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Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Whipping out an oil painting
I thought I knew what I was getting into when I signed up for a Community Education Oil Painting class for beginners and intermediates.
I took a lot of art classes in high school, majored in art and communications in college and have always enjoyed art.
I thought, how hard can it be? Sure, I've never worked in oil but my son-in-law does beautiful work in the medium and he makes it look easy.
I picked out a picture, bought the paints and medium and brushes listed on the class supply list and headed out.
My first clue that perhaps I was in over my head came when I noticed that most of the people around me were planning to paint the apple and the orange and the banana on the table.
One lady was painting a vase.
I showed the teacher my picture, a landscape picture of two moose wading through a beautiful mountain lake with reflections in the water, trees on both sides and gorgeous, rugged mountains providing the backdrop.
She did a double take.
"Well," she said, "That's ambitious."
I plowed ahead.
First, we had to tone the canvas. I whipped out my Burnt Sienna and painted. Then I whipped out my rags and wiped it down. Even after serious wiping, my canvas was now a bright orange.
I came back the next week and tried painting the sky using a blue paint my teacher later told me was better suited to abstract and modernistic studies.
My teacher helped me tone it down.
Then I tried the water and again, the blue I'd chosen was way too bright.
Over the next few weeks, I learned a lot.
When working with oil, one works in layers and slowly. The paint has to dry and one works backwards.
After several weeks of hauling a painting in and out that looked very amateurish and odd, I finally pulled out my dark green oil and started painting leaves. At least I could do something that looked liked it would in the end.
I learned to add color to white rather than white to color.
I learned to carry along a big roll of paper towels because oil point migrates and travels.
I learned some patience and I've developed a whole lot of respect for my son-in-law and his work.
This is hard and although the end result of my effort is something I'm pleased with, I'm quite aware that I'm truly a beginner.
I love it but I'm a beginner.
At 59, that's something to admit.