Working Plein Air Pastel to Oil

One thing nobody ever tells you is – painting is hard. It seems to be getting harder as the years go by. Hmmm.

I love oil paint for many reasons, not least of which is that it can go big. But oil is tricky. It seems to have a mind of its own. Over the past year, I’ve tamed the crazy medium by letting the paint dry for several days and then layering with loose strokes, sometimes drawing with paint or an oil-stick. The energy stays fresh that way and, after completing at least a dozen paintings, I decided that I liked the direction my work was going. That’s a good feeling!

leaf whispers

Leaf Whispers  40×30  oil on canvas

Then, this past summer, I taught a pastel class at Oxbow School of Art and was reacquainted with my love for that medium. In September, I spent two weeks in Glen Arbor, MI, painting plein air landscapes with pastels. I had forgotten how well the colorful sticks capture my emotional response to a subject. Also, they are easily portable, so that I can hike anywhere without lugging a bunch of heavy oil paints and paraphernalia. Once home, I brought the pastel pieces back to my studio and began to use them as a bases for oil paintings. It was exciting to reference something other than photographs, which flatten the subject and remove that first-person interaction.

respectfully yours

Respectfully Yours 30×24 oil on canvas

What happened surprised me. My oil paintings became tighter, more detailed and less layered. They are much closer to an illustration than an interpretation of my feeling about a place. Hmmm. I’m not sure if I like that…

So this is what happens in an occupation where there are no “right” answers. You can suddenly take an abrupt turn without intension. A whole pattern can be erased. Its like – you think you are going somewhere, you can see it in your head and then you arrive at an entirely different destination. I’m not saying it’s bad, necessarily, just – challenging. But, I think I’ll continue down this road for now. I’m already here and the route is interesting. Will I arrive at  place that I like? I have no idea.

I do know that there are no guarantees in art, taking risks is healthy and there is no doubt I’ll grow as a person, if not as an artist too.

 

 

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