Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sunday Morning Painting Lesson

Remember those painting lessons at my dining room table last July when ES was convalescing from hip surgery? How much of that instruction do you think I retained? Well, not as much as I needed for painting canvasses last week.
One must must paint every day, just as I write every day. Then brush strokes and phrases flow with some degree of skill and inspiration. Sure, a writer or painter can always get into a tight spot at any moment of the process, but we simply throw up our hands and then rethink the painting or the story or the blog post.
Mind you, ES is a good teacher and I did learn things last July about using acrylic paints and gels, but when I went to work in my studio, it was after two months of no painting.  I could not begin to replicate the effects I got on those first canvasses. As ES says, "Paint 100 and you'll know something about painting. Paint 1000 and you'll know a great deal more. And you may also have caught the bug. You'll enjoy painting."
Oh, I actually thought I'd gotten decent painted surfaces on which to work and I'd even laid down photos and scraps of fabric. I began to see collages take form and even brushed on some bronze and painted a few dots. Images were interesting, but over all, the painting part needed work.
So on Sunday morning, I said to ES, "I know you're going to the studio, but before you leave, can you just tell me what colors go on top of what to make those muddy effects?" I held a pen and a yellow legal tablet, ready to jot down whatever he said.
He scoffed at the tablet. "Taking notes is like making love from a diagram."
ES walked into my studio and was immediately aghast to see that I was working on the floor. Hundreds of photographs and scraps of fabric were spread all over because that is how I always work.
In the 1980s, my friend Sally gifted me with a pair of gardening knee pads for that floor work. They've disappeared, but I rest my knees on a pile of towels and carry on. Having collages in progress on a table never gives me enough distance. If I am on the floor, I simply stand up to take a good look at things.
"How can you work?" ES asked. 
"I work just fine."
He was ready to instruct.
But I was totally unprepared to begin painting at that very moment. Was so nonplussed that I stepped into a dish of water that spilled over all the newspapers I'd laid down. Then the cat sat in the middle of a canvas and finally had to be banished. ES simply sat in a chair, waiting to instruct.
He pointed, "Take that tube and put some in that dish. Mix it with a little water. Push the knife around. Make the paint all the same consistency."
"Now. Brush it on. Faster. In all the corners, move to the center. Cover it quickly. Add some more water. There you go."
Yes, there I went. I worked on one canvass after another, covering what I'd painted days before. ES laid plastic over the tables on the screen porch and set the wet canvasses out to dry. 
On we went, until I'd painted every canvas in the studio with a first or second coat of paint. They were dry within an hour and then ES gave more instruction. More layers. More colors. He showed me how to hold a brush.
"You hold your brush like you're writing with it," he said. "Hold it this way," and he moved my hand. Who knew? The brush strokes and effects were totally different. Things began to look up.
When the canvasses dried, I began to move photos and fabric around. Totally new start on some lovely surfaces. I'll take a Sunday morning painting lesson any time.
Last night I cleared my big work table so you can see its surface. Floor is still covered with photos and painted canvasses ready to be worked on. This evening, we ate supper on the screen porch. Perfect weather.
Tomorrow,  we're off to Charlottesville, VA for the opening of Collage: Earl Staley and Russ Warren at Les Yeux du Monde Gallery. Actually, my Paris collages are in the exhibition too. Those would be the collages I made at the dining room table in July. I think we are going to have a very good weekend.


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