Art theory Faces Life in general Painting People Portrait Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Squinting to See the Light (funny story)

Squinting to see the light

Watercolor in large Moleskine notebook

Today at work, 10 of us were sitting around the table in the lunchroom eating and chatting. I sat across from our director, facing the picture window and our 27th-story view of Oakland, the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tamalpais and the huge, cloudy sky. I was thinking about what I learned in my painting class last Sunday about the importance of learning to see color temperatures and value. A good way to do that is to close one eye and squint, which helps to blur the details, so that you can see shapes and values. I decided to practice on a blue house and a large brick building that I could see in the distance. I tried one eye and then the other, curious if it made a difference between my left and right eyes.

Suddenly I realized the conversation had stopped, our director was asking me if I was OK, and everyone was staring at me. I burst out laughing realizing that I was sitting there making weird squinty faces and they were all thinking I had an excruciating headache or had suddenly gone mad. I started trying to explain what I was doing and they looked at me perplexed. They finally realized it was an “art thing” and went back to chatting about work and TV shows and travel.

When I got home tonight, I looked in the mirror to see just how funny I looked and had to do this quickie self-portrait in my sketchbook. Amazingly it actually looks like me!

Art theory Flower Art Glass Oil Painting Painting Sketchbook Pages Still Life

Wax On, Wax Off (Breathe In, Breathe Out)

Rose in a Jar

Oil on panel, 12×9″

The title of this post refers to words from the 1984 movie Karate Kid and also my process in this painting except for the painting it would be more like “Paint On, Wipe Off (Breathe!) Paint On, Wipe Off… ” (click on “Keep Reading” below to see photos of the steps). I’m not happy with the front flower but I’m ready to move on to the next painting. With each one I learn so much more, including how much more there is to learn!!!!

I had two main goals for this painting/learning experience:

  • Think in terms of “Whole Canvas”
  • Keep trying to understand how to work with oil paint so that I’m taking advantage of its wonderful qualities rather than fighting them. (I’ll keep trying!)

In my many years of watercolor painting, I worked hard to capture what excited me about my subject. I often worked close focus without much background, or just using the lovely white of the paper as my background to set off the glittering glass or glowing flowers I was painting. If the composition didn’t quite work out–no problem, just crop as needed with a mat and frame.

In oil painting the background has to be an integral part of the painting–you can’t just leave the glaring white of the gessoed canvas as your background. And you can’t crop a stretched canvas or panel like you can paper. I was struggling with this concept and finally it clicked. It’s just another way of seeing and, like peeling layers of the onion, the haze peeled from eyes and I could see that a painting is not subject & background — they fit together to complete the picture, just as night completes day. While an object that interests me enough to paint it is the focal point, I need (for now) to think of the PAINTING as the subject.