I am in my second week of oil painting classes taught by J.J. Graham at the Hollingsworth Gallery. I have never painted with oils so I am enjoying instruction on the basic techniques of layering, creating a history with the piece and putting life into the work. I hope to work my way up to the more advanced levels over the next few months but at the moment find I am an impatient student. And I know J.J. is a good instructor and motivator because I don't fully realize what I’m learning until a few hours or a few days go by.
But I am so happy to be back in the studio. It pulls me back to what I always liked best - the simple act of being an artist when squeezing the paint or the mixing and folding of colors with my palette knife and the general physicalness of the act itself.
However, I've been spending far too much time standing before my canvas in a state of panic instead of a state of calm. Hesitant instead of confident. Do I have enough paint on the brush or should I use more? Do I use several sized brushes at a time or clean one over and over again? Do I apply more medium when the paint gets dry or do I dab it in the terp? These are all things experienced oil painters take for granted and while I know it simply takes time and patience it has been difficult being a student, being a beginner, feeling the frustration.
With distance comes insight. Be it walking a few feet away from your work and looking at if from a different vantage point or just giving it time to digest so you can review it with a more calm and focused mind.
I'm now able to see I've been ignoring the most important artist tool in the room...me. My instincts. My patient self. My imaginative self. The one that loves to be a student, loves the act of the doing, loves being lost in the creative zone that used to happen when I paint with watercolors. I guess because that is where I felt most confident and I am allowing my lack of knowledge of the medium inhibit my artist self. But that's what learning is all about Charlie Brown. And you're never too old or too skilled to be humbled by it.
So when I go to my next class and work on building a few more layers to its history I will remember to take a few really deep breaths before I begin and, with two brushes in my left hand and one in my right, I will trust my instincts more than the photograph and paint from within using the most crucial artist tool of all, me.
I look forward to where this will lead me and understand the only way to gain the experience is in the very doing. Until then I hope you too can learn to apply the paint in your life with more patience, to stop the obsessing and most of all to trust in yourself. You know you can. Java!
P.S. Here’s a nice tid-bit from Robert Genn's Newsletter: Sunny Side Up (link at bottom).
Here in the dark days of winter are a few words that might just keep your sunny side up:
Have a decent ego; cultivate self-esteem and individualism.
Keep an open mind; there's more than one way to do things.
Focus on your processes; that's where the joy comes in.
Be kind; it never hurts to give to others, even praise.
Be innocent; have a childlike--not childish--approach.
Be thankful, even for the smallest of blessings.
Be a perpetual student--be curious and seeking.
Filter your priorities--and don't suffer fools.
Be creative; it's the highest form of life.
Honour and respect time; it's the main gift.
Be optimistic; the opposite holds no charms.
Develop good habits--they will develop you.
Be thrifty--waste not, want not.
Work to please yourself.
Be hard to please.