Daily painting

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I had some fun the last few months taking a painting class in an old house that has been repurposed into a teaching studio and is right on the beach!  When my partner-in-crime artsy friend Monika asked if I was interested in this class I pretty much jumped at it.  It’s been a few years since we’ve taken any painting classes and I was hungry for new knowledge and feedback, and the friend time with her was icing on the cake.  We were blessed with sun every single Tuesday, a minor miracle in my damp neck of the woods, and made a routine of stopping for chai/coffee, maybe picking up some cheap canvases at the dollar store, and then sitting on the beach before class.  A few times after too.  Complete luxury in a busy life.

I was so quick to sign up that I hardly listened to what the class was about.  The title was Daily Painting so I wondered if it might be about painting quickly and efficiently so that you have time to squeeze in a painting a day, and it sort of was just because in two hours we each had to get out tables, easels and lights, set up our subjects and fiddle, sketch a rough drawing, paint, furrow brow, grimace, take it all back down again, and have a bit of time for show and tell.photo 1

But it was about so much more than painting quickly and efficiently.  It was like learning a new language, and getting a new whacked out pair of eyes, learning how to really look at what I was painting and see that there are so many shadows, and they are so many colours, and there are shines and reflections.  The first few classes were exhausting from looking so hard,  constantly translating in my head between what I thought things looked like and what they really do.  Really exciting though.  I usually paint from photos so even having to engage with real things sitting there waiting for me was a little scary, even if they were just chili peppers!photo

This was my first effort and I went home afterwards and wiped my brow and lay down on the couch.

Another big new learning front in this class was how to use a limited palette of paints. Just seven tubes to mix everything!  I’ve read about this but have never figured it out on my own.  I think I love it!  I was threatened by the thought that none of those tubes were black.  I use a lot of black.  Sometimes I think I eat and bathe in black paint. But I had read that some find it cold and distracting and I do find the dark colours I mix to approach black are so warm and grounded that I think I can do it.  Mostly.  In general the colours I mix with the limited palette just seem to sit together and talk to each other more than when I’m working from a million different mixed colours.  Less paint to buy too.  I think I’m converted.

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Setting up these little tableaus to paint was fun but I started dreading the folds in the pillowcase that I used underneath most weeks, and would do my best to spread it out flat before adding the subjects on top.

The painting I’d been doing before the class started up had been feeling too serious and angst-filled, so in the class I wanted to just have some fun and make some mistakes.  The short length of each class helped because I had to move fast enough that there wasn’t time for too much hand wringing. I hung onto the word “study.”  I was working on “studies.” I like that word.  So forgiving and encouraging and full of possibility.  It let me sometimes work quite loosely and not think too hard and man I had fun.

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I’m not sure I’d try working from this dark purple back painting again, and it perplexed my teacher a bit, but it was fun fun fun just letting go and seeing what came out of the canvas.  I confirmed something about myself: if I work from white canvas I’m completely cowed by it and sit back submissively or lean forward to make tentative watery little marks and ask the canvas if that was OK.  Very very tentative.  When I start from a darker background I feel like I’m entering into a really playful game with the canvas of covering up some and letting other bits stay, leaving lots of rough areas and texture, and it feels like a partnership.

Oh, I know.  Artsy fartsy.  I can hear my eldest’s eyes rolling.  He and I are having fun living on the opposite ends of the spectrum right now, me descending more into hippiedom and he stretching his business-like conservative muscles.  The difference sort of delights me, and I enjoy playing up my side of it.

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I have to work on my drawing a bit.  Funny how this cup changed shape. I’m sure it was perfect when I painted it!

I don’t think I want to hang any of the studies on my wall and they’re very unpolished — which was great because just when I was getting to that polishing phase that I don’t really like it would be time to pack up!– but I have been leaving them around on windowsills.  And my goodness I’m still looking at the world through those different eyes.  Wow I had no idea how many shadows there are everywhere!!  I drive down the highway and there are tree shadows stretching across in front of me making such beautiful patterns! When I was watching the World Cup soccer I couldn’t stop looking at the weird little shadowy men attached to the players’ feet on the field.  How come I don’t usually see that whole other set of players? At the gym when I’m on the torturous treadmill I have started studying the shadows of a row of small trees outside, what angle they’re at depending on the time of day and what shade I would need to paint them.  It’s mesmerizing.  Anytime I find myself waiting somewhere I find myself settling in and looking around at something I would barely have noticed before, and starting to try to figure out the lines and colours and shading.  Just what a distracted daydreamy person such as myself needs!  Arg.

Don’t even start me on reflections.  Because we were lighting our setups with a small lamp but in a room with windows across the front and that beach there were sometimes reflections that would come from there.   The blue on the farthest right fork is the blue sky outside. One day a white reflection that was giving me all sorts of trouble turned out to be from my Starbucks cup sitting in front of me.

