I’m not sure if it’s the result of a midlife crisis, or just an expression of healthy personal growth, but I recently decided to take up painting. As you know, my inner artist has been mostly dormant since childhood, with only brief intervals of resuscitation. The latest of those happened thanks to my friend Ali, who invited me to go with him to a place called “Painting with a Twist.”
It’s kind of like those painting shows on T.V., except it’s live and they paint the painting right in front of you while you paint your own approximation of the painting along with the instructor. Here’s Ali, halfway through his painting:
I went with a bit of trepidation, since I wasn’t at all sure that I could actually complete a decent looking painting, even with somebody telling me exactly what to do at every step. I had one moment of panic staring at the blank white canvas. But then I plunged in and started painting. In the end, to my surprise, my painting actually ended up looking pretty recognizable (if you can’t tell that it’s a romantic couple on a rainy street, just pretend that you can).
The thing that surprised me even more, though, was how very much I enjoyed the physical act of painting. My brush felt like a magic wand, and I couldn’t believe how quickly three hours flew by. When I got home and showed him the result, Tony–ever the supportive husband–immediately hung my painting up on the wall. And I think that may have been the moment when I decided I would become a painter.
My head filled with visions of myself trekking all over our Greek island with my easel on my back, and then settling down on some rocky promontory to paint the impossibly blue Aegean melting into the sky. In my head, it was positively Byronic.
While I like to think of myself as a sort of mad adventurer, my madness is often quite methodical. Since I had no idea how to become a painter, I turned to Google. Near the top of the search results was the website of Will Kemp, who not only looked to be a good authority on painting, but also shared my appreciation for the gelato of Florence.
I pored over his website, fascinated as a complete neophyte by articles on the difference between oils and acrylics, choosing brushes (turns out my “magic wand” idea wasn’t too far off), and balancing warm and cool colours (he’s British, as well as an Italophile).
Unfortunately, I was suddenly jerked out of my sun-drenched Greek island reverie by this statement:
“80% of a painting’s success comes from the drawing.
Maybe even 90%.”
I have a complete lack of confidence in my drawing abilities, and a sort of latent horror at the thought of inevitably getting something out of proportion. And I had imagined that painting would be a way around that, and that I could skim through happily with my brush, oblivious of such frightening concerns as perspective and proportion.
Would my painting career be derailed before it began? It was touch and go for a matter of moments. Fortunately, I was deterred only temporarily by the thought that I would need to learn to draw in order to learn to paint. After all, there are Youtube videos! There is my library! (One good thing about living in Florida is that your library is full of books about things that retired people do, like traveling, and knitting, and drawing and painting, it turns out.) There are $6.92 sketch and drawing pencil sets on Amazon!
Armed with these tools, perhaps I will be able to conquer my fear of drawing and take the first step toward becoming a painter. Wish me luck.