Saturday, July 21, 2007

Onions and Vases and Oil Disasters and My Fear of the Art Fairy

Onion with Vase
oil on panel
Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Titanium White

Sorry about the glare. In 6 pictures, this was the best, I swear.

I am pretty excited about this one. I finally painted an onion! It seems like everyone does onions and until today I was an onion painting virgin. I plan on tossing this particular onion out because I hate it when they sprout like this, so I can say that I put this onion to good use even though I won't cook with it. More importantly, I got some pretty good mileage out of the Raw Umber and Burnt Sienna.

I ended up doing a lot of wiping off on this to get those thin layers of sienna and umber. I discovered that if I wiped the paint off with a brush, I could get the slight streaks that an onion has. The sprouts should be green, I know, but I was pretty stubborn about sticking to my two colors, so they are approximately the same value. Since this is a study, I am not going to beat myself up about that.

I will share a huge mistake I made. When I put gesso on my last dozen panels, I used a sponge roller because my sponge brush was beyond dead. That left and incredibly bumpy surface that eats the first layer of paint like a kid eating ice cream. So this time, my genius self, decided to put a thin layer of oil on before I applied any paint and just wipe the excess off as I plotted out my shapes. HUGE mistake! The surface was slicker than snot and I ended up fighting that more than the gesso eating my first layer of paint. It works great in layers, but in direct painting, it is a mess. I am going to credit the fact that I cannot get a good picture to this as well.

So my lessons are:

  1. Do not gesso my panels with a sponge roller, because I don't like the bumps.
  2. Do not let myself run out of sponge brushes, because I am far too impatient to stop what I am doing and run to the store to get more.
  3. Do not put a layer of oil on the surface unless I want to see how oil paint works on a slip and slide.
It is time to switch up and pick another color set. I think I am going to try the Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine next. I know it would be a lot easier and faster to do color charts, but I am a hard headed woman and I get more out of these studies than just color theory. I learn observation, brush control, sketching, composition and perspective practice. Since I don't expect these to be awesome paintings, I do all this without the pressure of having to be "Wallable". (Yes, I made that word up)

I almost feel like I am cheating the system. You know the one where you have to paint 300 bad paintings to get one good one. I am intentionally using up my first 100 or so in these kinds of studies. It kind of makes me afraid that the Art Fairy is going to come hunt me down and make me start all over with paintings that fail accidentally. Not that I am trying to make these fail, but, I don't expect them to be extremely successful for anything beyond learning material.

Art myths are so contradictory. You must pay your dues. You must do an awful lot of art that is unworthy of hanging. At the same time, you must be striving to put your message out there and give the world meaning and beauty with each piece. You can't do both. It isn't realistic.

My oldest son is an athlete. To get in shape he lifts weights and runs and stretches out year round. In our discussions we have decided that art is a lot more like being an athlete. If you don't use it, you lose it. In order to be prepared for the game/meet you must do a lot of boring drills and practices. To keep you motivated, you must track your progress and record silly things like lifting more, or getting more repetitions, or being able to paint in two colors. You can't expect a swimmer to beat a new record if he hasn't done any laps. You can't expect a football lineman to knock down his opponent if he hasn't lifted enough weights to be strong. You can't expect an artist to paint a great painting if they haven't figured out how to use their brush.

I am a lousy athlete and he is a lousy artist. Though we choose different outlets, our common ground is our drive and determination..

And we both think he is cute.


Jo Castillo said...

Anna, great painting and story. Love the colors.

You should be able to sand the bumps off with a little sandpaper.

You are making progress...


"JeanneG" said...

Love the comment about you and your son thinking he is cute.