I’ve had my first oil painting class this week, along with 15 other students. It’s exciting to finally learn the processes involved in using this medium, including the proper positioning of one’s easel. There’s simply no alternative to learning the basics. I have dabbled before but knew I was missing some key information not to mention also a lifetime of experience. It’s wonderful to learn about underpainting canvases, using a palette knife to mix colors, creating different values, and so forth. So very different from watercolor, but it’s going to be fun to keep up with both types of painting. One of my older experiments on wood panel accompanies this post. More to come…
At last there’s time today to experiment with painting a scene in watercolor directly onto a sanded gesso panel. This gesso preparation is meant for priming rigid surfaces such as this panel but usually for the purpose of oil or acrylic painting. I’d read recently, however, about a watercolor painter who makes his own gessoed panels for “plein air” competitions, and thought I’d try it. So, earlier this week, I prepared a panel with several layers of gesso and sanded it down to a smooth surface after the gesso dried (photos below).
As I tried this watercolor scene, I was pleasantly surprised by the effect on the panel and could instantly see the possibilities, with more practice, to “lift” paint for lighter effects, glaze, scrape, create patterns and give more depth or dimension to the painting. I’m sure I’ll be trying this again. (To make the gesso, I used the Gamblin brand for traditional gesso and followed the instructions.)
When one is accustomed to watercolor painting, experimenting with oil paints is initially frustrating. There are a lot of differences and one is that it’s a whole lot messier. There must be a method to your madness too, or the colors will quickly become muddy from careless mixing and intermingling of brushes. I set myself up with some Gamblin oil paints, which came with a handy 6″ x 12″ wooden panel. I used this panel as my first surface (seen below). It’s easy to see how (and why) one could spend a lifetime trying to master this. As with watercolor, however, there is a difference between somewhat heavy-handed applications of paint, and a lighter hand. It’s all going to require a lot more experimenting…
As to this image, it sprang to mind when I faced off with the blank wooden panel. While out taking a walk recently, I noticed that a nearby fountain is currently undergoing maintenance and our ubiquitous Canadian geese were resting on it in the middle of the lake. This became my subject. But remembering what Canadian geese look like proved harder than it should be–given that there are so many in this area that groups of them waddle through parking lots in search of food. So I went out and looked at them again!
A “touch up” later and the whole thing got still more complicated; (maybe this is like revising an already unacceptable healthcare bill). When I start over next time, I will try to stick with simple shapes, and see what happens. Anyway, this is welcome distraction from the just-announced “healthcare” bill which, if passed, will cause immense damage to this country, apparently intentionally so!
A brief break from the easel to check the news online… and what do I see? Video clips of U.S. Capitol Police trying to carry elderly and apparently disabled people out of the halls of the U.S. Capitol… This is not very positive imagery for the erstwhile “leader of the free world” clearly. Evidently these people had gathered there at considerable personal effort, in wheelchairs and on canes, to protest the secretly cobbled-together “healthcare” bill that will throw all of them out onto the street. Here they were being picked up off the floor to be carried out to the street…how symbolic of the new government approach to people in need. These are exactly the type of people who will be harmed the most if this bill passes, as major insurances companies warned again just today: The proposed bill will most hurt “74 million low-income, disabled and elderly Americans whose health care coverage through Medicaid” depends on Congress’s next moves. Right now, their obvious preferred option is to make the rich richer, and let the less fortunate fall through the widening cracks, come what may… What kind of policy-maker thinks this way?
Ironic that Canadian geese must have determined this is a better place to live when, at least for American people (except for the famous “1 %”), it will become much more difficult in the U.S. in the years ahead. That is, unless we suddenly see an outbreak of forward-thinking readiness to consider the public good among the people’s elected representatives–thinking that is not much in evidence, tragically. They cannot connect the dots between the public good and national and global security, obviously.
As I turn back to the easel, I think about what I just saw: U.S. Senators are embracing a bill that the U.S. President has described as “mean” even as he urges them to pass it without delay. It’s not making America great apparently that is the goal, but making America “mean”? How could this sort of thinking possibly prepare this great nation for the unprecedented challenges rushing headlong at us, irrespective of our political leanings, in the years just ahead? Clearly making sense of the news is harder than painting in oils. I’ll stick with the task at hand…for now.