Painting Class: Second Week

Blogon February 11th, 20113 Comments

Oil paints

Painting detailI attended my second oil-painting class last night. After last week’s embarrassment, I was a bit more prepared for this session. I practiced using the oil paints and palette knife, bought the supplies I was missing (sorry, little palette, you’ve been dumped for a bigger, hunkier model), even brought an apron and rags as if I were, I don’t know, an experienced painter or something.

The perfectionist in me had come out in a big way, and I was determined to Get Better Whatever It Takes. Unfortunately, I’ve realized that in art, determination isn’t all it takes to be a great artist.

When the teacher, John, pulled last week’s paintings out of the class locker, I was surprised to see mine. It looked like a person for the most part, which is a relief, but the muted colors and stippled paint were so not my style. When I paint with acrylics, my colors are bold, my brushstrokes are a bit violent, and the overall painting is really bright. This was subdued, quiet. I didn’t know if I liked this change. So I took my boring stippled painting and went to my easel. I pulled out my new fancy-artist turpentine jar (no more Starbucks-cups-as-jars for me!) and began painting.

John stopped by my painting a few times to point out the mistakes I was making and comment on my progress. It turns out that I have no idea how to draw an eye. Or a nose. Or, um, a mouth. I could go on. I handled the cheek part OK, but then he told me it was a bit too orange. Welp.

It’s amazing to work with an artist who truly knows how to paint. While I can look at a piece of art and instantly see what’s wrong, I can’t for the life of me figure out how to make it right. When I pointed out that something in the eyes was bugging me, John assessed it instantly. “She looks a bit like an alien,” he said calmly, reaching for my brush. With a few dabs of paint, he smeared out the eye that I’d been laboring over for 15 minutes. “See,” he said, applying some dark brown, “the curve is not nearly so pronounced.” That simple move — blotting out what wasn’t working and starting fresh — instantly transformed the painting.

“You can DO that?” I asked. He looked at me blankly. “Just,  you know, smear out what you don’t like and try again?”

John laughed. “The good thing about oils is that they’re eternally forgiving. You don’t like something, smear it out. Try again. Keep trying until you like it.”

I like that approach, and I feel like I should apply it to my life. Instead of trying to be perfect on the first shot and being upset when it doesn’t turn out, just try something. If I don’t like it, start over. Try again. Keep trying until I get it right.

At the end of the class, my painting was OK. The anatomy of the face was all off and it didn’t look much like the model. If I compared myself with the rest of the class, I’d probably feel pretty bad. But for my first oil painting, it was fine. And next week, I get to start fresh.

3 Responses to “Painting Class: Second Week”

  1. Lily Darais says:

    Is that your easel and painting? They both look great! The eyes, nose, and mouth look awesome to me. I’m not a professional artist, nor do I have an artist’s eye, but I love the feel of your painting (if that is your painting). Also, I like your new philosophy; I think I might adopt it for my own. =)

    • englund says:

      That is my easel and my painting. :) I’m happy with it for being my first try, but it’s definitely a far cry from the model I used, haha.

  2. Emily says:

    I think that’s a GREAT painting!

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