Beginning Painting For Complete Morons 101

Maybe I could teach art classes to make more money.  I would be an excellent teacher if the premise of my class prospectus was that I would show all of my students what NOT to do while attempting to create a quality painting.  It is quite possible that I have made every mistake possible over the course of my career and it could be an invaluable experience to novice painters to witness my ineptitude as a preventative measure in service of their future careers as successful artists.

Of course, It's more likely that I will just give away all my valuable insights on this goddamn blog for fucking free.

For example, after I have the composition suitably sorted in charcoal, I like to tone my canvas with a couple of layers of transparent yellow oxides and oranges so that I don't have to start the painting with a glaring white canvas.  Plus, I like the way the orange looks when it peeks out between the brush strokes of the completed painting.

The next step is washing on some violets, crimsons and blacks to start determining the relative lightness and darkness of things.  Jesus Christ this is boring.  If you already know anything about painting please skip off to read another blog with my full apologies and blessings as I don't blame you at all for abandoning this sinking ship.  Please come back another day though because my happiness depends on validation.  I swear I'll try to write something about Elvis Costello or some other celebrity that you care about for the next post.

For those of you that remain, I love this part of the process because it is so filled with the potential for greatness.  Oh the genius that will surely accompany the future of this painting for the rest of eternity with never a mistake to be made!  The paint washes on all loose and fun and it never matters if I get sloppy because every single thing I do at this stage will inevitably be covered up at some later point.  The only thing I'm really trying to do is establish how dark the dark areas are going to be so it's almost impossible to fuck it up.

So I just got done reading a book about the artist  Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and apparently I was so excited and full of myself after reading a couple of paragraphs about a genius' technique that I thought I should attempt to apply this to my work.  If I understood my book correctly, what Toulouse-Lautrec would do is dilute his paints and apply thin washes of color quickly over each other and then go back in with opaque paints and solidify the areas that needed it.  This transparency would let his gestural drawing style show through and capture the energy of the moment. I've always admired painters who can work fluidly and quickly because it's the exact opposite of my usual overwrought process that sucks out whatever life there was in my original sketch.  This time, with my borrowed new technique was going to be different though!  

Sure, any thinking person would've realized that he and I were using different media on different surfaces and that he was a genius and on my best day I'm mostly mediocre, but thinking has never been my thing so I headed over to the easel.

I had decided that my couch was going to be blue so what better place to start with a technique that I've never tried before than on the component with biggest surface area of the whole painting.  Smart.

Trying to think ahead and seeing how large the surface area was going to be, I decided to use the BIGGEST brush I had so I could cover more ground before the acrylic paint started drying.  Super-smart!

So without doing any kind of a test on a small discreet portion of the canvas, I loaded up the biggest brush I had with blue and slopped it on my painting.  As you can probably guess,  things did not go as well as expected.  The paint was not nearly thin enough and it completely obscured all my under-painting.  As I desperately tried to scrub off that fucking blue, it started to take off the other colors that were below it and I was loosing the tooth of the canvas.  Fuck.  I decided to just let it dry instead of risking damage to the canvas itself .  I would just have to try to cover the blue at a later point.

I know it doesn't look that bad in the picture, but seemed entirely wrong at the time.  Also, I may have panicked a little bit.  The shadow areas of paintings are supposed to be translucent and dark, not fluorescent opaque light blue.  I was DONE with washes of color FOR FUCKING EVER!

So after some lunch, I loaded up the biggest brush I had with a much thinner blue and washed it all over that goddamn couch.  I have been known to be a bit stubborn at times.

In retrospect the blue fiasco wasn't all that terrible, but for a person who's used to working a certain way it kind of frightened me that I'd ruined my brand new painting before I even really got started.  The new thinner wash came out much more the way I had originally hoped by really muting that yellow/orange while still letting the warmth show through. When I did the wash of white on the body, it obscured the under-drawing of her face so she had to get a quick indication of eyes and a mouth before I stopped working for the day. I couldn't have her sitting there all week looking like an oddly suggestive oyster on the giant half shell.