Thursday, January 6, 2011

Starting Another Blog

Here I go starting another blog. This blog is about my attempts to paint some paintings and maybe even be able to think of myself as a real artist.

When I was a stay-at-home mom, one of things I loved doing was oil painting. I took some courses at VIU and painted away most mornings. I kept some of my paintings, gave a few away, and got rid of the rest.

When I retired, I thought I would start again and actually bought some prepared canvases and oil paints on sale - but nothing happened for three years. I did take a lot of photos that I thought would make good subjects - but there never seemed to be enough time to actually start painting.

Then, last fall I actually began to do some work. I started doing pencil drawings of my teapot. I vaguely remembered how to shade the teapot to make it look round and how to leave white spots to give it some highlights. I thought the drawings were dull but they looked like a teapot and I thought that was OK.

Then in October I brought out the big easel Mike had made for me, put up my canvas, laid out my oil paints and started trying to paint an arbutus tree - based on some of the photos I had taken. I thought I knew what an arbutus tree looked out and was quite optimistic I would be able to make a nice picture.

It was SOOO hard. I soon realized that my photos did not give me a very good idea of what an arbutus tree looks like. So I started going around looking at arbutus trees wherever I could find them and taking tons of photographs. I soon realized that Nanaimo is full of arbutuses. It is probably the arbutus capital of Canada. There are arbutus trees everywhere.

After several weeks of trying to get my picture right, I decided I needed help. A new art studio had opened up down the street so I screwed up my courage and sent an email asking if I could join in. Yes, I could join an open studio. I took my arbutus picture - and dreadful as it was - I got so much encouragement that I persevered.

My method was basically just trial and error. I'd mix up some paints, splash paint around and, when something looked pretty good - I'd leave that part alone and work on another bit. It was a lot like a monkey trying to write Shakespeare. If I just kept trying different things with my paints, I thought I would eventually get it right. I didn't have much skill but I did know what I wanted when I saw it.

Arbutus bark is quite a red colour and in the summer it peels off and bits drop to the ground. The leaves are bright shiny green and they also drop off during the summer - after turning a pale yellow. We have a great arbutus right by our carport and the driveway is always covered in yellow leathery leaves all summer long.

The leaves are the hardest part to paint. Although I had looked at hundreds and even thousands of arbutuses and swept up tons of leaves, I had never realized that the leaves are sort of like little hands and they turn upwards toward the sun. When an arbutus is young and healthy is it covered with leaves - a lot like a laurel bush. But when an arbutus has been around for awhile, part so it dies and turn grey while the rest carries on. The dead part can be very amazing with all sorts of contorted, twisted branches - often very lovely.

Well, I'm going to stop here since it is past bedtime and there is a lot more to tell. I'll write more about arbutuses and my arbutus picture the next time I blog.

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