Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why I’m a Photographer, Not a Painter

My first acrylic abstract painting, or attempt at one. A work in progress, maybe?

Remind me to think twice before attending an acrylic abstract painting workshop when I'm feeling under the weather. My first painting to my mind ended up looking like lavender almost-floral wallpaper with a dash of blackberry jam thrown in!

Okay, so it was totally exciting when a checklist of art supplies came in the mail beforehand listing everything I’d need from canvas to paint tubes to some weird substance called “gesso” to a spray bottle to paint brushes to pallet to pallet knives to rags. The glistening white canvas sparkled with creative freedom in all its glorious possibilities …

Then came the big day, this past Saturday. The instructor was a personable professional artist named Mel Grunau who assured us that we could paint however we liked, that there was no right or wrong. Well, that was before he saw me in action, creating what passed in my opinion for attempted art … as opposed to actual, real art.

Anyways, Mr. Grunau gave a demonstration of laying down colors and water on canvas. What fascinated me was that you didn’t even need a brush to start painting. As long as paint hit the white target somehow or other, it was all good. So I carefully picked out my three favorite colors of Brilliant Purple, Chromium Oxide Green, and Cobalt Blue, and was all set to make a masterpiece!

Meanwhile, there were several other acrylic abstract students at the workshop, all female. Most had previous painting experience. One shy soul coyly claimed that this was her first time, but once she got going, I was skeptical. Either she had beginner’s luck or massive raw talent, but this particular lady in my estimation already looked to be professional enough to exhibit and win awards right now. Maybe she had drawn or painted in other mediums like oil or watercolor and meant that she was only new to acrylic paints. Anyways …

Here’s how I wound up being different from the other workshop attendees:

  • Everyone else used paint brushes. I used torn up pieces of cardboard with a flat edge. Apparently, everyone else was afraid of getting their hands dirty. Me, I was afraid of getting my brushes dirty. My hands were covered in paint to the point that I might have almost been doing finger painting.

  • Everyone else felt the need to put recognizable representational objects or at least easily-guessable symbols into their work, such as flowers in a vase, a clearly-defined beach horizon, or a dreamy image showing what some called koi fish and I called red parrots. Me, I was happy to stick with colors I liked and primitive hints of geometric shapes.
When I thought I was done, I let myself be talked into adding violet splotches to my painting. Personally, now that I look at it, I'm not sure I like them. Maybe I'll paint over them.

Questions for Readers: Have you ever attended a workshop, art or otherwise, and found yourself different somehow from everybody else there? How did this affect your learning? Or on the other hand, have you ever attended a workshop, fit right in, and taken to learning the skill as easily as a duck to water? Do you enjoy hobbies best in formal groups, with friends or family, or on your own?


Annie said...

Your differences had me laughing outloud, especially about not getting the brushes dirty. Totally tickled my funny bone.

I've gone to a few workshops and much as I enjoyed myself, I end up preferring to work on my own. I like books and articles on technique with clear, step by step how-to illustrations.

Dave King said...

I do both, but I'll always be a painter, not a photographer at heart, because a painting is always coming, always getting there.

Mary said...

Love reading about your attempt to learn painting! I say if you were enjoying yourself and like what you made, you had a great day and learned something. I guess the closest I come to this is when I quilt. I don't like patterns and am happiest when I am just "making it up as I go". I don't do as much experimental stuff as I would like, but when I do, I always get really absorbed in trying to make the thing that I see in my mind. Workshops teach techniques....the real fun is taking those and doing your own thing with what you learned.

Montanagirl said...

You are too funny. I believe I'm one of those who enjoys my hobby (photo-opping) best either alone or with my hubby. He's very patient and knows just what to do and what not to do (lol) !!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

It takes all of us to march to the beat of our OWN drums!!!! That's what makes us unique and different. Be proud of your accomplishment.

Me??? I don't have much talent (or interest) in the area of painting.. I usually learn things better by doing them myself. I don't enjoy classes much anymore... I did more when I was younger. But there are so many classes that meet in our area of retirees of things that we do (Photography, Mac Computers, Roses, Gardening, etc.) Neither George nor I seem to have time or interest to join. Guess I'm not a 'joiner' anymore... We stay too busy doing what we already enjoy!

Janie said...

I like taking classes, but to get really creative, I have to be on my own.
Funny that you preferred getting your hands dirty. Hey, I wouldn't want to get my brushes dirty, either. Hope you have fun. I'm no painter, but I think your abstract art is pretty cool!

Teresa Mallen said...

I am so glad that you posted about your painting workshop. I like your piece and I think you did a fine job!

