I was doing some painting last night and I realized again how much I love painting various textures. The most amazing part of oil paint is the ability to transform one material into another, exactly like alchemy.
The painting was all alla prima and took me about 3 hours to complete. I'm a fast painter, but that was even fast for me to complete a painting. I recently made a deal with myself that I will never rush a painting, if I feel like I'm rushing I put my brushes down and walk away; since this painting progressed from beginning to end, I didn't feel the need to walk away. I feel like the speed also helps me because I don't end up overthinking areas and going back and muddling them up.
It was also really fun to paint because I was really inspired by the color of the rum and the orange reflections that are created with light passing through the bottle. Even though this painting only took a few hours, I was totally immersed and focused the entire time. I've come to realize that the question of "how long did that take" is not an accurate reflection of the skill or quality of the painting.
Handling the smaller details such as the label on the bottle or the cap of the bottle was the only area where I used a smaller brush. For those details I like to use small synthetic watercolor brushes, but the rest of it is larger bristle brushes. And the details are actually pretty abstract when you see the painting close up. I'm not sure if it's my own speed or laziness, but I always painted details in a shorthand sort of way. I like suggesting a bit of detail, but I don't like laborious painting because it makes the painting feel lifeless in my opinion. I feel like I captured a sense of space with this one and the light and textures are as accurate as I could make them. Stay tuned for more soon!
I just did a painting study tonight (pictured below) that inspired me to share some some insight. The reason I did this painting was because I was feeling pretty bad after having painted a really terrible painting earlier today. So I was feeling pretty low and decided to take a different approach to this second painting. The painting is of an amaryllis bulb that flowered recently. I wanted to just slow down a little bit and paint this study piece by piece in a very deliberate fashion.
I feel like the painting came out well and taught me a really valuable lesson in the importance of having deliberate action with my paint. I won't be in a rush anymore to paint and I'll be taking my time from here on.
I've recently been painting a lot of watercolors and one of the many things it has taught me is that it is very difficult to paint watercolors. I was long under the spell of how easy some artists make it look (particularly Sargent and Sorolla). But the truth that I'm discovering is that painting and drawing requires tremendous effort. By the end of a painting my palette (and mind) is usually a chaotic mess as I have pushed paint around to get everything juuuuuust right.
Now the problem is that I don't want my paintings to look overworked and tortured, but I've learned that I need to keep pushing and pushing until the painting looks as good as I expect it to. I was looking for something to paint today and decided to step up my game and see if I could paint two liquor bottles on this red table cloth that I've been liking recently. One of the bottles is a round glass with a golden sort of cage around it and the other is a bottle of Jack Daniels Honey Whiskey (my favorite drink on the rocks). I've been painting a lot of these liquor bottles recently because I find the play of color and reflections to be quite fascinating and challenging.
The painting required a lot of pushing until I finally got it to a level where it almost painted itself. I think of it like pushing a car up a hill until you reach an apex and then the hardest part is done and you can guide the car back down the other side of the hill. The downslope is usually enjoyable, but the pushing can be hellish at times.
Painting, to me, is like alchemy or magic because I'm trying to turn one substance (the paint) into other substances (bottles, whiskey, shadows, reflections) using only some brushes and medium. On a deeper level, I'm trying to tell a story and have some emotionality in my work. All of this is under my control based on my skill level. The thing that I also realized is that the difficulty is what fascinates me. I've always loved fixing things and solving problems and I see no greater challenge than creating an accurate visual chronicle of my reality on white paper with some paint and a brush.