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Amanda Schwabe

I'm a painter and knitter who's inspired by moments of beauty within a messy life. I have lived with ADHD all my life (not knowing what it was until recently), and getting diagnosed and properly treated was a game changer for me.

I grew up in a home full of crafts. My mother was always setting me up with little projects to keep me happy and busy, and she kept a giant roll of paper in the kitchen closet for full-body tracing and colouring. 

One of my favourite places when I was a kid was my grandpa's studio. It was off-limits unless he was supervising us, and I relished the chances to go in there and peer into all his little cubbies and shelves full of supplies for stained glass, pottery, photography, and other mysteries.

After high school, I drifted. I went to Sheridan College for a one-year art program, but my brain had a meltdown. Back at home again and aimless, I learned to knit. I thought maybe art was a better hobby than a career, so I switched to studying linguistics at a different school. My brain had another meltdown. I went home midway through my first year there. 

I struggled through the next years with depression and the feeling that I wasn't cut out to be an adult with a "real" job. I felt like I was full of potential that I was wasting. I worked at a bookstore (which I loved), I got married, we started to have babies, and I happily volunteered to be a stay-at-home mom. Finally! A purpose. 

I missed drawing and painting, but have you ever tried to paint with a toddler in the room? I was mostly too exhausted to paint during nap times. But I could knit! When I needed creativity, or calm, I could always knit.

Knitted art installation at the Canadian War Museum, with me pausing to be silly

I started to write and publish my own knitting patterns, and then I got a job teaching knitting at a yarn shop. The kids were bigger, and I loved teaching and designing. I missed painting, and I tried it now and then; sometimes it was fun, and sometimes I felt so blocked and frustrated that I became afraid to do it.

You may have guessed what happened next: I got properly diagnosed with ADHD, and properly treated. I realized my painting block wasn't so much from fear or perfectionism, but from my brain's disregulation. It had been changing channels on me, without my permission, mid-painting session! Gradually, I knew I could begin a high-focus task and expect that my brain could handle it. I decided to take a few classes from local artists to brush up on my skills.

And now, here we are. I've been painting steadily the last few years, trying new techniques and colour mixes, working to make paintings I could be happy to show in public. I'm still learning as I go, and I will be learning to master painting forever because there's always more to try. 

I hope you'll join me on my painting journey. I've sold a few pieces and painted some commissioned portraits, and I'm getting my feet under me. You can even find some of my works at Electric Street Gallery in Ottawa, Canada! It's early days yet, but there are many more years of painting to come. 

What can you expect from me in the future? All I can tell you for sure is that I love painting people; I'm a portrait artist at heart. My still lifes are all painted in the pursuit of improving my portraits, but now that I know pears are surprisingly fun, I'll be doing more fruit.

My style so far is colourful, a mix of realism and expressive brush strokes. I love close-ups and sunlight and a good turquoise blue. 

Thanks for stopping by!