|“Yellow” by Val (Cold Wax & Oil on 10×10 inch gessobord; October 2016)
The cold wax smelled like beeswax.
Its texture smooth and creamy.
I used a palette knife to mix the wax in with the oil paints.
Little mounds like colored mashed potatoes.
Picked the gessobord up in my right hand.
Smoothed on the first layer of wax and paint with the knife in my left hand.
I felt less like painting…
|“Blue” by Val (Cold Wax & Oil on 10×10 inch gessobord; October 2016)
This was my first time working with cold wax.
I went straight to Pinterest to see what others have done with the medium.
Found a few I especially liked.
Started painting from there.
The general rule of thumb when copying from other artists is this:
It’s ok to copy.
But be sure to give credit where it’s due.
And for crying out loud, don’t sell your copied works as originals!
To the best of my knowledge, here are links pointing to the original artists:
Thank you to the artists for sharing your work and allowing me the opportunity to learn from you.
I am saved from being a complete copycat simply
Because I seem incapable of ever following through anything
according to exact instructions.
Recipes with a pinch of something added or subtracted.
Crafts with a little twist.
A weird crooked bias to every line I draw and every picture I take.
|“Red” by Val (Cold Wax & Oil on 10×10 inch gessobord; 2016)
I suppose copying others’ work is fine to start.
But you know,
My goal is to be inspired in the everyday.
By things I actually see and experience in real life.
Not just from perfectly distilled snapshots shared on the internet.
I’m going to get there.
In the meantime,
I’m expecting a whole lot more work, trial, error and yes, copying .
|“Matisse’s Cat” by Val (Oil on 11×14 canvas; 2016)
The name of painting I copied is called,
“Le Chat Aux Poissons Rouges.”
By Henri Matisse.
Confession: I found the “original” on the internet.
So in truth, who knows if I even copied from an authentic image?
It works like this:
Periodically, my oil painting teacher hands out a new syllabus.
She lists a schedule and specific exercises.
Students choose to follow the syllabus.
(One lady painted only from photos of her granddaughter for weeks on end before leaving the class).
Those of us following the syllabus have an option:
Either use the provided sample.
Or search for our own inspiration or subjects.
Everyone works from images.
(I have mixed feelings about that, but let’s just take that as a given for now).
The internet and Pinterest are my preferred way of searching for images.
|“Matisse’s Cat” by Val (11×14, oil, 2016)
I started “Matisse’s Cat” back in September.
The assignment was “Cloisonnism.”
I believe it’s a style of Expressionism?
Which (to me) translated to evoking a feeling.
And not worrying too much about realism.
You know that made me happy.
Key phrases were “black outlines,” “bright colors” and “a stained glass look.”
Initially, I thought of the Chagall windows.
But decided I wanted something more compact feeling.
Hence, Matisse’s “Le Chat Aux Poissons Rouge.”
This little cat took me a lot longer than I intended him to.
At first, I worked on him exclusively.
But I soon became distracted by other class projects.
I’d layer in a bit of “Matisse’s Cat” one week.
Set the painting aside to dry.
Forget about it another week or two.
Then drag it out & repeat the process.
There will always be room for improvement.
But I tired of him & finally pronounced him finished six months after I started.
Some random things I learned painting this cat?
White oil paint takes forever to dry.
Bristle brushes can take a beating.
Sable brushes can do what bristle brushes can’t.
So cough up the money and invest in different brushes.
Even if you get bored of it…
Even if it takes a long time…
It feels good to finish what you start.
“Matisse’s Cat” is now hanging happily in my studio.
|Yellow Sprouts by Val (Oil on 8×10 canvas; October 2016)
On Thursday mornings, I drag my art supplies to Joni’s class
I set up camp at the foot of the art table.
It’s my favorite seat in the room.
Still part of the group if I feel like talking.
But also with a nice little buffer of space around me if I don’t.
Palette on my left.
Brushes and palette knives on my right.
Easel smack in front of me.
Where it should be, of course, when I’m painting.
