“30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge post-mortem

30in30

Just FYI, I am ALL about post-mortems, and I’ve been itching to do this since I started this whole venture!  So without further ado, here are my observations from my first time participating in the “30 in 30” challenge…

Greatest benefit:  Instead of only talking about painting and building up a body of work, I actually DID it!  And, bonus! I learned that I could actually handle the paint pretty well.  Well, most of the time…

Biggest letdown:  A sense of… I don’t know if I’d call it boredom, but rather the nagging feeling that I should have been devoting my energy to making original art and not just studies.  You can see that by the end of the challenge, I started to waffle and take more time with my paintings.  This was less because I had become a fussbudget, and more because I frequently contemplated abandoning them altogether.  I’m still not sure if I took on this challenge just as a way of putting off the more difficult task of coming up with original imagery.

The Mediums are the Message:  I tried more than a few on my acrylic paintings over the last few weeks, but I’ll save that breakdown for a future post.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this: they are NOT created equal.

(F)oil paints:  They took me for a ride, no question!  Remember Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when he first flies the Tie-Fighter (“WHOA!  This thing really MOVES!”)?  Well, that was me with oils.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride at first, but I’m proud of myself for giving them a go and getting to know them a little better – one more tool at my disposal!

Painting mistakes I made all the way through:

  1. mixed too many colours together and ended up with mud
  2. painted thoughtlessly and ended up with too many layers (i.e. more mud)
  3. didn’t take the time to establish VALUES

Things I’d like to try with my painting from here on in:

  1. less mud, more vibrant colour
  2. gestural brushwork
  3. non-linear imagery, i.e. don’t rely on the reference images as much

Saving the best for last:  The engagement with other artists who were crazy enough to do the “30 in 30” challenge, and their support, has been one of the best takeaways from this experience – bar none!  It was a welcome opportunity to connect with fellow artists, learn from each other, and see some great art.  You can bet I’ll be back when the next challenge rolls around!

(More or less) One-line summaries of each painting:

  1. Scared and nervous, but rarin’ to go!  Then I chicken out and use acrylics on PAPER.
  2. Convinced I can’t paint accurately so I try some faux 1920’s European look.  Whatever.
  3. Screw it!  Go fussy or go home!  And, miraculously, it works!
  4. Matte Medium almost makes me want to chuck the whole thing but dry brushing saves the day.
  5. First oil painting!  It’s about %300 linseed oil and is STILL not dry.
  6. Brazenly mix (water-soluble) oils with acrylics and nothing explodes.  Yet.
  7. 2nd oil painting!  I try blending and start to understand why people love oils.
  8. Try “Painting Medium” with oils and, well, let’s just forget that ever happened, ok?
  9. By this time, I’m feeling so “oiled”, I’m practically marinated.  Back to acrylics!
  10. And I get fussy-fussy-fussy, AND… run out of time to finish.
  11. Try to keep things loose and rough.  Add blue hair because why not?
  12. Learn that too many layers of acrylic paint is a bad thing.  Love her hair, though.
  13. Oils again!  And sweet perfection!  One of my favourites!!
  14. Oils aren’t so bad after all, at least that’s what I think until I start with the hair.
  15. Starting to miss the crisp detail I can get with acrylics, so this is my last oil for now.
  16. Worked my butt off on this one and I LOVE it!!
  17. I’ve had a few successes in a row and am feeling the pressure so I choke and avoid finishing this one.  Too bad…
  18. Feeling guilty because of my over-reliance on internet images so I cobble together a Franken-picture, but don’t have the guts/drive/self-confidence to finish.
  19. Feel like going out with a bang, and what could be easier than African Albino skin tones, amirite??

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Painting for September 29

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Face Study no. 16 – oil and acrylic on canvas, 6″ x 8″

Here she is, folks: my final (finished) painting for the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge!  I don’t know if I can really call them daily paintings anymore, though, because I’m taking longer and longer to finish them, but I digress…

Some notes about this specific painting:

  • painting albino skin tones is NOT an easy feat.  If you’re up for the challenge, proceed with caution! 😉
  • I finally realized with this painting that it’s in my best interest to add another coat or two of gesso (with some light sanding in between) to my pre-gessoed canvasses.  The basic Omer Deserres canvasses are fine, but these small Apollon ones would pill here and there and leave tiny bits of matter in the paint.

Things I’ve learned about oil painting in general thanks to this painting:

  • I really should use more paint.

Next time: A complete rundown of the pros and cons of doing this daily painting challenge – what I learned, where I stumbled, how often I asked myself “why the frig am I doing this?”, etc!  Stay tuned…

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Changing Course

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The start of a beautiful friendship? or imminent disaster?

I won’t lie: I have really enjoyed the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge (even if I’ve only done about half of it.  I was a late beginner, after all).  It was a fantastic opportunity to force myself to get comfortable with paint, as quickly as possible.

And it worked!  Already, I can see a huge improvement in my painting over the last few weeks, and most of that can be attributed to the fact that the more confident I felt, the more I was willing to push myself.  Heck, I even tried my hand at oil painting (shocker!), and not only did my studio NOT spontaneously combust, but I also managed to churn out some pretty decent work.  High-fives all around!

