Sometimes you meet a tree and it speaks to you.
My original encounter with the tree was when I took this photo:
This is another larger one at 36 X 48 inches in size. I wanted to capture some of the aspects of nature without making it relative to size. At the bottom I have painted some pollen grains that I think have a wonderful abstract quality. This painting is bright, without being overwhelming. If you look carefully you’ll find a tiny homage to the first video game I played and also a pair of my tired eyes after painting the many very tiny details this painting holds.
I have been reading Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. I am dragging my feet in finishing it because I am enjoying it that much. She goes through each color as a section, and talks about it’s history and it’s uses and travels to the far-flung places where the color was originally sourced. Not all these places are easily accessible tourist destinations, such as the lapis mines in Afghanistan she visits or remote villages in India seeking a yellow that was once thought to be made from the urine of cows fed mango leaves.
The making and mining of color has also in the past and even now, been a closely guarded secret. Recipes are guarded like gold, and in some cases deemed even more precious. When you read this book you taste the color, and you smell the color.
I find my mind creates wonderful pictures from the descriptions of the people she meets in her travels as well and I almost want to read the book with a brush in one hand. When in the very near future I turn the last page, it will be a wistful moment.
One day, while sitting around just looking I finally felt like I really “saw” for the first time. After you have a car accident and break your leg you have lots of time to look, But enough of that. I looked and saw nothing is white. Now that may not sound like much, but if you look at a shadow it may be shades of grey. A tree, shades of brown. If you put all those little shades next to one another, you have a picture.
I got it! But could I do it? I started just drawing with pencil. After a few false starts I decided that what I was doing, while not great, wasn’t all that bad. When my husband asked me for what I wanted for my birthday, I asked for oil paints. I haven’t picked up a brush in over 20 years, but am I having a ball. I decided to work through a book of oil painting exercises.
Just mixing the colors was lots of fun. In the past I just jumped in and tried to capture what I could but learning a bit was advancing what I could do as well. In the first column you have the color out of the tube, the second column is the color mixed with white, the next is the color mixed with black, the next is the color mixed with grey. The last two colums are the color mixed with it’s opposite on the color wheel (I may have played with this a bit rather than being exact) then the opposite and white. So this entire large block was made from 7 colors. The last one I threw in there as the exercise only had 6 as I was in search of shades of Pyr fur.
Of course I posted on Facebook that I recieved my oils. Not only did I recieve my oil paint set and easel, but my husband, showing great faith in my unproven ability bought me enough canvas to fill an art gallery. Next my dog’s breeder asked if I would paint a picture of my dog as a charity donation for the Great Pyrenees rescue booth. I wasn’t sure I was up to it. But I decided to try my best. So I jumped from exercises to dog portraits.
It turned out having a furry muse around really helped. I had been taking pictures of him for years and looking at Pyrs for a long time. So it was subject matter I knew well and loved and really wanted to show him off well.
Surprisingly, people actually liked what I did and even wrote to me asking for copies and cards and the like. And an idea was born. So I’ve skipped from exercise 2 in the painting techniques book, to being a painter of Pyrs and other things my furry muse Tila brings to my attention.