Friday, November 4, 2011

Channeling My Inner-Matisse.

Detail of "Limonata San Pellegrino"; Acrylic on Canvas
Because I studied Art History I was sure I knew something about art.  I could tell you, if given the chance, about the techniques that are used, the lighting, the colors and how they do or do not work.  I could pontificate on different schools of thought, widely-hated critics, different philosophies, and even make pretentious jokes about obscure movements that make me sounds super-pretentious but smart.  I could proudly contextualize the particular painting into a dazzlingly complex network of historical events and personal experiences that may or may not have influenced the artist during the time it was produced, leaving you with an impressive knowledge of pre-industrial France or post WWII Spain and far too much information on what artists had STDs and slept-around or cared about the rights of hay-harvesters.  It's all very impressive conversation at dinner parties.  But take me out of the museum, put a canvas in front of me - or, actually, you don't even have to go that far - put a piece of paper and pencil in front of me and tell me to produce a piece of original art and I clam-up completely.  Painfully.  Cluelessly. 

I realized about 5 years ago when I was teaching ESL at a high school in Upper Manhattan that I had zero knowledge of actually making art myself, despite having devoted the better part of my college education to studying finished artistic endeavors.  Irony.  And as I sat in the art room at the High School for Law & Public Service (don't get me started on the absurdity and complete randomness of school names in Manhattan) trying to imitate a Japanese ink-drawing along with my students, I realized how the last time I'd actually taken an art class was in 4th grade.  Mrs. Allen, to be exact.  We did some "perspective" if I recall (an old western town with a big long perspective-filled street down the middle) and patterns and basic things like drawing shadows on a drawing of a wonky little cube.  And I was pretty bad.

So in 2008 I decided to teach myself how to watercolor - something that is, let me tell you, much harder to do than it sounds.  I used some amazing watercolors we'd bought in Mexico several years ago as my guide and actually did some decent amateurish work while on vacation in Greece.  Nothing to write home about, though (even though I did, of course, pictures included :)).  I will, however, gladly brag that a German couple offered to buy one of my paintings as I sat doodling it on the beach in Rhodes.  I was so taken with the fact that someone would actually like something I created as a memento of their vacation that I resolved to give it to them free of charge (they offered me $30 in case you're wondering).  I never saw them again, so it's now hanging in my bathroom.  Good times.

But my watercolors were kind of boring and after further ruminating on my lack of artistic skill for another couple of years, I finally took the leap and decided to take a semi-real art class this fall: Acrylic Painting.  I figured I probably had a good chance of not being the absolute worst person in my adult education course (being given, fittingly, at an arts high school here in Portland) because of my highly-developed aesthetic sensibilities and all that. :)  So now I've been going every week to a class of about 10 people consisting of the most motley crew I've ever seen.  And thinking of it now, I'm not even sure I'd be considered "the normal one."

Anyway, we produce something every week and some people bring their own stuff to work on.  It's truly amazing how much of a window into the soul a person's art is.  It's scary when the super-put-together-scientist-power-mom can't draw a simple tree.  It's also pretty humbling when the otherwise seemingly-bourgeois overweight businessman paints the most beautiful still-life or landscape. Who knew all that was floating inside that mind?  Not me.

The best / most challenging part of the class for me is making the rounds to look at other peoples' work and having them do the same to you.  It's like a therapy session where no matter how horrific what you're doing is, everyone gives positive reassurance - including our hilarious little ancient teacher who looks like a fully-dwarfed Salieri from Amadeus.  Fitting, given that with a stroke of his paint-brush he could literally annihilate my pathetic-little budding-artist's-self-esteem.  But Charlie wouldn't do that, no matter how much he hates my penchant for pinks, corals and bright-ass greens. :)

I've done some of the "exercises" Charlie has given us and I've branched out as well.  I figured it might be fun to document my progress or lack-thereof on my blog what with it being a blog on supposed aesthetics.  Here are my first works.  Matt tried his best to be a "fan" but asked that I wait until my later, more "developed" works to actually hang them in the house.  I, of course, then quickly ran around sprinkling pathetic artwork in random places all over our house.  :)

* * *

Exhibit A: The Monster
This sat in our reading room for the whole first month of my class.  I think Roman said he was scared of it at some point.
"The Monster" as Matt called it; our first "exercise" in painting with basic colors.  Yikes.

Exhibit B: "Bougainvilleas in Guanajuato" & Detail of highlighting
This was taken from a photo I took in Mexico several years back; I am really proud of my flowers and the bright colors, but I hate the building.

Detail of my bougainvillea: notice the use of yellow and blue to highlight. 
Very exciting.

Exhibit C: Limonata San Pellegrino

I am toying with the idea of doing a series of paintings of San Pellegrino drink cans.  I take one with me to class every single week, so why not.  The blood orange is up next.  I am obsessed with my lemons and their "shading / highlighting."  See detail above.

Follow Me on Pinterest

1 comment:

  1. The lemons are great! It looks like you definitely have a distinct style too.