Not sure if you’ve heard, but I’m taking a painting class. I know, right? I’ve been really secretive about it and haven’t mentioned it yet on this blog at all. Oh, wait.
Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to plug my amazing instructor, John Parks. Apparently, a bunch of people in my class have taken his same portrait class as many as six times. They say he’s so good, they keep coming back. (They’re really, really good too.) I think I might end up being another one of the Parks groupies.
I found an interesting video online that shows John giving a demonstration on plein air painting (French for “open-air painting”). I’ve embedded the first of three; see video 2 here and video 3 here.
Also, if any of my NYC friends want to join me in taking a future portrait-painting class with him, let me know. It’s totally worth the money.
Here’s a study of a nose that I did as homework for last week’s painting class. I cheated a bit; since I only had time to do the homework the day of class, I did it in acrylics instead of oils. I am much more comfortable with acrylics, but I was surprised to see how irritated I got when the paint on my palette dried out. It’s kind of fun to continuously mix colors.
We started a new painting last week, and the model is a very interesting man. I’ll get into more detail after this week’s class.
I 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. read more
I started my new portrait-painting class yesterday at School of Visual Arts in New York. I’d never oil painted before, and I was really excited to learn how to do it. The class said it was open to anyone, from beginners to advanced, so I figured I’d be all set. How different can it be from acrylics, after all? (Ha.)
I e-mailed the teacher for a list of supplies and hit Blick downtown to stock up. I followed the list very carefully. I bought giant tubes of oils (they were on sale for cheap!), lovely big paintbrushes (oils are thicker than acrylics, so you need bigger brushes, right?) a smallish palette (it looked like the ones that painters on TV used), a palette knife (what in the world is THAT for?) and a canvas. I also got linseed oil and turpentine. After spending $150, I was sure I was all set.
I arrived in class with my shiny new bag of fresh supplies, and as soon as we started painting the model, I quickly realized I’d made a few giant mistakes. First, I didn’t have an apron or anything to cover my clothes — and I am a messy painter. Second, I didn’t have jars to hold my linseed oil and turpentine, nor did I have rags, towels or ANYTHING to clean my brushes. So I improvised. I dumped out my Starbucks cup and poured the turpentine into it, grabbed some paper towels to attempt to cover my dress and to clean my brushes, and sat down.
It quickly became apparent that everyone in the room was, well, more advanced than I was. As they pulled out their color-spattered normal-sized tubes of paint and unrolled used brushes from fancy brush carriers, I became a little self-conscious about my family-sized “student” paints and sparkling, unused brushes. Oh, and my tiny palette. My poor palette developed an instant inferiority complex as it took in the scene before it: Most of the other students’ palettes were several feet long, at least. He was smaller than a personal pan pizza.
I am the kind of person who has multiple interests and hobbies and not enough time to pursue most of them. Sure, I try to make time for the big ones — reading, writing, photography, painting — but there are countless small interests that I’ll embrace for a while and then promptly forget.
These hobbies can range from the commonplace (I go through spurts of genuine interest in cooking and baking, poring through cookbooks and food blogs and trying recipes on my friends) to the obscure (I studied herbal remedies and made my own bath salts and cleaning products). I’ve taken up crochet and knitting and then forgotten all about them (anyone need two Rubbermaid bins of yarn?) and bought a piano to relearn the skills I once possessed in fifth grade (I really should accept that I’m not musically gifted). Eventually, most of these interests fade away. Sometimes I feel guilty about dropping them, and sometimes I can’t understand why they interested me in the first place.
I don’t think of myself as a fickle person. I keep friendships for a long time and don’t jump from one romantic relationship to the next. But with hobbies, I’m commitment phobic. My recreational passions fade as quickly as Hollywood relationships and leave behind nothing but unfinished crafts and unused musical instruments. This used to make me feel guilty, but I’ve realized that maybe I’m just the kind of person who tries things out, then walks away when I realize they’re not for me.
So I’ve learned to accept it. I gave my mom my sewing machine, donated the piano to Goodwill, and passed the yarn on to worthy knitters. I needed the space anyway — I’m thinking of taking up home brewing and screen printing next.