Wednesday, 12 June 2013

I'm an idiot!

You might have noticed that I haven't written a blog post for quite a while. I took a long break from the web starting in February because I was feeling directionless and overwhelmed by too much imagery and information, unable to concentrate. I wanted to spend some quiet time, to think about my art and what I wanted to do with it. I had also decided, for a lot of stupid reasons as it turns out, that I was going to learn to paint with oils.

But, y'see, I have a watercolor brain. Years and years of working with my W&N paints and I know every pigment in my palette like the back of my hand - which ones stain and which can be lifted out; which ones granulate, which ones streak; the opaque; the transparent; the best mixes. I know just how much water to hold in each brush. And I know which brush strokes to use to create the effects I want. When I look at one of my drawings on the paper I know how to start painting it. I'm by no means a master of my craft but I'm fairly proficient, I think.

When it comes to oil painting however I know very little. I did a couple of oil paintings when I was in high school - they were terrible - and in the following twenty-odd years I've never used them again. But, undaunted, driven by all the wrong reasons, I started finding out about oil painting. It has RULES that I didn't know about before, rules you can't really ignore unless you want your paintings to crack, dull and yellow in a few years time. And you have to plan your work. Oil paintings take a long time to dry. You can't just keep noodling away at them or you'll end up with a smeary mush of color. Which means waiting for days for layers to dry before moving on. My watercolor brain isn't used to that. It isn't used to any of it.

But despite returning to Deviant Art and announcing (rather prematurely as I since realised) that I had found my focus again, I was determined to perservere with this new oil painting thing. I cut and primed some boards and began a series of four little paintings. But I had to let the backgrounds dry before continuing. 2-12 days it says in the books, depending on the pigments used. So what to do in the meantime? I turned to the acrylic paints I have stored away, thinking they would be good practice for me in blending, getting used to the consistency of the paint, working with white as a pigment. For a week I worked and worked every spare moment I had. I must've painted the sky six or seven times. Once or twice I thought I might be getting somewhere, most of the time I just despaired of ever figuring it out.

Then late one night, trawling the web for tutorials, I found another artist's blog, an artist who does the most exquisite acrylic paintings, and began reading. But it wasn't advice on technique that I found. Instead I read her story of dreaming of being a successful artist, her struggle to find her way and the advice given to her by one of her friends. That advice was quite simple - learn one thing well. Those four words got stored away in my brain as I went back to the painting, to work on that damn sky for the eighth time. They took a few days to really sink in but then the full force of them hit me.

So you see, good people of the blogosphere, I am an idiot. I mean, seriously, WHAT was I thinking. I've invested years in learning to paint with watercolors and I was going to put it all aside to start at the beginning again for no other reason than because I'd seen some artworks in oils that were so enchanting and beautiful, created by artists who no doubt spent at least as long as I have learning their craft. The little trickster voice that lives in my head had whispered to me, "You could do that. You could learn to oil paint." This is the same voice that is now laughing at me. "It was only a suggestion," it tells me. "I didn't mean for you to get in such a mess with it. You didn't have to listen."

The acrylics have now been consigned to a drawer, where they belong. The oil paintings are still unfinished and drying. I haven't decided what I'll do with them yet. Perhaps I'll photograph and post them one day so you can have a good laugh. And if you ever see me threatening to divert from my beloved watercolors again you have my permission to yell at me and call me an idiot.

Because that is what I've been.

As a result of all of this stupidity I have no finished pieces to show you so instead I urge you to visit Ravynne Phelan's website and emmerse yourself in her beautiful art and wise words.