Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Oil Painting in Retrospect: First Anniversary

It has been a little over one year since I began learning oil painting at a workshop conducted by Grace Graupe-Pillard. The workshop is held once a week for 2 hours in 8-weeks sessions for 5 sessions a year. There is no lectures and no assignments except for the very first painting which must be a still life using one of the three arrangements in the workshop. After the first painting, the students are free to choose whatever he or she wants to do. With the first assignment, one learns the basic minimum and the process of oil painting – drawing, fixing (with hair spray) to prevent smudging of the charcoal, priming canvas (in oil diluted with mineral spirits), and finally painting with oil colors of subjects in varying values. Here is my first ever oil painting that I thought was pretty good given that it is the first attempt.

My second experiment was on water-lily. It was based on a photo I took of water-lilies in the New York Botanical Garden in Bronx. The new challenge was to handle the water and the reflections of water-lilies. I have to say I wasn’t totally happy with the result especially with the flower itself and the koi. The former looks so heavy that it would sink into the pond and the latter looks a little plastic without life.

Then at the prodding of Grace, I overcame my fear and started a series of portraits with a self portrait as the first one and then one for each of my family. The important part is to capture distinct expression and emotion for which I thought the results were decent, again, as a beginner's work. It turns that doing a portrait is much harder than I had imagined. Our visual impression is incredibly perceptive; a tiny bit inaccuracy in millimeters of the shape and proportion of the figure would be felt immediately. With her extremely sharp artist’ eyes, Grace helped tremendously by pointing out to me what was wrong that would otherwise be a difficult diagnosis task even with a ruler. Here are the four portraits I completed in sequence: a) Funeral – a Self Portrait, b) Happiness – Jade’s Graduation, c) Tenacity – Raemin vs. Raemin, d) Joy – Linda.

I then turned my attention to landscape. After talking with Grace who told me to take a look of the work by Arthur Dove, one of the early American abstract painters, I was inspired and decided to try abstract painting. I have just completed my first such a painting, entitled Tropical Jungle. It posed a different kind of challenge this time. Unlike with realism, I had to be a lot of more imaginative and creative in designing and constructing from shape, color to pretty much every detail, although the scene was based on a photo that I saw on Google Image Database.

All in all, it has been a fun journey. It is far more analytic than I had thought and at the same time, provides me another means of expressing myself without uttering a word or sound. Now, it is time to go back to my studio and start my next painting; probably another abstract landscape.

Talk to you soon!

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