7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Painting {aka what I have learned in the last couple months}

It all started with Shakespeare.

I know, I know.

It’s a strange place to start but that’s where it all began.

For almost five years I had not touched my painting supplies, partly out of fear and partly out of busyness, but in March my co-op class was studying The Taming of the Shrew, and were assigned to pick a topic of interest of the Elizabethan era and report back on it with physical props.

Cue the brainstorming.

Originally, I thought I might study the fashion and show up, with the closest example of an outfit from that time period, but that had been my sister’s choice a few years earlier. Next idea was to write a Shakespearean monologue from the point of Queen Elizabeth and perform it, but I had never even succeeded in writing even just a sonnet, much less an entire monologue. Besides, I had enough things to memorize already.

A third thought was to study Shakespearean embroidery and replicate it, but I wasn’t sure I could finish it in time.

With some more brainstorming, my mom then came up with the idea.

Why not study art from the era and creating a slide-show presentation of Elizabethan paintings?

Cha-ching!

Perfect.

I had (and still have…) this strange (then new-found) obsession with creating PowerPoint slides and I find art very interesting. Put them together?

Just makes sense.

I began researching and making notes, learned so much, and picked out three different pieces.

There. Done.

But wait…

At the next class, my tutor explained this project would be presented in a different room in front of the younger classes, meaning I couldn’t use the projector.

So my mom suggested that I just take one of the paintings I had picked out and reconstruct it.

Except I had never painted with oils before and never ever painted a person.

So yes.

I decided to pick up painting for the first time in about five years and use a medium I had never used before to paint a subject I had never even attempted before under a deadline.

At least Hobby Lobby had all painting supplies half off that week.

…except that deal ended the next day.

So I convinced a sibling to take me and bought the supplies.

Thankfully, the following afternoon when I unpacked my new paints, I decided to mess around with them before starting the project on the canvas.

I pick out a red and squeeze it out of the tube onto my palette. I take the brush and paint a simple rectangle. And then another.

And then I go for a circle.

But the paint won’t spread out right.

I dip my brush in the water and try to thin it.

It doesn’t work.

For at least five minutes, I sat there in growing frustration as my paint refused to move or spread.

It was after I filled have the page with strange shapes, that it finally hit me.

Duh.

Water doesn’t mix with oil.

I call the piece “Ignorance.”

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Isn’t it beautiful? ๐Ÿ˜›

I guess all those repeated experiments about trying to mix oil and water on a plate as a kid didn’t stick. (Sorry Mom!)

Well, this story has a happy ending: I discovered the substance called “paint thinner” and went on to paint the portrait, and though it doesn’t look much like the original, it definitely looks like an Elizabethan painting.

Over the following months, I have continued to paint and have learned more about it… often learning the hard way.

Here I have compiled a list.

If you have a time-machine, feel free to take this back in time and shove it in my face. ๐Ÿ˜‰

With that, let us begin…


#1.  How to take care of tools {especially the brushes}

One thing about my ten-year old painter-self: I had no idea how to keep tidy and clean, whether it be my palette, my easel, my table, my clothes, my brushes or my hands (though to be honest, I don’t care much about that one…)

This was very evident when I finally unpacked my supplies after a couple years of almost-moving.

Exhibit 1:

Oh look at me fine brushes… notice especially the forked blue one.

Gorgeous am I right?

When I was ten, I didn’t know simple rules like, don’t store brushes on their bristles, don’t leave in the jar of water, or even the importance of cleaning them as soon as I’m done with them.

When you have tools, research how to take care of them! Whether it be through Google, a library book, or someone you know, discover proper ways to treat them well: how to store them, how to clean them, how to use them.

#2. Plan ahead

I have this awful habit of being terrible at making decisions when I really don’t care.

You know that friend who is that person who is always the one to say when hanging out, “Oh I don’t know… what do you want to do?”

Yeah… well that’s me and it comes across in my paintings.

Here is one of my first paintings.

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I specifically remember painting this… originally it was to be a field filled with flowers beneath a huge mountain range.

But then the mountain wouldn’t corporate and decided to be a scrapped blob of blue. I tried to fix it, but with little experience or knowledge failed. So I decided it was a rain pour in the distance and decided to paint a forest.

I wanted it to be a great, thick forest, but I had already made one of those and so wanted it to be different.

So I made the trees small and spread apart…

And then, I thought it looked weird (a very justified observation…) and so decided to add a creek. But something was still missing so I decided to add a rabbit. And then a butterfly. And then another one. And then a log.

And so this piece came to be.

Even if I had had the talent to make the trees look like trees and the grass look like grass and so on and so forth, it has terrible composition.

So now to try to avoid that I think ahead. Maybe sketch out a plan or follow a picture.

As beginner, especially, I wish I had picked more subjects I was familiar with.

#3. Research techniques & practice

Study paintings! Watch videos! Read books!

