Wednesday, January 20, 2010

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


16 Comments:

Blogger Ellen said...

I've never heard of M.Graham paints before and after checking out their website...I WANT.(But I will use up what I have, sigh). Glad to see you're playing and learning and with nice results.

20/1/10 2:49 PM  
Blogger dinahmow said...

I'm sure I said something about that gull painting! On Flickr, maybe? Yes! When I checked the Zulu pic.

What do you use for clean-up? I still use turps (low odor turps in Heather's studio) for a final clean, but baby oil (or cheapy cooking oil) for initial roller, plate, bench cleaning.And would likely do the same with brushes.Oh! I always dry things in well-ventilated place-out of doors when possible.

20/1/10 5:49 PM  
Blogger AcuityTodos said...

It's great! And I am amazed that it only took you 2 hours. It has a wonderful feeling of motion.

20/1/10 5:54 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

awesome blossom! u rule!

20/1/10 8:56 PM  
Blogger Jana Bouc said...

First, the painting is really nice with great expressive brush strokes. It's a unique image in my experience since I don't think I've ever seen a gull near snow since we don't get snow near the sea where gulls live here.

If it's any consolation, I've been having the identical but opposite experience switching from oils to acrylics. The hardest part of it for me too is mixing the colors, even with trying to use the same pigments. Even harder is that I'm used to having all my colors on the palette arranged in the same way for my oils and watercolors, but acrylics you can't really do that. Instead of putting acrylic out on the palette to dry up or get sloppy from too much spritzing, I've started just trying to mix the color I need from tubes but it's hard to get the variations I'm used to from taking a little of this and a little of that as I work. I decided finally after two days of getting nowhere to again put the acrylics aside for a while and go back to oils.

20/1/10 10:18 PM  
Blogger Lorenzo Lapis Lazuli said...

I enjoyed the post and the window it opens onto the daily struggles of painters. I especially liked the very apropos Miles Davis closing quote about having to play a long time to sound like oneself. It brings to mind something that Thelonious Monk once said: "A genius is the one most like himself".

20/1/10 11:23 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Definately like the result. Well done! (And happy birthday even if late)

21/1/10 2:19 AM  
Blogger Angela Wales Rockett said...

You're just so talented!
BTW, when I looked into buying oil paints to use with my encaustic work, I bought M. Graham oils from a local art store, so I can hook you up. :) I love that they use walnut oil, and that they're made in Oregon.

21/1/10 9:26 AM  
Blogger Melody said...

Lovely job Andrea

21/1/10 2:59 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Ellen: I also like that they are produced in small batches -- almost boutique-like -- rather than mass-produced.

Di: Out-of-doors is a little easier in Queensland than it is in BC -- but certainly possible this balmy winter. I use mineral spirits. So far so good. For clean up I'm using The Masters brush cleaner and mild dish detergent.

Vic: Thanks -- the feeling of motion is what I gravitate towards, too.

Val: Only #2 to you, Mr Magoo!

Jana: Not much snow near the ocean here, either -- espoecially this year. And you're right -- it DOES look like snow. I wanted the pale ocean to be lighter than it actually is but it never occurred to me that it would be mistaken for snow. Oops. As for me, I'm used to squeezing out colours as I need them. How delightful to be able to squeeze out everything I need and not paint like a maniac before they crust over! The M Graham paints are very slow drying, though, so that's a bit of a frustration.

Lorenzo: Monk was, indeed, a genius about genius! :)

Laura: Thanks. Glad it's behind me actually...

Angela: Me, too -- the walnut oil and Oregon thing. I have discovered that there is a distributor across the road from one of the three local Opus outlets so I'm going to check there next time I'm on the North Shore. Hope they're not prohibitively expensive...

Melody: Thanks!

21/1/10 4:35 PM  
Blogger qqq said...

教育的目的,不在應該思考什麼,而是教吾人怎樣思考.........................

21/1/10 7:50 PM  
Blogger Costescu said...

Oh my gosh, I really love this one! The colors, texture and movement all flow so nicely, beautiful and in 2 hours are you kidding me! I may have to stop visiting your blog as seeing your work in oils is really making me itch to try oils :)

22/1/10 9:44 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

Looks like you are having fun playing with your new oil paints, Andrea! Good for you stretching your painting muscles, with great results!
I’ve been reading in the paper the last few weeks about the new local resort & spa and thought of the pieces you did over last summer. There say over 100 pieces of art is spread throughout the property but I haven’t seen any of your paintings. Have they told you where yours are or sent you a photo of them?

24/1/10 8:59 PM  
Blogger andrea said...

Tracey: I think restricting myself to two hours helped with the freshness/spontanaeity (sp?). And thank you!

Gina: I haven't asked yet to see any photos (Robin has been so busy with this and other projects) but I was told they would be hanging in the restaurant of the spa. Thanks so much for looking and if you see them please let me know!

25/1/10 8:16 AM  
Blogger Ian Lidster said...

I used oils years ago and haven't yet mustered the courage to go back to them. You gave me a bit of inspiration here, but I think I'll stick with acrylics for the time being.

25/1/10 4:04 PM  
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16/5/10 10:38 AM  

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