watching YouTube, and began scrapbooking.
I loved documenting our lives, and the creative outlet was my therapy. I found the scrapbooking community and felt less alone. From there I found mixed media and, soon after, discovered the most magical of all mediums, watercolors.
I started a YouTube channel, for the sole purpose of finding my tribe. I began putting myself out there, hoping to find like-minded people who were as passionate about scrapbooking and mixed media as much as I was. And I did. I found real friendships and real connections that have shaped my life.
I learned German, I went back to university, and I got my MD recognized in Austria so I could work here as a doctor. But I was torn inside.
I wondered . . . .
I wondered for years: Can I really do this? Can I be a full time crafter or artist?
Can I make a living doing what I love? Art is so unreliable; it is great, for a hobby.
And, on a deeper level I wondered, is it as important as medicine? Am I not wasting my skills and the chance to truly help people in need—in sickness—for my own pleasures? Is it not self indulgent?
I would be lying if I told you I never think about those things now. But, I decided I needed to make the jump and give art making a sincere try as a career, or I would spend my life wondering. I didn’t want to wait thirty years until retirement to do what I really loved.
And so I painted. And painted. I took online classes, painted some more. And wondered. Eventually I started teaching, and opened my own online school, where I teach painting with watercolors and mixed media.
That is how I found watercolors. The story of how I truly learned to paint with watercolors is a totally different one.
How I learned to paint with watercolors as a self-taught artist:
Unlike the detailed plan I’d had when it came to learning medicine, learning to paint with watercolors was a brand new challenge. I had no idea where to start, what exactly I really needed to learn or from whom I might learn.
From online classes and from books, I sought anything I could get, and I was lucky to find some inspiring teachers. Being home with small kids in a small village meant I couldn’t easily enroll in an in-person art school. I had very little time to learn, and it had to be on my schedule.
Instructional books and online learning became great resources for me, but I became a little too focused on the details. I shopped for exactly the same supplies my teachers used, assembled color palettes that included “must have” colors, only transparent colors, only single pigment colors . . . . So many rules.
So many warnings about losing the light or making a flat painting. Only use watercolors. Always sketch. Don’t sketch. Never use white, never use black, only use primary colors, on and on.
It took me a long time to find focus and trust myself. I came to realize it is not just about techniques; it is about a state of mind. I learned flexibility and finding my own way. Technique was and is important, no doubt. But for every rule in art, there are artists that break them and still make beautiful artwork. I began rejecting teachers that only saw one way to do things, and I embraced instructors who encouraged me to go my own way and experiment.
I found myself mostly drawn to painting flowers, but also experimented with landscapes and portraits. I became somewhat satisfied with my progress. I enjoyed myself and found watercolor enchanting.
And . . . many days I felt frustrated. I had images in my head that I couldn’t translate to finished paintings. I kept on searching, hoping maybe the perfect course or technique was all that was missing. (This sort of frustration is probably the stage when many people abandon learning a new skill.) I kept wondering, when will I find my style, when will things get really good?
The reality is that getting to a point where I recognized I’d developed my own unique voice and style was a process, and I cannot fully explain it. The more I painted and the more I experimented, the more focused I became on truly enjoying what I was painting and I saw it reflected in my work.
It seems as if it took a long time. I kept working in ways I saw other artists work, because they created beautiful art, and I trusted them to show me the way. The best teachers I had did help pave the way. However, as it turns out, my way is not always their way, and that is okay.
I’m not saying I invented the wheel, but the hardest part about finding this place was throughout all of my seeking, I didn’t know anyone who was already here. I found happiness using certain colors or combinations that can defy traditional rules. I found joy in curating color stories and palettes; in sketchy lines and expressive brush strokes; in incorporating mixed-media supplies, such as pencils and pastels.
It’s now my intention to provide a place for artists of all levels searching for something in the watercolor world they feel they haven’t found yet. It may very well be similar to my own situation in that it doesn’t yet exist. Though watercolor is classic and has been around for centuries, I feel it is only in the last two decades that artists are starting to unlock so many new possibilities.
Look beyond florals, landscapes, still life and portraits. Imagine exciting new directions for intuitively painting abstract art in watercolor and other mediums.
Watercolor can be controlled, but to me, it is most beautiful when left to do its own thing.
I left the art world when I was eighteen, and found my way back in my thirties.
Prior to this return, my world was a conservative environment. My school had uniforms; the army and med school came with their own conservative dress code; my hospital work required a white coat or scrubs.
The colorful and free-spirited bohemian world I longed to be a part of was not something I ever belonged to.
Painting brought me the freedom to be immersed in color.
I hope you will also find watercolor freedom and whatever medium you choose to explore, I hope it will bring you joy and enriches your world, inside and out.