Painting: Mediums,Mistakes and Forgetting

An oil painting, Ravens and Aurora

I am an oil painter. Oils are kind, they are forgiving, they love the canvas in a soft organic way, you can work the whole surface of the canvas with out any fear of the paint drying. Oils are my favorite way to paint. I started painting with watercolor and I still do watercolors and gouache sometimes, a simple flower, a symbolist angel, compositions where I really want to play with the light and white that watercolor lets shine through the paper or board. Watercolor does not give you the coverage of oils though and it is quite immediate in its demand for your attention for that reason it is much harder to work really large or to get the soft blending, layers and glazes that oils offer.

Watercolor, Fuscia

I am not an acrylic painter. I am trying very hard to be though. When I moved into this apartment I discovered my landlord would not let me use my turpentine and oils due to gas heaters and appliances, and to a lesser extend the smell and fumes effect on the neighbors.  I also discovered the apartment was not big enough for what was left from my house and my easel and larger canvases. My heart was broken but it was the only place I could afford that was in walking distance of the places I needed to go (Back when I could walk a good distance.) It is a great place, just not artist friendly.

So, I always try to adapt and I supposed most of my frustration was due to losing a house and studio that was very artist friendly. Nope, its the size and the fact that I am forced to start to experiment with acrylics because I must paint on canvas one way or another and watercolors and canvas just aren’t well met.

So here I am just able to afford the paint and canvas. I am relinquished to small paintings in a what I perceive to be a hostile medium that is harsh in texture, demanding for immediate attention and alien to me on almost all levels. I feel like I am painting with one eye close and a hand tied around my back! Although I enjoy the controlled little abstracts I am painting and the flat somewhat expressionistic images I am dissatisfied with every piece on a deeper level. I have even sold some of my pieces but still feel like I have somehow forgotten how to paint. The constriction leads me to making mistakes in composition, and technique. Granted, I am still developing a technique with the acrylics but I used to be liberal and loose, layered and spontaneous. Now I have to think so hard about every mark, and the marks I make seem to resist “sinking in” to the tooth of the canvas. I try to glaze and build up like I am used to and I end up with slick areas surrounded by pixelated areas where the canvas peers through and not in a happy, pretty way.

Another acrylic, The Angel

But I will continue to learn. I am compelled to paint. I may switch to Masonite boards just because the canvas texture seems to hate the plastic nature of the acrylics. It really feels as though I am trying to paint with plastic. I think the masonite will give me the immediacy of application that allows for spontaneity and I wont have to fight the surface so much.

Another solution is in the Spring I am going to the college and taking some art classes, allowing me access to a frikking studio where I might be able to use my oil paints. I even still have oil paints. If anything I will be able to engage myself in an environment that is friendly to artists and I will remember myself as an artist again.

Between the constraints of this apartment, the frustration of this new medium and some weird internal block it is as if I have forgotten how I paint. I look at past paintings, done in the not so recent past and I cant remember how I got certain effects of textures. I think it is a unique form of creative block and I will just paint through it and learn from the phase I am now in. If anything I will learn some new methods of coping with a hostile medium, at least one that is hostile to me.

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