Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Back to Nature

One of my resolutions was to make a painting each month, so when a 70-degree January Saturday fell in my lap, I had to jump on it and go paint.

The night before, C helped me get my stuff ready.  I dusted off my trusty paint box that journeyed through many a western Massachusetts field in college, as I learned the art of plein-air painting in college.  The tubes of oil paint inside were crusty and twisted, but C carefully wiped them with turpentine and picked out the dried obstructions.  The paint inside was perfectly good, though they've sat for at least 5 years untouched.  My handful of brushes were fine too, minus one with a loose ferrule, but it wasn't a good brush to begin with.  One day, back in college, I was painting with my class at the edge of a waterfall, and my teacher commented that I might as well paint with sticks rather than use the paintbrushes I was using.  I couldn't help it--I was a poor art major!  A few of those "sticks" remain in my collection, though I do have several nicer brushes to work with these days, he would be happy to know.

I cut up some old clothes into rags, found a small glass jar to use for turpentine, and threw in some sharp pencils and an eraser.  There was just enough turpentine left in an old container to take along, too.  We went over my paint colors and C filled out my collection with some burnt sienna, lemon yellow, and raw umber that he'd squirreled away in his own paint box.  He also had some old pads of palette paper, still good enough to use!  Then C cut a piece of masonite to fit in my box (it has a slot for the painting to go) and we attached a piece of gessoed Bristol paper to it, hoping that Bristol paper would be stiff enough to paint on without buckling.  I usually paint on mat board, as I dislike the texture of canvas.

The next morning we threw a few folding chairs and a blanket into the car, along with the stocked paint box, a radio, snacks, and a camera, and headed out on a painting journey.

C knew of a country-ish road in Orange County that had some nice vistas.  In fact, he had a feeling that a house where he'd stopped once to look at a for-sale car was now sitting empty, though still kept up fairly well.  We stopped and knocked on the door just in case, but no one answered.  And so we set up camp in the driveway, which looked across a road into a rolling field with layers of trees and further fields, and an interesting cloud patterned sky behind.

First I covered my paper in a wash of reddish brown, then mixed my colors.  When I started painting, I worked on the sky first, and then from back to front, as taught (I guess we always do things the way we were taught, but there is no "right" way to paint) but it was slow going.  As I worked, C told me stories, cranked the radio (it has a thing that you wind to recharge it's battery) to keep it going, walked around, took pictures, and constantly laughed at my suggestion that he ought to paint too.  "Art is for suckers," he said, and frequently says!

And maybe it is.  For me, it's like a butterfly that I chase, and sometimes I get close to it and catch it, sometimes I don't.  This time I didn't even get near.  I feel like my art muscles have all atrophied!  It was very difficult to get my paintbrush to do what my brain wanted it to do.  But that is why I set this resolution, and I intend to keep working at it until it becomes easier.

The next day I worked a little more on my painting, and every day since I peek at it.  It's good to look, study, plan, and learn.

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