Sunday, December 29, 2013

I painted with my son!

This had been the most incredible experience I have had yet with my painting.
My son Acey came home from an LDS mission to Argentina in November. I’ve missed him so much! Since my younger son Ethan challenged me to learn to paint, I’ve dreamed of painting with Acey.
Acey is a talented artist. He works in many different mediums, but he especially likes drawing in ink. But since I started painting last summer, I’ve been looking forward to having Acey come home and paint with me.
Acey told me right as soon as he got home that he would love to paint with me. Still, I worried that he would just be patronizing me because of his superior artistic abilities. When the time came to actually set up my easel, I was thrilled when my son was enthusiastic about setting up another easel next to me.
I have to say right now that painting with Acey that night was an experience that I’ll never forget. It was golden. Because of his experience in the arts, he was already way ahead of me. I expected that, and I hope Acey will have things to teach me as we go on.
For now I’ve got to say that having a partner to paint with is pretty special for me.
I actually hope to paint regularly with Acey. I have some big plans that will be revealed soon here on this blog.
For now, I’m just going to enjoy painting side by side with my son. He’s the first true artist who has worked with me, without looking down on me. We just paint together. That’s a wonderful and amazing thing.

Just wait and see where this goes next!

By the way.

Here's what we painted:

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What I have learned so far

It’s more complicated than you might think. I thought oil painting, and by association art itself, was free and accepting and open minded.

When I first got started painting, I called a local art gallery, looking for a teacher. I talked with a lady who taught the oil painting class at the gallery, and she asked me to tell her what I had done up to that point.

I told her about the paints and brushes I had purchased at walmart and about the Bob Ross videos I had found at the library.

I could hear this teacher starting to hyperventilate over the phone, so I stopped talking.

Then she launched into her rebuke!

I was doing myself more harm than good! There was nothing on the internet or in videos that will teach me anything!

I needed live, personal instruction. I needed a good year of training in sketching before I ever touched a painter’s brush!

Now, I respect this teacher and I understand her enthusiasm about the importance of proper art instruction.

But I don’t feel like I have a year to spend learning things before I start to paint.

I will say this though: I believe that I need to learn to draw, so I will study drawing AT THE SAME TIME as I am painting.

The main reason I didn’t decide to take lessons from this teacher is that I am looking for instructors that are more easy-going. I’m not young anymore. I can’t take the “drill sergeant” type who has very strong feelings and beliefs about the right way and the wrong way to do things. I want to explore and experiment. I don’t want to be indoctrinated into one particular school of thought.

It’s funny to me because I’ve always been attracted to hobbies and pursuits that cause people to disagree violently.  I golf, and golfers are cruel and critical of one another. I play the guitar, and guitarists notoriously hate each other.  

“You’re doing it wrong!” I knew I’d hear that. I’ve found that artists have very definite ideas about the wrong way and the right way to paint.

But isn’t art about expression?

What if I wanted to paint with different hues of mud, using a toothbrush? Would that be okay?

I won’t even start naming famous artists who had different styles, some even radical.

But there are still some hints I’m learning about successful oil painting that I can share.

Cleaning the brushes with dish soap and water is possible. But it makes a huge mess in the sink. I’m always looking for the cleanest, easiest way to go from set up, to painting, to clean up, as I can.

People have told me not to use dish soap and water to clean my brushes, but it seems to work fine, and after drying overnight, the brushes seem great.

By the way, if you have strong feelings about what I should or shouldn’t be doing, PLEASE leave a comment!

But right now I’m mostly cleaning my brushes with mineral spirits. They do seem to build up a residue though.

So I’m learning, finding my preferences, developing habits, painting my mile.
So here's another canvas so you can see my progress:


Monday, November 11, 2013

The educated and the elite.

When I started painting, I also started to seek out the experiences of successful artists. I went to art exhibits and fairs.
Finding successful painters also meant searching online for information about artists as I became aware of them, and also it meant attending exhibitions and art fairs. I’ll talk about some of those fairs in just a minute.
As I heard the stories of these successful artists, in person and online, I was struck by a fairly common element. I asked those I met at fairs to tell me the story of their success as painters. Online I found artists telling their stories in blogs and on youtube.
Here’s the thing I heard over and over again.
Wait: I will point out right here that not ALL artists shared this common element in their story, but the number who did surprise me.
Continue: Many of these successful painters said that the beginning of their artistic journey began with a degree from a university with a good fine arts department.
I’m not criticizing this, I’m just pointing out that it surprised me.
I expected painters to tell stories of inspiration and personal creative agony.
But again and again, artists told me that after feeling the desire to paint, they felt that their first stop had to be to enroll in the university. Some of them mentioned this as a great story, because many of them entered their fine arts programs after the age of forty.
When I questioned several of these artists and asked if a university degree was very necessary to success as an artist, they all answered the same way, saying that they couldn't imagine how someone could even consider oneself a painter or have any level of success without a university degree in fine arts.

Again, I have no criticism for university educated painters, I’m sure any university art class is an incredibly empowering experience. It’s just that getting a degree in fine arts is not a possibility for me right now. And I’m not willing to believe that I cannot learn to paint successfully on my own. 
In that spirit, here's another one I've done while trying to learn to paint:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My first oil painting class.

