Last Friday I found myself here, at the sweet little San Clemente Art Supply store, about to take another offshoot on the road of my usual creative pursuits. I was shopping for required class materials, since I was taking a weekend class in oil painting over at Studio Crescendoh, taught by Leslie Duke.
I started getting some of the colors for class and then kept adding pretty colors to the basket. Well. I had no idea how expensive oil paints can be...especially the series 3 and 4 tubes. I'm grateful that the cashier had no issue with me saying, "how much? oh, no, I can't get that, sorry" over and over. It's hard when you are an art supply addict and color lover both ;).
How cute is Leslie? Very! I'm a big fan of her work and was so excited to get to learn about her process and see her create in person. While I've never done oils, I knew going in that there was a reason for that. I knew that they are known to be difficult to work with and also very slow drying which requires patience. Adding the still life aspect to it takes it further out of my usual big, messy, whatever goes, instinctual type painting with acrylics. I would be challenged to be cleaner, more precise, to be uncomfortable with the materials. But hey, I love a creative challenge. While I know some find it hard to be at a level of creating that doesn't line up with their level of taste (paraphrasing there a great quote by Ira Glass that Leslie shared with us):
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
I enjoy the no expectations, nowhere to go but up, end of the art learning curve. For a bit anyway...I mean, of course, I wouldn't enjoy it as much day after day after day...I do want to see evidence that I'm learning in the results. But that said, I appreciate that good art shouldn't come instantly, I don't expect it to be easy, and that while perhaps certain things can't be taught, like natural talent, whatever skills and talent you do have can be improved upon with practice. All this to say that being a student is very fun to me, which in turn improves the learning I do.
Say what? I'm going to assume you get what I'm fumbling all over my words trying to say- the same thing I always do- if you're interested in trying something, by all means, I encourage you to, and hope you have low expectations about result but instead, enjoy the journey!
It's a real treat to see what other artists do, what they use, how they think, and watch their minds and hands work. I loved Leslie's paint palette that her friend made just for her.
We discussed natural light and how to see differently. I was having a tough time seeing the shadows and lights and darks as well as I would have liked. I should have looked in my camera lens, because they are so much clearer in this photo then to my eye in person!
We also discussed composition. I ended up breaking my standard lean to of odd numbers and decided to paint 2 radishes for my first excercise.
I always have to remind myself that as much as I want to start trying, I'm really there to learn and my favorite way to learn is to watch. We were all mesmerised, watching her work her magic.
My makeshift palette and my still life set ups. Time for me to try my hand at magic making. Spoiler: It ain't easy, but it's worth it!
I did find it nice to be working in a smaller, more contained area. To have clean enough hands (at the beginning anyway) to take notes. You can see my two paintings that I spent most of day one working on in progress here. I did a single persimmon and 2 radishes.
My radishes were my favorite at the end of day 1 by far. I knew I had to get back to them the next day, but felt there was hope I'd like them when done.
My persimmon was a little overworked and I'd taken some of the life/energy out of it. I was glad that the day was wrapping up just so I'd stop messing with it!
About 50 minutes before class was over, I decided to start a third painting (of three apples) and see if I could just be really quick and free and not overthink or over fuss. Of course, the apples quickly became my favorite. It was just the beginning of course, but I felt a freedom and an energy in the painting that wasn't in the others...can you see it?
...the second day of class coming up next post!