Friday, 3 February 2017

Discovering oil painting

I am so glad I took that introduction to oil painting course last Saturday! It was exactly what I wanted/needed. I just wish I had discovered this course earlier! But hey, better late than never, right? We were a nice and small group of only six plus the teacher, and the atmosphere was relaxed and cheerful. We started with a short introduction and our expectations/wishes for the course. My expectations were simple: I wanted to lose my fear of oils, especially the mediums, by learning about the materials, and how to use them (safely). And that's exactly what I learnt. Plus a whole lot more.

We plunged straight into the matter with an exercise. We each took a sheet of painting paper, squeezed some paints on our palettes, grabbed a couple of brushes, and filled a bit of terpentine substitute into a jar. And then we just had to play. I'm sure we all felt the same: But how? What are we supposed to do? Just do it, said the teacher. Try it out. With solvent, without, mix the colours, on the palette, on the paper, whatever you want to do, just do it, and see what happens. And so we did. And it was a great way to start, it was discovering oil paints.

After that, we talked a bit more theory. My fears of burning down the house are, indeed, not completely unfounded. There have indeed been cases of studio fires, or builder's vans burning, but they were all down to the same cause: linseed oil. When linseed oil has a big enough surface, like those old rags with lots of threads and fibres, that is then scrunched up and thrown away into a container, it can go up in flames. So if you want to use it, it's a good idea to wash out your rags and hang them outside to dry. But to stay on the safe side, just avoid linseed oil altogether. All you need, really, is a solvent like (odourless) terpentine substitute (unless you absolutely want to use the real stuff), which can be used for both painting and cleaning your brushes.

After the lunch break, we looked at and talked a bit about different painting styles and technique, to get an idea of what you can do with oils (basically pretty much everything), and then we each chose a postcard with a motive we liked, took a small canvas, and started painting. I chose a painting of a tea cup by Henri Fantin-Latour, because I like my cup of tea, and I wanted to try a more traditional style with lights and shadows and a dark background. So here it is, my first proper oil painting. I still want to work a bit more on it, maybe letting it dry first, and then add another layer, but I'm quite pleased with how it turned out (despite the rather bent spoon).

I can't believe we did all we did in a one day class! I went home feeling confident about how to use the paints and solvent, and now I just want to play, experiment and practice lots more.

And another funny thing happened too. One I thing I also remembered from my first attempt at oil painting over 3 years ago, and that was the quite strong smell, despite the "odourless" solvent. The same happened when we started with our first exercise. I could not only smell the odourless solvent, I also felt a stinging sensation in my eyes. Would I ever get used to that, or would that mean the end of oil painting for me? But then, in the afternoon, after my fear of the medium had been dissolved, I suddenly realised that I found that the odours didn't bother me anymore, and that in fact, I found them quite pleasant. Isn't it funny, how your perception can change so quickly when your attitude changes?

I didn't do any drawing this week, I started reading The Girl on the Train on Tuesday morning, and I just couldn't stop reading! I finished it yesterday, so now I can go back to my pens and pencils, and I'm looking forward to spending more time with my oil paints at the weekend.

Have a great, creative weekend!

Friday, 27 January 2017

How to avoid burning down the house... Or, know your materials

I haven’t got much to share today, the last couple of weeks have been rather busy in one way or another, and did not always leave as much time and energy for drawing as I would have liked. But now I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as I’ve got something exciting on (well, I hope it’s going to be exciting and meet my expectations, anyway). I’ve been wanting to learn how to paint with oils for ages. Actually, I just found this old blog post from December 2014, about my resolution for 2015 to learn painting with oils. But it started even earlier, in 2013 already. I had bought all the paints and mediums, and even made an attempt at it. That’s how far I got. The underpainting. At least I got two layers done. And It's definitely dry now...

I absolutely can’t believe that that was in 2013 already! Where has the time gone?? Ah well, no point in crying over spilled milk, right? What kept me from actually getting into it were the materials. I learnt about the “fat over lean” principle, about the different mediums involved, but there were so many questions. How exactly do I use the mediums? How much, and which ones (I have a product catalogue that lists over 30 varnishes alone, and that's just one brand)? How many layers can I paint with the “fat over lean” principle? Is there a problem if I have too many layers? And what do I do if I don’t like the result? With acrylics, it’s easy to just paint over everything and start again, but with oils? But what scared me most were some of the mediums themselves. I had read somewhere about instances where rags with some oil painting medium or other on them, had started to catch fire in the bin. Now I realise that that is not something that happens regularly, but living in a rented flat in a 100+ years old house with lots of wood everywhere, I just couldn’t get those thoughts out of my mind. I don’t want to burn down the house. Actually, after having painted the underpainting above and cleaned the brushes (another mystery, in fact), I put the used rag into a bag, went for a walk and threw it into a public bin…
A history programme about ancient Egyptian mummies, that I saw recently, hasn’t helped matters either. The archaeologists were wondering why some of the mummies they had discovered were burnt underneath the wrapped bandages. Eventually they found the answers, and showed the process in a (to me memorable) demonstration. They drenched bandages in linseed oil, like the Egyptians did, wound them into tight balls, and then measured the temperature inside the balls. It didn’t take long for the temperature to rise inside the balls and eventually burst into flames.