It has already been said but if you had fun and learned some things, the day was a success.

In the past I mainly learned on my own, at my own pace from books and DVDs (mainly because I didn't know of a coloured pencil teacher in the area where I lived when I was starting in the medium). Now I love to learn by any means possible...I will take a workshop, attend a lecture, read an art magazine, anything.

I teach art so I also have a perspective from the other side. I find that giving lots of info and basics in a certain medium over the duration of a course, can really help a student move forward quickly. They avoid reinventing the wheel as it were. And that is the way it should be. They are paying me to get info that assists them in becoming the artists they want to be.

I think you are off to a great start so why not grab some more canvas, get out the gesso and your paints and have another go? If you find you need some help on how to use acrylics, you could consider signing some books out from the library. Keep experimenting and have fun!

Jane said...

Your painting is excellent! I prefer abstract because it allows my imagination to wander across many different topics and themes. I unfortunately don't have the time right now to do any painting, but I used to do quite a bit of it, mostly in oils.


Elenka said...

I love the blue and violet colors, and good for you, doing your own thing. It was just a workshop, it should be for fun as well as learning things. And he told you there is no right or wrong.
Workshops I have taken...any computer ones...like a duck OUT of water.

CountryDreaming said...

Annie: It sure is silly for a painter to not want to dirty her brushes, isn't it? :-) Step-by-step how-to illustrations sound like an awesome way to learn a variety of subjects ... am a little unsure if I'd manage to be able to apply that style of learning to the strange abstract ideal vision I have in my head and seem so far unable to communicate. What sorts of skills have you attended workshops for or taught yourself?

Dave King: Ah yes, and those of you painters who possess actual talent or skill can relish the journey! What I noticed from my instructor though is that he seemed to come up with pretty decent stopping points while on his way to getting somewhere. I would have been happy with several renditions of his painting before he achieved what he saw as his goal.

Mary:Inventing with fabric? Now that's got to be even harder than painting! I am duly impressed. And I love the quilts I've seen in your blog, so you're definitely on to something.

Montanagirl: Humor is I think the best way to approach that abstract art workshop, after all ... You're blessed to have a patient and understanding husband to take with you on your photo shoots. Sounds like a lot of fun!

Betsy from Tennessee: I really admire your wide variety of interests and abilities, Photography, Mac Computers, Roses, Gardening, ... You and George sound like you're far too busy living life (and visiting wonderful waterfalls along the way) to sit still and just learn about it from a distance!

Janie: Your blog certainly shows your creative success as well as individuality! The painting was both fun, from the standpoint of feeling like a kindergartener at play, and frustrating, from the standpoint of wanting to paint at the "college level" and not quite even getting to the point where milk and cookies were served back down at the "play" level. :-)

Teresa Mallen: The scary thing is, I'm thinking of going back for another workshop if I'm able to. Even though it was painfully obvious that I was the least experienced, most blatant newcomer to painting in the room, in a way maybe it's necessary to be "in the room" in order to improve. While I love hearing comments suggesting the idea of independent learning and hope to do exactly that, on the other hand it's also kind of comforting to have a human instructor around just in case you need him.

Jane: Thanks for the compliments! So, you're into oils? I admire you for that, it sounds like that can be a tricky medium to work in. Have you painted abstractly in oils then?

Elenka: Thank you! I'm with you on the blue, been thinking of paiting overtop the violet actually ... As for computer training, I've experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. What helps is if you actually get to use the program in the real world right after you take the training course, otherwise it's all too easy to forget what you learned.

Tina said...

I'm not sure what the objective was of your painting workshop as you didn't say..still life? learning color theory ..but I think you walked away with a lot more exposure to acrylic painting than you think you did...You sound like you learned some color mixing..application techniques other than a brush...
Workshops are usually technique oriented but this one sounds like it was just to get one acquainted with putting some color on a canvas and that you did and did quite well. I agree with painting over the jam spots.. I think he was trying to get you to have some focal points in your painting.

I love your color choices and think you did pretty good for your first workshop!1

don't give up..get a book about acrylics or take another course.

I've done both and enjoyed both.
We would love to visit Magee marsh in May!! Unfortunately we will not be out here at that time..but have to say it is a WONDERFUL marsh and has tons to see!! Lucky you!

CountryDreaming said...

Tina: Thanks for your honest appraisal of the workshop and my resulting first painting. I definitely see the need to go back and do a little rework with the lighter purple-green-white. I like your ideas about reading up on acrylics and possibly attending another workshop for more hands-on practice surrounded by people who know what they're doing. :-)

Anonymous said...