As usual, Thursday night this week was my art class at Brushworks. This is week #3 of the new painting, and I got to put some paint on the canvas. The smaller of the two ceramic pieces was really difficult to get quite right in my drawing. I think it is just that a small error is a much larger % of the total size of the piece, and last week when I got around to that, my arms were tired and kind of shaky. but on top of that, it’s very shiny. The lights reflect off it. The other elements of the composition reflect off of it. It really takes an effort to look at it, and not the false contours that the reflections can create. I am thinking this will be a fun challenge.
This was my first time using straight paint as the first layer. For my first painting, I used extremely thin paint mixed with turpenoid for an imprimatur. This time we forewent imprimatur and just went straight to paint. That, friends and neighbors, kind of sucks. There was no hyperbole involved when Patty told me to “scrub the paint into the canvas.” It took me most of an hour to get one thin coat of paint on an 11×14 canvas (including color mixing time.)
Color mixing was interesting tonight. The large vase is a horsehair raku piece, so most of it is gray. Patty told me confidently, “Start with burnt sienna.” The mind boggles. However, burnt sienna + a ridiculous amount of white + a smidgen of blue later, and voila! Pretty much dead on for the lightest colors on the thing. It also happens that Patty’s own still life has a background with similar colors to mine, and in the midst of mixing her still life, she had my proper color. She was using M. Graham viridian green and titanium white. I have those colors! Only, not really. I have W&N Winton “viridian green hue.” It looks pretty nice alone. It’s even interesting with yellow. However, it becomes a bizarre and unnaturally bright/saturated color when mixed with white. Adding some crimson to key it down didn’t really work. I ended up with a gray that was still too bright. Patty, always a gracious teacher, shared some of her viridian with me. Grumbacher in this case, but still an actual viridian rather than a hue.
Luckily, my darling wife and several of our darling children were already in St Paul so I asked them to head to Wet Paint and pick up a tube of M. Graham viridian for me. I really like that paint. I started off just impressed that there was a line of professional grade paint that was similarly priced to the student lines. Then I used it a bit and became pleased, and now I am creeping up on downright excited.
Last night was unusual for one other reason: Everyone else from class was either out sick or out of town. It was just me and Patty. In other words, a private lesson. That was really cool. I had her attention whenever I needed to ask a question, or found myself at a loss as to where to proceed next. I definitely understand why people pay a lot of money for 1-on-1 art instruction. If I had more spare cash, I would consider it myself. I also got to watch a bit as Patty painted. Just standing there and watching her, and asking the occasional question, is almost a lesson in itself.
I think I am really going to enjoy this painting. It has the makings of a serious challenge, and also a platform from which to learn a variety of techniques. The combination of materials I’m painting is going to tax my ability to draw transparency, reflection, fine detail, texture, and light. I absolutely expect it to suck when I am done, but I bet I’ll be a much better painter.