I’ve also discovered it’s great to hide behind on the occasional cranky morning.
When I’m in the painting zone, the talk around me is just white noise.
Sometimes, I overhear snippets of conversation I wish I didn’t have to.
Other times, I can’t help but laugh & interrupt with my own comments.
Towards the end of class,
Some of the students make a habit of “touring” the table to see what everyone is working on.
It adds a cheery lightheartedness to the morning.
I enjoy visiting with them when they reach my easel.
I like there.
At my end of the table.
|“The Lemons” by Val (Oil on 11×14 canvas; September 2016)
In Joni’s class
, every new oil painting student starts with “The Lemons.”
No get out of jail pass.
No color either.
It’s a fascinating first exercise.
The student is forced to see and paint “value” from the get go.
She can’t hide behind a slew of colors.
There is a myriad of other ideas and techniques to learn all at once.
The instructor has a chance to evaluate the new student.
She demonstrates a set of basic techniques.
Answers any questions.
Then watches what the student can and can’t do.
In case you are wondering; the class numbers ten.
New people trickle in one at a time when a spot opens.
So new students start painting in the midst of painters of all levels and experience.
And those other students?
Of course, they are doing their own things.
But you know they are also watching and listening…
Pretty damn nerve wracking for said new student.
On my first day in class,
I told Joni I’d painted in acrylics before.
I didn’t offer any other information.
Frankly, I was nervous to admit to any knowledge at all.
What if I made an ass out of myself with the oils?
We looked at each other a long moment.
She started in with her new-student-spiel.
Studied me quite seriously.
“I’m not sure what you know or what level you’re at…”
I gazed back at her.
Deer in headlights.
“I have no idea what level I’m at either. I just like to paint.”
We laughed together.
The ice was broken.
Turns out I love working in oil.
There’s a richness to it that I never found with acrylics.
I have so much to learn.
You’ll be hearing lots more about oils, class & Joni.
And watching my progress (?) as I share my paintings.
And then I just ran out of things to say?
For an entire year?
I hate to admit it.
But maybe I was… or am… or something.
Let me just get it out:
This suburbs thing isn’t working out for me.
And I’m stuck here indefinitely…
Sure, there are perks.
House. Yard. Birds chirping. Fresh air…
Blah, blah, blah.
But in the middle of all this niceness,
I have been struggling.
No, I don’t mope all day.
Nor do whinge to my friends…
(At least, I hope I don’t?)
I am not in despair.
I am overwhelmingly sleepy.
All the time.
There are days I am hard pressed to stay awake.
What does that say?
I’m fighting it.
This undefined muffled lethargy and blankness.
Most effective weapon?
It started with this oil painting class.
Once a week,
I set up my supplies at the foot of a table set for ten.
Our instructor demos a technique or two.
And we paint.
So far I’m just copying.
A work by a master.
A painting that caught my eye on Pinterest.
A photo I liked.
For now, that’s good enough.
I mix colors with my palette knife.
“Butter” some onto the canvas.
Scrape a little off.
Take a step back to see better where I’m at.
It started with the oils 6 months ago.
Slow and plodding at first.
But picking up focus, intention and the daily discipline of studio time.
About a month ago, I started dabbling with watercolors and mixed media.
This week, I decided to bring plain old drawing back into the routine.
I learned that it’s not inspiration that leads to discipline.
It’s the discipline that makes room for inspiration…
On a good day, anyway.
Other days, I curl up with my silly puppy and give into the urge to just sleep.
Art as Catharsis.
That’s probably the best way to describe it so far.
But now I’m remembering how much I drew as a kid.
That semester in high school I did an independent study in watercolors.
The NYC acrylics instructor who called me out every time I got lazy with the colors.
I’m remembering how much I love to make art.
I’m wondering where I’ll end up if I keep on this path.
I’ll stop opining now.
Going to start posting what I’ve been working on.
Some of it is decent.
Quite a few are just downright bad or ugly.
That’s just part of the process.
I’m grateful for it.
It’s good to be back.