And something else: cutlery kicked my butt.  Such a weird mixture of cools and warms and reflections bouncing all around.  I’m taking you on as a challenge, forks!  You’re sassy.photo 2

It was just the most fun.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that our teacher, Sheree Jones, is one of those treats who is relaxed and cheerful and always positive, so fun to be around that it took a few classes to really start noticing just how incredibly much good stuff she was teaching.  That kind of teaching that slips in there without you even noticing it.  All these nuggets of really smart advice that, when I’m staring at my brush trying to figure something out, pop into my head in Sheree’s voice, casually spoken a few weeks earlier.  My life of painting and seeing filled up with those a-ha moments of discovering something and then feeling a tickle in my head that explained the reason it works and probably why I tried it.  Really a lovely way to learn things.

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On the last day Monika and I went out to sit on the beach afterwards and there was a find waiting for me there in the form of the sign below.  I ooohed and admired the beat up wood and shade of blue but wasn’t going to pick it up because sometimes I just feel a little too out there and that day it felt a bit too much being the odd lady picking up beach debris with plans to hang it on my wall.  Beside the old blue door from my Grandma’s old bread cupboard.  And the little chunk of blue driftwood in the bathroom. I have a thing for weathered blue wood I think.  But Miz Monika who knows me well bent over and picked it up, admiring it and asking why I wouldn’t take it.  Made me feel ok and quirky, not weird.  I reached out for it, wondered aloud what the letters on it meant and maybe I could google them, and with that opened a spot for it in my heart and soon one in my home.  I did google the letters and found that there’s a local company called Island Tug and Barge which it must have come from, off a barge or maybe a log boom, and that made it even better.  A souvenir from a sweet and smart time.

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Dog in the window

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I first saw this guy –no, not that creepy guy in the back, the cutie closer up– in the food store parking lot way back in January or so, when windows were still grimy with salt and winter.  I was taken by the way he owned the passenger seat and was comfortable with his drool.

Thought I was seeing another beautiful boy a month or so later when it hit me that he was very familiar.  Especially in the drool department.  It was that guy!  Again that guy!!

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This time it was warmer and the windows were cleaner and reflected a creepy woman in front, and I had time to note that he was sitting in the passenger seat of an especially cool and clean little Mini.  The fancy model.  This car was so slick! So now I really want to meet the owner who is cool enough to let this great big friend with perpetual spit jewelry hanging down from his jowls take over his front seat.  Although why wouldn’t he?  Look at this amazing dog.  He has more dignity in one of his drool ropes than I could muster if I was wearing a tiara.  He never took his eyes off the door of the store.  So maybe they both know they have a good thing?

I haven’t seen him since but I did see this nutty threesome down in Washington State.   The third one is a bit tough to see as he has decided he’s over it and lying down in the passenger seat, and the one in the back seat is pretty bummed that once again his call to ride shotgun has been ignored.  “Those guys, grumble, grumble…”  But look at that driver.  Oh my goodness.  The ears!  I think he might be part dog and part gremlin.  Maybe a little bat too. And he was looking at me!!  I think he might even have been looking at me somewhat saucily. Oh my.  This guy is swoon worthy. I’m going to say it right here: I would follow this guy to the ends of the earth.  My drooly love above is magnificent but I think his heart is already taken, his dance card filled, his driver’s seat spoken for.  Stings a little but this guy here could help me get over it.  He looks like he would be fun to hang out with.

And he drives a convertible.

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All this dog lusting has made me paint one.

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Fish problems

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Hmmmm.  Been a while.

(Just jump in Jenn.)

Happy new-year-a-while-ago.  Hope it was a good time and 2014 is treating you well.

I had a restful break, just what was wished for, and then sort of a busy jumping back in time.  My little needlepoint business is sort of turning into a beast!  A good beast.

I did some painting before Christmas.  A bunch of things in progress as always, but I had to finish this one.  It was a present.  Do you know why I absolutely had to finish it?  Because it was a present from last Christmas.  My poor sister-in-law was supposed to get a painting last year and I choked.  Worked on a painting of my boots that just never quite took off.  Tried again through the year.  Still not happening.  Finally very very close to Christmas I realized I needed to move on.  Boots wasn’t where it was at.  Fish called.  (Although not really because come on, how would they hold the phone??)

I’ve painted these guys a few other times and think I could do them a few more.  They always go in a slightly different direction.  These ones right here kept me sane in the days before Christmas, when I could avoid the craziness just a little because, you know, I had to get this done.  Because I’m diligent that way.

The photo is blurry because I believe it was taken very very late, when it was very very dark, and my eyes were very very crossed. But boy I loved working on it.

Fish are so beautiful.  I saw these great big ones at the food store the other day.  I wish the photo really showed their size! Big spring salmon. I bet this one was at least two and a half feet, even after losing its head like that.  photo 1

The man behind the counter gave me a sweet fresh prawn to eat (it used to be cookies at the bakery counter, right?), and I could see he tried not to snort when I asked if I could take a picture of his fish.  He really did try.

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I got lost in those colours on this one’s side for a bit. All those blues and greens. I guess if I was a salmon I would swim in circles because I’d always be turning my head back to admire my sides.

Fish problems.