I’ve always dreamt of being an artist, but my attempts at portraying what I see (either physically or in my mind) have always come up just a little short. I attribute this largely to my father who squelched my artistic tendencies while still in their infancy. Apparently, he felt my repeated use of the wall as my canvas was sufficient cause for repossessing my crayons. Repeatedly. I was in grade-school at the time of the last repossession and, with a sense of martyrdom, resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a truly great artist. I would have to look elsewhere for purpose and fulfillment. And I did.
Just recently, however, I was perusing a catalogue of the enrichment classes offered by a local college and found “An Introduction to Oil Painting” among them. A friend of mine (whose artwork is nothing to be sneezed at) had suggested oils as an excellent medium for experimentation. “They’re very forgiving,” he had explained. “You’ll probably discover that you’ll like it.” After some contemplation (which involved asking just how likely my father would be to repossess any of my oil paints), I decided to invite my sister to join me in taking the class.
Our first lesson was basic: we discussed “values”. These are essentially the different tones which can be achieved when paints are mixed, in our case “Titanium White” and “Ivory Black”. Our instructor (who was trained by a friend of Norman Rockwell’s) walked us through oiling up our canvasses in order to ensure that the paints could be smoothly applied. She then carefully explained the proper process for mixing colors on our palette. (Lightest colors are mixed first, always starting with the lighter color as the base and adding in small quantities of the darker pigment until the desired “value” has been achieved.) She followed this by handing each of us a “visual aid” – a sad looking black and white abstract which she had dubbed “Birth of a Planet”.
I admit to being a bit disappointed. I’m not a huge fan of abstract art and, in my heart of hearts, what I really wanted was a piece that I would be proud(ish) to hang on my wall. Instead, I was going to test my limited artistic skill on a 12×16 canvass that would find its way into the back of my closet, buried under other unwanted bits of stuff.
The purpose, according to our instructor, was to keep us focused on form and technique rather than upon recreating an exact representation of an actual object. So I decided to go with the flow and give it a try… (to be continued).