Written by Jessica Antoinette Doré
William Blake once said, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another man’s; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” At the age of twenty, I began my business of creating: – Watercolour Heart. Mt goal is; to take special photographs and turn them into unique illustrations, turning every day into a celebration of life and creativity.
Ironically, Watercolour Heart started out as a result of a series of unfortunate events. In August 2014, my grandmother passed away. It was a pivotal point in my life, as I had never lost a loved one before. What compounded the loss, was the fact that when I started painting at the age of six, she was the one who first handed me a brush. She was a phenomenal artist, teacher and friend who coached me and inspired my curiosity and desire to create. When she passed, she bequeathed her white watercolour paint box to me. I did not open or use it until June 2015 when I suffered severe nerve damage to my left hand leaving it paralysed. I managed to push through my mid year exam exhibition with the help of my incredibly supportive friends and then left Cape Town to stay with family and start intensive therapy for my hand.
All of a sudden, I had plenty of free time, my grandmother’s watercolour paint box, and an opportunity to turn the year around. Creating is a language for me; it is how I express gratitude or affection. I use it as a means to discuss issues in everyday life, and how they can be solved through creative direction. Watercolour Heart became my language for finding a positive outcome for a difficult few months. I started using a fine liner and the paints to create a unique illustration style. After a while, I decided to poll a response from the public to my illustrations of their photographs. I could not believe the incredible response I got in a very short time. Before I embarked on my Fine Arts Degree, I completed a year of Economics at University. I have always had a keen business interest, so this was the perfect opportunity to combine the two.
I am passionate about family, personalised gifts and the beautiful moments in life that should never be taken for granted. The inspiration to start Watercolour Heart, came from a very family-orientated connection, as my parents and siblings are all talented in their fields and have an exceptionally entrepreneurial flair. We grew up in a home where hard work and determination are key elements to success, coupled with the belief that if our dreams did not scare us a little, they were not big enough. There was never a doubt in my mind that one day I would have my own business that would inspire and add value to the lives of others. I just did not imagine it would happen before I had turned twenty-one!
My love of ‘special moments’, combined with my absolute desire to find inspiration and creativity, has made Watercolour Heart, my most exciting project to date. At first, my prices were unbelievably low as I was unsure of public interest. To promote an entirely unknown brand and the artist is not an easy task. But worse than that, is the emotional risk of putting yourself ‘out there’. Orders started rolling in and the support and encouragement I received from others was overwhelming. I only used social media to market the business until I got in touch with the blogging community in Cape Town and began doing reviews and giveaways for them. The last six months have been an incredible journey, with almost 1000 likes on Facebook, a website and new ‘special moments’ popping up all the time. Watercolour Heart is also proudly Mamahood approved, which underlines how people have experienced service to be reliable, trustworthy and family friendly.
Juggling life between running Watercolour Heart and being a full-time student can sometimes be challenging. I strive to give my absolute best to both important aspects of my life, which takes time and dedication. The inspiration to keep going comes from knowing that I can contribute in a small way, by adding creativity and colour to people’s lives, and helping them celebrate their special moments. Since I started, my illustrations have been used as wedding elements, birthday and wedding gifts, as well as home decor. Customers contact me via email, as even though the illustrations are hand-drawn they are made digitally, which keeps costs down, making them very affordable. It also allows customers to email, post and share their images online and on social media. This combination of hand-drawn and digital illustration gives one the best of both worlds; the authenticity of an original, with the durability and quality of digitalisation.
I cherish every individual response from clients; nothing brings me greater joy than hearing how thrilled they are with their illustration. In a busy life, one can often become disconnected from those precious everyday moments that bring meaning and inspiring to us. I think it is vital that we take heed of the little moments that may seem insignificant, and preserve them, because later, we may realise, those were the significant moments after all. Having recently been asked to take part in a charity event, I truly believe in the power of creativity bringing people together. I hope to use Watercolour Heart not only as a business to create unique illustrations but also as a platform to inspire the value of expression and using imaginative and artistic direction to uplift, support and encourage the surrounding community.
If I can take the last few months as a yardstick, I am so excited for Watercolour Heart’s future. The long-term goal is to create a reliable, accessible and affordable platform for people to access creativity in a unique and extraordinary way in their daily lives. At the moment, the business is limited to digital illustrations. However, I see Watercolour Heart developing into an online decor and gifting shop, combined with the use of personalised illustration. Equipped with a fine liner, a watercolour paint box and a passion for creating anything is possible!
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