After striking out with my first attempt to find a local teacher, I was reminded of our local Arts community organization.  I went to their building to explore, and I was thrilled. They were having an exhibit of the works of local artists. I lost myself in the beautiful paintings.
After I looked over every piece in the exhibit, I went to the office to find out about oil painting classes. There was a class in progress. I had already missed two classes. But I signed up anyway.
The teacher was Diane Turner. She’s a great artist, and she was a student of LeConte Stewart, a famous Utah painter, and a hero of mine.
I have to admit that I was EXTREMELY nervous when I entered the classroom on the next Wednesday evening. All the students laughed at my new easel, but they applauded that I was a very new oil painter.
I didn't say anything to anyone about Bob Ross.
We were painting sunflowers in a vase, which is significant to oil painters because of Vincent Van Gogh.
I wasn't sure I could do it. They weren't starting with a thin coat of liquid white, like Bob Ross does.  And the teacher told me I could only use the three primary colors, red yellow and blue. And white.
I picked Alizarin Crimson and tried to trowel it on with a palette knife.  Didn't look right. Then I went after the vase. It looked like I was back in the eighth grade.
I enjoyed mixing my colors to get green for the stems. I was feeling more confident. I did the petals on the flowers with a palette knife, because I've seen Van Gogh’s sunflowers in person, and I believe he used a knife.  My painting looked childish and crude, but I think it turned out okay.

The teacher said I shouldn't have centered my vase and flowers. And she was confused about my odd looking background. I didn't understand about her method of under painting, but I understand now, and I think I’ll try another still life on my own. She covers her canvas in a thinned down color of her choosing. I want to try that. But all in all it was a VERY valuable experience, and I enjoyed the interaction with the other students.

In Utah: 25th Street in Ogden

There are great art galleries here on 25th Street in Ogden Utah. Very much worth a visit.

In Utah: 25th Street in Ogden: Ogden has lots of history, and 25th street is a very interesting place. Lots of shops and restaurants. Lots of clubs and bars, too. That’s ...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ready set go.

When I got home with my new twelve dollar oil painting kit and two huge pieces of Masonite board, I was ready. My son had a drafting table in his bedroom. I brought it out to the family room (where there was a television).

I cut the Masonite board into 1 by 2 foot boards. Then I went to the hardware store and bought a quart of white primer. On the way home I stopped at the library. I looked through the books and videos on oil painting.

Here’s the thing: The only videos on oil painting instruction were Bob Ross vidoes. So I went home with Bob Ross videos. That was what I could find. I didn’t choose him because I thought he had the “style” I want to paint, I chose him because he was available.

Now, I’m not insulting Bob Ross. I have always enjoyed his PBS shows, and I have the greatest respect for his abilities. And, I will always consider Bob Ross my first teacher.

I’ll talk more about Bob Ross later.

So, at home, I primed all my pieces of board, and then realized that I would have to wait for them to dry. It occurred to me that this would be a pattern for me as a painter. There would be preparations that would sometimes take days.

The next day I put a board on the drafting table and a Bob Ross video on the television. My sons are artists, and I found a large, 2 by 5 foot board covered in canvas in my oldest son’s room. This board was clearly meant for working on art projects. I put this board on the kitchen table to protect it, and I was ready.

I started the video.

There was so much that Bob Ross said that I didn’t understand. I didn’t recognize the different colors he recommended so I tried to find something similar in my oil painting kit. I didn’t know what “liquid white” was, so I just skipped that part. I didn’t have the same kind of brushes and palette knifes that he had, so I tried to use the brushes and plastic knives that seemed appropriate.

Best of all, my youngest daughter grabbed one of my primed boards, and without a word, she joined me.

The blue in our skies was much too dark, and our paintings looked like night time paintings. But at the end, we had recognizable landscaped.

I was hooked. I knew I needed to go shopping for just a few tools. There were just a couple of colors I really wanted to try, and I wanted a metal palette knife and a brush like Bob Ross was using.

My non-stop art supply shopping had begun.

I’ll talk next about what I learned from the instruction I received, and how my tools worked out for me.

First, here is one of the first paintings that drew compliments from my family:

So what caused me to decide to paint?

