Saturday, November 7, 2009

S-t-r-e-t-c-h-ing Myself Through Oil Painting: (or, "Journey into the Black Hole")

Completed nearly forty years ago when I was in the 5th grade, and affectionately dubbed "Sunrise Over Fruit Bowl" by Massachusetts artist Debbi Friedman, the above was my first (and last) oil painting.

I have been interested in the arts from a very young age: drawing more so than painting, whether in graphite, colored pencil, or pen-and-ink. Drawing always seemed to come very naturally to me, and I have done precious little painting over time. Since returning to my artwork several years ago however, I have increasingly had the desire to try my hand at oil painting. I mean, hard can it be?, I thought.

Gradually over the past few months, I have collected those items that I knew would be needed to make an attempt at oil painting: a canvas, brushes, linseed oil, odorless turpentine, stand oil, palette, and brush cleaner. Then little more than a week ago I took the final step and purchased five tubes of oil paint -- black, white, cadmium red, cobalt blue, and cadmium yellow. I remembered hearing that any color can be mixed from the three primary colors, so no need to go overboard, right? Debbi was quick to let me know that I may want to invest in more colors, but really, once difficult could this paint mixing be? And besides: I was simply experimenting........trying it out. (THIS assessment from a woman with 400 different pencil colors.)

So, three mornings ago I decided that that was the day. Given the fact that there is a work-in-progress in my drawing room currently, I chose to spread my newly acquired oil painting supplies strategically around on the kitchen table -- and I sat down to get to work.

The self-commentary and inane questions began almost immediately. Is it possible to layer this dark-to-light, in much the same way I do colored pencils? ( What is meant by the term "glaze" as it pertains to oil painting?........ I don't think I bought enough oil painting brushes; I wonder how water color brushes will work............... Is it best to work wet-on-wet?.......or wet-on-dry? For what reason did I buy stand oil? I can't remember...............I can't believe that some artists produce such stunning portraits with this..................... If I thin the paint with turpentine as opposed to linseed oil, will it dry faster? (At some point during all this I burst out into a loud hyena-like laugh, causing the retrievers to look up in an alarmed fashion.) How do you stir this stuff???........ Its thirty-eight degrees outside; is it really necessary that I well-ventilate this room?........... I think Debbi was right; I need more colors............ What exactly is meant by the term viscosity? (The property of a fluid that resists the force that tends to cause that fluid to flow.)

You get where I'm going here: this was no easy feat for me. After nearly an hour"painting", I put away my supplies and returned to my drafting table to lick the wounds on my bruised artistic ego. (The fact that I recently encouraged another artist to keep at it, despite his unfamiliarity with sanded pastel paper, comes to mind.) And I will keep at it, perhaps engaging in my second painting session sometime this week -- using the things I learned not to do from last week's adventure (and right after I obtain more paint colors). Needless to say, my admiration for those who paint has increased dramatically.

The result of my endeavor was an unrecognizable blue jay feather. Debbi said that feathers are difficult, which made me feel a little better (even if she was saying it for that purpose). Another close friend, Elizabeth Patterson of California, summed the experience up with, "I think that maybe you need to take a class".

Clearly. (loud hyena-like laugh)


  1. The funny thing is...I can hear that 'hyena-like laugh' all the way over here! haha...
    Just have fun with it. (that is coming from someone who hasn't painted in years either, but not 40!) But maybe I should if its that much fun!

  2. Oh you are too funny Lynda. I just love this post. Regarding "stirring" (I like to call it mixing. . . LOL) the oils, you DID buy a palette knife, right? If not, add that to your list! Seriously, you will get it. I think a class is a good idea. When are we going to see this infamous feather?

  3. Hey Beth; Aren't you in..........ARKANSAS???? This is a new record on the hyena-like laugh distance meter! Anyway, I would highly recommend an adventure like this at some time when you need a little extra levity in your life!, Debbi: I did not purchase a palette knife. Good point. And what were those other colors you recommended? (Oops - I think I may have deleted that email.) P.S. I think I will refrain from posting the blue jay feather on my blog. Its a tough decision, hahahaha.

  4. Lynda Lynda Lynda...

    Now I know that crazy laugh mimicking my own is blowing in on the wind! Silly me, I thought it was an echo lol. I can relate to your whole "how hard can it be" theory, makes perfect sense to me. I too, gathered my oil painting supplies.. about 3 years ago! I've smooshed them around a couple times, but never enough to be comfortable with them, put them away for the comfort of colored pencil. Until recently...when I lost my mind.

    Class? What's that? lol... that would make things so much easier, wouldn't it?

    Girl, you do make me laugh.

  5. Lynda, I think it takes more than an hour to master oil painting(or even kind of sort of get the hang of it)!!! Definitely don't give up - your fifth grade still life shows your potential. No, really - I am serious! :-) Now show us that feather!

  6. Toni....... I'm wondering if I will do the same thing; smoosh them around a few times only to realize they are not for me. In the mean time though, I bought more paints today! hahahahaha

    You know Teresa, I did not expect to be a Rembrandt the first try..........I just didn't expect to be SO BAD at it! And thank goodness someone sees my future potential through "Sunrise Over Fruit Bowl"! : )