Tuesday, February 21, 2012

oil be all right

I started working with oil paint this week after not using it since October or so. Before that, not since June. And before that, it had been a couple years. In between all these breaks, the tubes I so lovingly, hopefully selected, mesmerized by the wider array of colors, often dry out or get gooey. I'd left my paintbox in the car trunk during a couple of cold nights too, so that didn't help matters. But once I dug in, I was so happy! I forget how satisfyingly buttery they can be, how effortlessly I can blend and how convenient that I can go off to dinner and the palette will still be wet.
I thought to myself (ok, I said it aloud, but quietly), "Why do I stay away from oils? This is gorgeous! The way I paint, they are rich and opaque, and if I mix in some drying medium, it will dry in a day or two and I can go back." Then, several minutes later, with wet paint smeared on my sleeve and a formless blob on the canvas, I mutter, "Argh, oils! They take forever to dry and by the time I can go back in I've lost my momentum on the picture, and I get paint everywhere and everything looks blurry." Then, a bit further along, I beam at my work and sing their praises once more. It is a relationship of great passion.
As with people, you need to know how to work with 'em. I always have to re-familiarize myself with oils; we have the initial awkward conversation, and then we're laughing and chatting easily again. There's only a few subjects that we can't really talk about, so after trying to cover up my inevitable misstep, I resolve to enjoy the time we have together and save different techniques for when I'm back with acrylics. I may be getting carried away with this metaphor. Too many hours alone in the studio.
It can be energizing to work on 3 paintings at once, bouncing between them while I wait for various parts to dry. Two are 9"x12" canvases, based on recent tiny paint-collages; I liked the images I'd assembled and wanted to draw them bigger, plus there was the 'exciting' oil factor. The other is on a 23"x23" panel that someone discarded. I think it all fits in with the idea of continuity. Twice, I spent 3 hours on an idea that just didn't work, which was annoying, but I had plenty of time and wouldn't have known if I hadn't given it a go. Learning some things. Maybe the heart is not so much a suitcase as a paintbox.

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