further adventures in oil painting
Bringing Home the Bacon, oil on panel, 8" x 10"
It was my birthday last week and one of my best presents came by post. Michelle is one of my oldest and closest friends and we talk several times a week, even though we live over 1000 km apart. (She has a great phone plan.) She knew I was itching to try M Graham paints but my art supply store doesn't carry them. Her boyfriend's store does, though! You know the rest. A handful of tubes of colours I'd mostly never tried and three of Michelle's favourite oil brushes (well, not her oil brushes...) were in the box. The first thing I did was open the tubes to smell them since they're made with walnut rather than linseed oil.
My first attempts to paint with my new paints were duds. The garbage guys picked up the offending panels (carefully concealed in the kitchen trash) today in fact. See, while painting, I discovered an obvious truth that I hadn't consciously considered for ages: the importance of knowing colour properties/interactions. When I went shopping for oil paints in the fall I mostly stuck to the palette I'd been using for my acrylic paintings (the devil you know, etc.) ~ a pragmatic choice as learning a new medium is hard enough. But Michelle chose colours that she likes to use, and since she's a very different sort of painter than I am, I am totally unfamiliar with colours like Viridian Green and Transparent Iron Oxide. After painting one small panel and walking away, the first thing that struck me when I returned was how amateurish the use of colour was. But in spite of my frustration with my failures I was thanking Michelle more for the push. It's really easy to get stuck into a safe groove with any practice that requires skill and patience to master. I love trying the new colours in spite of the inevitable washouts and am glad I'm being challenged to learn new things.
So, yesterday on Facebook, I noticed that Michelle had posted a couple of quickie paintings that the same art-supply-store-slash-instructor-slash-mentor boyfriend had urged her to try doing. This is a really good exercise to help you loosen up if you're feeling stuck and stale. You can see from the great results that it worked for her. So I decided to do the same. Mine (above) took longer than hers (two hours rather than her hour and 20 minutes) but I'm hiding behind the excuse of being unfamiliar with the medium! From the painting in the last post and this one I can already see that oil painting is a whole different ball game for me than acrylic painting, both in my use of colour and the way I apply the paint. And, unlike with acrylic paintings, I love to take the finished product and hold it up to the light at different angles so I can see the luscious, luminous surface quality. I almost want to taste it.
Thank you again, Michelle, for the wonderful paint (and the toxic snack)! And thank you, Angela, for this appropriate quote:
Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
~ Miles Davis