Oil Painting Will Get Me Through The Long Winter

Snow has arrived here in Quebec and it’s turning cold.  The first storm is always a mess because it comes mixed with temps at or just below the freezing mark and so everything turns into an ice rink.  We’re in ice rink mode right now.

This marks the switch from long walks along my river to looking out the window and wishing I weren’t such a wuss when it comes to cold.  The Arizona boy runs deep within my bones it seems and I just can’t have fun when I’m cold.

Pre-pandemic, this was the time of year I switched from sketching outdoors to sketching in museums and coffee shops.  Post-pandemic (that seems overly optimistic) I’m reluctant to do any of that.  My museum memberships have all expired and sitting in coffee shops just doesn’t appeal to me as an old, immuno-suppressed human.  And so I look out the window.

My recent interest in learning to paint and how to create art that is less reliant on line drawing looks like a fine way to get through winter.  I’m having a fun time using small still life painting as a means to learn how to manipulate oil paint.   I’ve made a tall stack of 6×8 gesso’ed panels and they’re just dandy for a winter of fun.  All I need are veggies, cups, and stuff to paint.  Here’s one where I got the bright idea to paint something glass.  I learned a lot but, it seems, I have a lot more to learn (grin)  In the end, however, I was very happy with my onion.  How could life get any better than to be pleased by an onion?

Oil Painting Of An Autumn Leaf

Maple trees are so wonderful.  They provide syrup in the spring, shade all summer, and then they produce a spectacular color display in the fall.  There is the matter of covering my lawn with a bunch of back-breaking debris but it’s a small price to pay.

I got the bright idea to paint one leaf.  “Keep it simple,” I said, “because, Larry, you do oil painting really slow.”  What I didn’t count on was how fast maple leaves begin to curl, or maybe the one I picked up was just ready to curl.  Anyways, it was a race to see whether I could paint the darn thing before the leaf rolled itself into a ball (grin).  Here are the results and I was happy with it.


Another Oily Baby Step

I’m continuing to slip and slide down the oil painting rabbit hole, trying to figure out how to make gesso’d panels, whether using a fabric base is a good idea, and a bunch of other stuff.  I’m spending way too much time on YouTube trying to learn how to thin oil paint, mix oil paint, etc., etc., etc.

But I’ve also been applying paint, mostly to little avail.  Switching from contour drawing to form creation with a heavy, opaque paint requires a shift in mindset that is a struggle, at least for me.

This experiment was to see if I could paint a somewhat complex object, like a squash by defining its shapes without line.  I added the knife and cup without expecting to truly paint them and so once I got the squash painted I left this one unfinished.  Right now I’m learning more from the beginnings of paintings than from spending hours trying to get details “just right” as I did with my peach painting.  So far this is lots of fun and that’s my real goal.


Out Of My Comfort Zone And Beyond

I’m not a fan of the view that getting “outside your comfort zone” holds some sort of magic dust that will improve an artist’s abilities, but it is an expression that is heard so often that I might as well run with it.  I’m out of my comfort zone; I’m out on a limb; I’m standing on a precipice.

This shows me trying to calculate where my next step will take me.  Maybe I should be consulting Wiley Coyote.  Before I explain, I need to provide a bit of back story.

Just prior to the pandemic I decided to give gouache a try.  This is mostly because I hold James Gurney in high regard and hang on his every word.  AND, I found that I liked the medium very much, once I learned that treating it like watercolor was a really bad idea (grin).  I also found that it didn’t play well in a pen and ink world because it’s hard to stay inside the lines with it, so you always end up with partially covered lines that, using the technical term, just looks icky.  So, I put my gouache in a box and there they sat for most of the pandemic.

But, as I’ve written recently, I’ve set aside my fountain pens, turned to pencil and I’m trying to shun “lines” in my art, at least for a while.  It occurred to me that maybe it was time to try some gouache again because opaque paints sort of force you away from relying upon lines (see above).

And so I went looking for my box of gouache and I found two things.  Here I have to confess that I’m an art materials junky and my stash is considerable.  What I found were tubes of Winsor & Newton water-mixable oil paints.  I bought those many years ago, decided I was too lazy to deal with the “complicated” (explanation for the quotes to come later) nature of oils and I never even tried them.

This, however, reminded me of watching YouTube videos about water-mixable videos, specifically those of Charlie Hunter who is a fine art guy with a good sense of humor. He was using Cobra water-mixable paints, which are high-end artist grade (same formula as Rembrandt oils for those in the know) and I remembered ordering a set of those paints.

Well, one thing led to another and I’m now trying to figure out how to paint with water-mixable oils.  The notion of using white paint rather than water to lighten my colors is very foreign and I haven’t a clue what consistency to mix the paints.  But I’m also learning that the mythos that suggests that oil painting is complicated truly is a myth and I’m having a lot of fun.

Here’s my first oil painting ever.  It’s supposed to be a flying hot pepper just in case you can’t identify it.  All I was trying to do was see if I could get some 3-dimensionality from oils.  It’s painted on a 6×8 MDF panel.

My first “real” painting (9×12) was this  still life of a couple of my biscuits and a cup of coffee.  I won’t be hanging in the Louvre anytime soon but I absolutely love the working time of oils and the fact that you can work light to dark and dark to light.

Well, I doubt anyone read this far so I’d better stop.  More “real soon.”

Still Life – Urban Sketcher Style

When my knee problem started to limit my walking, I started thinking of alternative ways to feed my penchant for moving pointy devices across paper.  One alternative was to sign up for one of several ateliers offered here by La Collectif, here in Quebec.  These aren’t instructional and mostly about drawing nude models and portraits.  I’m not much interested in that sort of thing but they did have one atelier called Nature Morte (Still Life).

I decided that drawing vegetables and wine bottles would be a lot more fun than sitting on my couch so I signed up.  There are twelve of us in the atelier, which is organized by Celine and Robert Poiré, two of my favorite people in the Collectif so I know it will be fun.  This first week I sort of had to grit my teeth to muddle along because the pain made it hard to concentrate but we had fun nevertheless.  Heck, we were sketching, we couldn’t avoid having fun if we tried.

Here’s my sketch from the session.  I’m not sure that my pen and ink, cartoon style is the best for drawing vegetables and maybe I’ll take some pencils with me next week.

After a short break there was still a few minutes left in the session and others were still finishing up their drawings so I decided to do a quick experiment.  I got a piece of Bristol from my bag and gave myself 2-minutes to capture the same scene I’d just drawn.  I’ll let you assess how I did, but I had a lot of fun doing it.  With the remaining minutes I scribbled out some poor depictions of some of the participants.  Can’t wait for next week.