UPDATE 12-11-10: I revised this painting again and it’s posted here.
At the end of the season we harvest the crops (or in my case, tomatoes). The last green stragglers are picked from their shriveling vines and set near a window to ripen. And that leads me to think about my own ripening as an artist; reflecting on which artistic pursuits have borne fruit, and which are still hard and green despite my best efforts.
After working in a realistic style in watercolor for years I began to explore other media, eventually focusing on oil painting, determined to gain comfort and competence with it. The path felt wide and long because I’m attracted to so many painting styles, from classical realism to impressionism and even expressionistic figurative work.
But as I get closer to competence with oils (while still far from mastery) I’m beginning to narrow the path and here’s why….
Oils vs. Watercolor
I found that trying to paint in oils in the same detailed, realistic style I enjoy so much in watercolor felt like work, not fun. But why, I wondered.
And here’s what I realized: Watercolor has its own spirit that moves, flows, mixes, and makes every stroke an adventure. You put the paint down and then watch what happens. Even with years of experience and good control of the medium, it still surprises.
In oils, you mix a color, you brush it on, and it sits there. Sure, there are plenty of challenges in mixing the right color and putting it in the right place. The paint is rich, vibrant and beautiful, a pleasure to work with. But the artist has to bring the spirit of adventure and playfulness to this obedient medium; it’s not built in as it is in watercolor.
I’ll always admire the beauty of classical realism and the technical skill behind it. But I’m choosing the fork in the road towards a more looser, freer and more playful approach to painting in oils.
About the painting at top of post… Here’s the first quick pencil and watercolor sketch just to get a feel for things:
Here’s the first (partly scraped off) oil painting version:
A friend looked at the painting in progress and said it was too busy; the background detail and stems were taking away from the tomatoes. I scraped off the quilt-patterned background, took the above photo, and then scraped off the stems, repainting to simplify resulting in the painting at top.