BUT… there is one problem: all of the work I’ve done so far has been reproductions of images I’ve found on the internet.  To be fair, I never claimed that they were original images, and have always been careful to title them as “studies”, but still my conscience is not clear.  Someone else took the time to hire the model, the hairdresser and makeup artist, set up the lighting, rent the studio, develop the art direction, etc, etc.  I didn’t have anything to do with any of that.  All I did was say “Wow, I’d love to try painting that”, and then proceeded to do so.  Most of the artistic decisions were made by someone else.  In a way, this is just another variant of Fan Art, and I’ve already gone on at length about my problematic relationship with it.

Which means we’re right back at Square One: if I want to make completely original work, I need to photograph my own models.  I don’t have the monetary funds for that, so the next best thing is to cobble together a few choice images and hope that the result is harmonious (or at least, a mostly harmless Franken-picture, if you will).  Behold my first try (see above)!

And here’s where the fears and doubts come crashing in because now I’m the one making the artistic decisions.  My mind is constantly second-guessing, oh, just about everything, and I’m having a lot less fun.  I’m even dredging up some serious existential garbage from my subconscious, wondering “Is this what it means to be an artist?  Because, quite frankly, I don’t know if I have the strength of character to pull off a lifetime of these insecurities!”  Honestly, how does Rose Miller of Wolfgang and Rose make it look so easy? 

Just so we’re clear, I may have a few more meltdowns before this picture is done, but I promise to give it my best shot!

Painting for September 23 WIP

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Face Study no. 17 – acrylic and oil on wood panel, 6″ x 8″

I always lose steam by the end of the week, so today’s painting for the 30 in 30 challenge might be a little late…

On the plus side, I might have figured out the best working method for me:

  1. Apply acrylics for the base “flats”, smooth where possible
  2. Paint the eyes and other fine details in acrylics ONLY
  3. Paint over only certain areas in water-soluble oils as needed.

And that way, I’ll get my nice, smooth surfaces, and my fine detail, and not want to tear my hair out! 😉

In case you were wondering, this painting is 90% acrylic.  I only painted over in oils parts of her nose, lips, ear, and the lower part of her cheek.

 

 

Painting for September 21

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Face study no.13 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

This one kicked my butt.  But GOOD.

I was feeling confident (read: cocky) after my painting yesterday, and seeing as how we’re enjoying the very last of the warm weather here in Montreal, I thought that I might as well take advantage of being able to open the windows and crank out another oil painting.

And I worked, and slaved, and struggled, and cursed the day I ever decided to paint a portrait with hair (my nemesis!!!).  And after great effort… it turned a corner, and it came out alright.  Oh sure, there are parts that look too much like a “painting” (very obvious large brushstrokes where the unfriendly reality of oil paints reared its ugly head – i.e. you can’t paint pale over dark and get the highlight effect you’re looking for, at least not in one sitting .  I swear, oil paints should simply be renamed “Can’t Undo” paints), but I’m pretty happy with it.

(Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m RELIEVED, and that’s the truth of it!  Daily Painting may be all about the journey and not the destination, but… at the end of the day, I really, really, REALLY wanted a pretty picture!)

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Painting for September 19

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Face study no.11 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

I swear to you that I set out to produce something fast, loosey-goosey, and sketchy… and I crumbled and started smoothing things out again (which was actually pretty difficult to do over all that paint).

I also realized that I’m STARVING for colour, so… Barbie Pink backgrounds for everyone!

May have to re-work this piece.  It looks fine large, but as a thumbnail, well, I find that the errors are more apparent.

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Painting for September 15

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Face Study no.9 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

Aaaannd we’re back!  After a brief dalliance with oils, I went back to acrylics, and man, did I ever miss their optimistic and plastic-y aroma!

And I got all wound up in doing the details of her face and now I’m too tired to do the rest of the painting.  G’night, folks!

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Painting for September 14

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Face Study no.8 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

I think I’ve come to the end of my very brief love affair with oil paints.  I feel like we were pressured into dating by well-meaning mutual friends, had an astonishingly great second date, and then the whole thing just fell apart soon afterwards and we realized we were better off as friends (I think you still owe me money, though).  I wonder if acrylics will take me back…

In all seriousness, it’s not as if I don’t like this painting (poor photography aside – fresh oils are a bitch to photograph).  It’s just… lacking in oomph.  And maybe it’s a little overcooked.

 

Painting for September 12

Face Study no.7
Face Study no.7 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

I must be a sucker for punishment because I opted to try another oil painting tonight.  Overall, the results are much better, and unlike the last one (which I pretty much SOAKED in linseed oil – because what do I know about oil painting, right?), this painting might actually dry sometime this century!

What chuffs me about this painting:

  • it kinda reminds me of a mid-century pin-up

What bums me about this painting:

  • the hair is a little too unfinished, but maybe I should’ve thought of that before I chose to copy a picture of a woman with wild hair, and so much of it!

List some teachable moments:

  • don’t expect oil colour and acrylic colour to behave the same way!  Maybe it’s just the brand I use, but I really hate their cadmium red (to be fair, it is a cadmium red hue).  It’s a fluffy, candy red that I find very difficult to control.
  • still trying to figure out how to make a brilliant white highlight with oils.  If anyone has any tips, please share!!

Anything else to share with the class?

  • I listened to a collection of Stars tracks on CBC Radio 3 while I painted this.  Just FYI.

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