But tomorrow, hopefully, all my questions will be answered, and all my fears appeased. I am going to a one day course of introduction to oil painting at my local art supply store and where all the materials and basic techniques will be explained. I’ve already made a list of things I want to know, and hopefully, tomorrow evening I’ll be ready to confidently get those oil paints and mediums out and start painting. And get that still life finished!

I haven't been able to keep up with the homework for this week's A Drawing A Day class, but at least I did it for one day. Draw your feet. It was a bit cold, but I did enjoy it. And I'm going to draw more.

We've had some nice winter weather these past two weeks, with snow and temperature never reaching above 0 degrees Celsius. I loved the beautiful winter scenes, nature transformed by snow and frost, but temperatures are going to rise again in the next days, and all the snow will soon be gone.

Friday, 20 January 2017

More homework, some lunchtime sketches, and a lot more photos

More homework for this week's SBS A Drawing A Day class. I still have to catch up with last week, but I really enjoyed this week's theme: Colour. The main medium for colour was crayons, with some coloured pencils thrown in, and it was a great opportunity to get those Neocolors out again. I have a whole box of them and I haven't used them in ages. As the sketchbook I am using at the moment doesn't take any watercolours, they are perfect for adding vibrant colours to some of the pages.

I've also tried to do some drawing in my lunch breaks. There's not a lot of time, but it's possible to squeeze in five to ten minutes in a quiet corner for a quick pen and ink drawing (and add some colour later at home). And even a two minute drawing is better than no drawing, right?

I have three Art Pens, one of them, the fine one, I bought here, together with cartidges. The other two, including cartridges, I bought in England. They're both the same cartridges, black Rotring ones. But when you add water, the ones I bought here give a greyish tone, while the ones I bought in England are bluish. You can't see it that well on the scan, but isn't that strange?

Some more photos from my Christmas break. The walk across the lake to Rapperswil is always a nice one, in any season. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Rapperswil, our favourite café was closed. We had been looking forward to that hot chocolate with Baileys and a slice of cake!

We started the new year with a trip to the mountains. And what perfect timing it was, as the day before, the snow finally came. We took the train up to Davos, and spent some time up Schatzalp, waking around in the snow and taking in the views.

We then took the bus up the Sertig valley, but by the time we got there, the sun had long disappeared behind the mountain peaks, and it was bitterly cold. Also, the path was practically a solid ice field, so we soon turned round, warmed up in the restaurant and took the next bus back to Davos. But it was still nice to pay a quick visit to these majestic peaks. It is a bit of a special place for me.

Our last day trip was across the border, to Kontanz in Germany. It was a funny day, the weather constantly changed from heavy snow to sun and blue sky and back. Most of the time, when the snow came, we happened to be inside a café or restaurant, but found ourselves caught in the middle of it when we walked along the lake. It didn't last long, though, and soon the sun was back.

There was some really great graffiti art in the pedestrian subway that leads to the lake.

Have a great, creative weekend!

Friday, 13 January 2017

Hello New Year

Happy New Year! Have you had a good start into the new year? I had the first week of 2017 off, so that was a very good start, but last Saturday, it was time again to say goodbye to N at the airport after our two week's holiday together, and it's all back to the grind and same old.

I'm starting the year with taking the Sketchbook Skool course A Drawing a Day, to help me get into the habit again. Drawing and art making is definitely something that goes short when N's here. And that's fine too. But now it's time to get back to the studio and do some catching up

We had a wonderful time. Not only was it good to spend Christmas and New Year together, but we also went on some great day trips, long walks in the neighbourhood, and had some lazy, relaxing days too. So while I didn't really do any drawing or painting, I took a lot of photos. Especially as I treated myself to a new camera for Christmas. I've been thinking about getting a new camera for over two years, and I'm glad I've waited so long, as the camera I originally had my eyes on turned out to probably not being the one that suits me best. So I gave it lots of thoughts, and finally decided on what I think is the right camera for me (a Canon 6D with a Canon 24-70mm lens, in case you're interested). The lens has a macro option, which is something that I love. I still have to learn a lot about my new camera, but I can already say that I'm very happy with it.

The local animal park is always worth a visit. We didn't see that many animals close up this time, but the Mouse House never disappoints.

My former work colleague and friend gave us two free tickets for the zoo, so we spent a great day there. And having bought my new camera the night before, this was the first time to try it out. Although it was a very sunny day, it was cold enough for the "penguine parade" - for the penguins to go out for a round in the zoo, to the great delight of both penguins and visitors.

Walking along the top of my local small mountain is always nice. There was no snow yet, but it was so cold that everything was covered in a thick layer of frost, which more than made up for it, and turned everything into its own kind of winter wonderland. And I got to try out my macro setting too.

Another favourite walk is to the nearby forest. Still now snow, but again, beautifully frosty. And the combination of the cold, blue frosty shade and the warm, golden sun was quite magical.

I've got lots more photos, but I think they'll have to wait till next week, otherwise this post will become far too long. Have a wonderful, creative weekend!