Painting class: Traveling in new directions

This week I discovered I’m not the only one feeling like trying different things when it comes to painting. When I arrived in class Tuesday for a make-up session, I instantly noticed the abstract orange and burgundy canvas sitting on the easel next to mine. I couldn’t stop looking at it. It reminded me of the inner workings of a seashell, one I wanted to follow down in to it’s deepest heart.

I had to ask my teacher, Joan, who was painting it. It’s mine, she said. I was so surprised. Mostly I have seen Joan paint landscapes, although she has many other types of works she’s done hanging throughout the studio. Still, this seemed to me an interesting departure from the Lake George region I’ve seen her paint so often.

With my own latest painting, I’m trying some different things, too. I’ve started prepping my canvases with an initial glaze of reddish-ochre (at Joan’s suggestion), wiping away the glaring white that’s so intimidating. Just like the blank white page that stares writers in the face, a fresh canvas is no less daunting an obstacle to overcome at times.

Now if I could only find a way to make Word or WordPress do the same thing to my screen…

I also found I like blocking in areas of the canvas, planning out what looks darker versus lighter, creating a map for myself. I even moved the position of the fence in front to make the composition better. It’s a bit like drawing, I guess, and not terribly spontaneous. But painting seems to me no different than writing or any other art: after you learn some basic rules, everyone goes about it their own way eventually.

I think that, now that I’ve done several paintings (all pretty detailed and realistic), I’m feeling confident enough in myself and what I’ve learned to move away from the safety of the rules a bit, even my own. I want to be more loose and spontaneous in my work, but it’s going to take some effort to get there, like letting go where I used to buckled down.

It’s an experiment I’m trying in the larger scheme of my life, too, releasing the stranglehold I want to put on things sometimes. Painting can be a terrific way to work out your issues and see real results show up on the canvas. There term, ‘art therapy’ came from somewhere, after all.

And I find some comfort in the fact that Joan is trying something new, too, or at least something kind of new to me. Like meeting a fellow traveler on the road and coming to find out you’re both heading in the same direction, even if for a little while. I’m interested and excited to see where this path takes us both.


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