I Struck Oil…

Oil painting that is.

A few weeks ago I declared my intention to try out oil painting for the first time. I’ve always wanted to do it, and though I have no intentions of doing it all the time, or taking classes in same, I decided to at last seriously look into experimenting with it.

When materials were on sale at the local art store, I knew this was the time.

I bought one canvas. 8 by 10. Five tubes of paint, and some brushes. (All on sale.)

There was no plan. No sketch, no model. I just started oozing the paint onto a makeshift palette. (Used to be the back of an entertainment center I threw out. Even had a hole for my thumb already in it.) Just this act was satisfying. For years in college I saw friends and dorm mates working with oils, knowing of course how expensive it could be, and how much their grades depended on having good material. I never bothered asking permission to mess around with their stuff. But earlier this month I got to at last squeeze paint out of a tube.

I started with green, just sort of gliding the brush over the canvas as I had seen people do a million times on TV and in person. It looked like grass, so I made a hill. Then onto oozing of the blue for the sky.

So I did have a scene now. A few things I tried didn’t work. I suppose certain colors don’t show up over other colors. A regular painter could say why, but I can’t. I just repairs the issue as best I could, (mostly by adding paint and painting over it until the undesired result was covered.)

I thought about the next day, what i wanted to put in the picture. I used a butter knife to rather successful effect to create roses on the grassy hill I’d made. I settled on a small cottage. I hadn’t intended to attempt anything so recognizable, complex and man made. But I had a hill, something had to go on it, right? Besides, I know just enough about paintings to understand balance and composition. And I lack the skill to paint a tree. A few strokes, and a cottage was born.

A circular swirl of mixed color and a small pond was born. (Color mixing was the aspect of this I think I’ve looked forward to most. It didn’t disappoint. It couldn’t really, as I had no specific end result in mind for most of the mixing.)

It was a dark, cool painting so far, and I very much wanted to use the quite bright yellow paint I had. Though for a while I debated with myself over the cliche’ nature of putting the sun in the picture, I reminded myself that this was all about experimenting. I put said sun in the corner, painting only about a fourth of it “in frame.”The thick, creamy vibrancy of the yellow paint contrasted, as I had hoped, with the cool, darker colors of the rest of the piece. Plus it was fun to slather it right onto the blue background of the sky.

Though I wasn’t trying to be professional, I knew the sky needed clouds, for proper balance. As I didn’t have white (not on sale) I played around with the yellow, and sort of “wisped” some thin, off color clouds into existence. I hope the pass as rainy clouds, but if not, they are still there for the visual balance.

I then winged it with a few details by way of techniques I only just vaguely remember people talking about here and there; defining, slight shading. I knew less about that than I did painting the main stuff, but to tell you the truth, if I didn’t get it totally correct from the standpoint of technique, I think I “made the point” in a sort of impressionist way.

And to me oil is always impressionist, even if in the real world is it not. I like paintings most that look like paintings. I like seeing the swirls and the indentations of brush strokes. I like it when one can look at a work and say, “oil paint.” That may be why I am a fan of actual Impressionism.

Therefore I also enjoyed creating a painting like that. By definition it isn’t an Impressionist painting, I’m sure. But that’s what I let myself feel like as went about creating the scene, stroke by stroke to the beat of the scraping percussion of brush hairs across a canvass.

“Cottage Near Roses” I called it.

A few days later I took another part of that old entertainment center back…thick cardboard i think it is, and did an abstract painting. In some ways I enjoyed that even more. I mixed more, painted even more thickly, and with more abandon. The result is nonetheless ordered, brighter than the first painting, and suggests, I think, a sense of movement, if not of the art than of me, the artist as I created same.

Painting helps writing helps music helps acting helps dance helps sculpture, and so on. Any order you like. Art begets art, and while I don’t yet know if I will make oil painting a regular, lifelong thing, I still have plenty of paint left. (Though I need some turpentine next time, I lacked it this time.) I’ll keep on begetting oil paintings at least a few more times.

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