Easy answer: My kids.
I said before that I’ve always been passionate about oil painting. I love museums. I’ve taken my family to many museums, especially to see the oil paintings.
I’ve taken my family to county fairs, state fairs, and other similar festivals especially to see the oil painting competitions.
Best of all, almost four years ago my daughter had the opportunity to play with her university wind ensemble at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
My wife and I were able to joint her there and we spent a few days seeing the sights. It was something I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do.
Our greatest priority while we were there was to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
One moment, of many, that I will never forget, was standing in front of Van Gogh’s sunflowers. I became emotional. Tears welled up in my eyes.
Painters have always held a special place in my heart.
Back to my story.                
My sons are artists. My oldest daughter married an artist. They are all very successful. Their stories will be told later in this blog.
When my youngest son left to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he had a little talk with me.  He thanked me for his artistic abilities. He said that my passion for art was the reason that he had always studied and had made art a part of his life.
He reminded me how whenever we were watching television, and Bob Ross would appear on a PBS channel, I would insist that we watch the program until it ended.
So my son said to me: “Dad, I want you to make me a promise. I’’ll be serving a mission for two years. When I come home, I want you to be an oil painter. I want you to figure it out. Take lessons, do whatever you have to do, but learn to oil paint. You’re already half way there. You love oil painting, and you’re an oil painter in your heart.”
I made that promise to him. Now he’s serving his mission.
But things didn’t go well at first.
I went to a local art supply store (not the store from the previous story) and I was very discouraged by the price of the oil painted supplies. Our family was experiencing real financial stress, and I could afford to get involved in an expensive hobby. I was sad to think that I was going to break my promise to my son.
I was also discouraged by the first oil painting lesson I found on youtube. In this lesson, the painter first sketched his painting in pencil on his canvas, later filling it in with oil paints. I can’t sketch. I started looking for instructional videos on sketching, which I’m sure will help me, but I thought I had reached my final road block.
Enter Walmart!
While shopping at Walmart one day, I came across a beginner’s Oil Painting kit, for twelve dollars. The kit contained little tiny tubes of paint, and a few cheap brushes and plastic palette knives.
I bought the kit and was officially a student of oil painting. 

Here's my daughter the night she performed at Carnegie Hall:

Why Mile Painter?

When I first decided to learn to oil paint (story to follow later) I went to a very good art supply store in my state.
I walked in and started looking around. I had no idea what I was looking at, or looking for. The nice lady at the counter came over and asked if she could help.
I explained that I wanted to learn to oil paint.  I didn't even know what I would paint on, and I was looking for a pad of paper. I told her that maybe I would buy some butcher paper.
She told me that the oil paints would disintegrate paper. She gave me a quizzical look.
She asked if I was an artist.
I told her that I had absolutely no artist abilities, and that I was starting from absolute scratch.
She smile and told me something that gave me chills. She gave me a firm, tangible starting point. She put me on my path.
She said: “There’s a saying that tells us that no one is an artist until they've painted a mile of canvases.”
Then she started showing me all the things I would need to get started.
She said that she was one of the teachers at the store, and I could immediately tell that she was telling me things that she believed, but might not be exactly what other painters would tell me.
So here we go with controversial views.
She told me not to waste my money buying canvases yet. She told me to buy some Masonite board at the local hardware store and cut it to the size I wanted.
She told me to prime the board. She didn't say how many times, or anything about sanding the board. She told me I could buy white gesso for priming, but that regular white priming paint at the hardware store was the same thing and would save me money.
I picked up some pink soap for cleaning brushes (I imagined that painting was going to be a terrible mess) and she said that was fine, but that I could clean my brushes just fine with dish soap and water.
Okay. I bought the pink soap and a little glass jar to clean my brushes in. I took a brochure about painting classes.
I was going to paint a mile of paintings.
I’ll tell you what I've learned about her advice to me next.

By the way, so far, I've painted about 0.004 miles of canvas.

I am learning to oil paint.

You won’t hear me call myself an artist, but you will hear me call myself a painter, because that’s what I do.
I am a student of painting.
I believe my story is worth telling.
Where do I even begin?
Here’s the thing. I’m going to have to start from the very beginning, even though that beginning is not really the reason behind this. But I have to go to that beginning to really explain what’s going on in my head.
I've always loved painting. Even though I was never good at art or anything artistic.
When I was really little, Mom would buy little water color kits for me from the grocery store. I loved that.
Right from the time I was in Kindergarten, I loved art projects. I always felt exhilarated as the teacher would explain the project and pass out the supplies. I always wondered if this time I would create something wonderful.
I remember one occasion in the sixth grade. I don’t remember what we painted or created. I don’t remember what the media was. It was pastels or colored pencils or something.
What I do remember is having everyone in the class “ooh and ahh” at my work and passing it around for everyone to see.
The next time I was involved with art in school was jr. high school. The eighth grade. I took an art class.
Again, I don’t remember specific class projects, but I do remember hoping that something amazing would come out of it. I remember drawing some cowboys lounging in front of a cave hideout.
After my 8th grade art class, I had no exposure of any kind to art instruction or hobbies.
At least in practice.
But here’s the thing:
I’ve ALWAYS been a painter in my heart.
I love art history.  I love everything about painting, and l love to see and study all kinds of paintings.
I love sculpture too. My favorite books about art have been the works of Irving Stone, especially “The Agony and the Ecstasy”, and “Lust for Life”. I have opinions about the works of Irvine Stone that we’ll talk about later.
I said before that I love all paintings, but I especially love paintings done in oil. I love the classics, I love the impressionists.
I have strong opinions about many painters and painting styles that I will express openly and candidly in this blog and I accept that my opinions may be controversial, and even wrong. Some of my opinions may be the result of ignorance. In that case, we may see some of my opinions change over time during this blog.
In my next entry, I’m going to continue into the story of why and how I got started with oil painting, but for now I’m going to share one of the first paintings I executed that didn’t look like complete failure to me.

It was done on Masonite board.