As a beginning painter I’ve found it so helpful to do all of the above, but then also to practice the techniques.

Otherwise it would be like trying to read a math book but never doing any of the problems. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Right now for me it’s those gorgeous watercolor moons I’m trying to learn. (keyword: trying.)

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#4. Always finish a project

Last week I decided to paint some pictures for some friends: an animal for each. The flamingo was pretty simple and straightforward, the koala was small and fun, but the puppy…

I spent literal hours on its coat of fur.

I wanted to give up through the entire process, beginning here:

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At that point, normally I would have given up, but for two things.

First: I was using a canvas and my guilty conscience would never have let me just throw it away, and then secondly I needed to finish it by the next day or pick a new subject and start an entirely new painting to finish by the next day.

So I kept going…

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And going…

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And going…

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Finally I was somewhat satisfied with the poor puppy’s blotchy coat:

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And in the end, I just added a bunch of flowers to cover it all up.

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Ta-da!

So it didn’t turn out too bad, and I learned a lot that I would not have learned if I had stopped when I first wanted to.

Like, don’t try to paint a puppy.

See? Lesson learned. ๐Ÿ˜‰

#5. Don’t throw it away

When do we ever finish a art project and feel fully satisfied and proud of it? Do you ever want to rip up your page, burn its pieces, and throw its ashes into the wind?

I have. A lot actually.

Like with this lady…

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*coughs* only painted a couple months ago..? that must be wrong… ๐Ÿ˜›

Go ahead and shudder. I don’t mind at all, just don’t stare at it too long, please… for your sake.

The story behind this creepy face?

Well.

At the start of this year I was trying to use watercolors to paint a face and it turned out reeeally weird.

Yes, to be fair, I was going for a certain style.

But still.

Hideous, am I right?

The strange blotchy blush, the squinty right eye, the heart shaped head, and paper thin eyebrows, with absolutely zero eyelashes or forehead.

But the thing is, in another year or so I’ll pull it out and try again and compare.

Like I did with an elephant I painted…

Elephants compared

And a wolf I once drew.

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Which is why everyone should also…

#6. Always date & sign the piece

And at this point I probably will remind you of your mother when you were in kindergarten: “Don’t forget to sing your name and put the date on it, okay honey?”

I’m sorry, but they were all right.

And I was wrong when I did not listen. ๐Ÿ˜›

And now I am left to wonder when I painted this little treasure and all it’s homeless buddies:

All I know about this little guy is that he was inspired by Monet (or at least created in the studying of Monet) and that it was a long, long time ago.

Besides, there’s something official and satisfying to signing one’s work.

And last but not least…

My frens.

Don’t drink tea or coffee while painting.

There have been at least five separate occasions where I found myself subconsciously picking up my painting water to drink from.

And many times I was inches away from dipping my brushes into my chai latte.

It just ain’t worth it.

Even if you avoid these tragedies, you will end up living long enough to see either your drink die and transform into tepid liquid or your paint dry on your palette and brushes.

You can’t always multitask.


So there we go. Seven brilliant gems I have discovered and am still trying to work out.

What are some things you wish your younger self knew?

~ evelyn ~

Ode To The Familyโ€™s 2003 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan

Sometimes inspiration rises from the everyday happenings that feel so forlorn and bland.

Everyone has a unique experience and while they might overlook common formalities: another dinner, another drive, another drag of school. They can all be captured.

The art of the poet is to see the beauty in the commonplace; to encompass and package a little breath of truth to bring a little light, a little hope, a little sense of understanding to another human being.

Well, lately I’ve been focusing on metaphors and similes, and imagination in general within my poetry, as well as using familiar and everyday objects/activities as my subjects. Through these experiments, I’ve fallen in love with a more subtle rhyming method, where the rhymes do not fall at the end of every sentence and sentences carry over lines. Apparently the term for that is enjambment or run-over lines as opposed to end-stopped.

Here is a poem I wrote this week about my family’s minivan, which, unfortunately, appears to be living out its final days.

I hope you enjoy! (:


 

Ode To The Familyโ€™s 2003 Chrysler Town & Country Minivan

You are as old as me and yet somehow

still older. Every time we step into

your arms, your legs buckle, groan, and bow.

When you try to move from your night bed, you

try once, then twice before you lurch off the

gravel perch and stumble, for a moment

on the verge of crashing a pot with your knee

unable to command numb limbs so aged and spent.

Words are merely slurred and mumbled. We stop

to feed you morning coffee, the liquid

pools in your mouth, you taste it burn and smell

bitter potentness. It stains fingers amid

digestion. Even up and wakened well,

every pothole and stick rattles your teeth.

Your joints creak with every bend and you wheeze

that itโ€™s always too hot or too far beneath,

for comfort, or life for that matter. We

give your back massages and clean your chipped

glasses. We even sit you in shades of trees

during outings. But time is time however kept,

We dread the coming day youโ€™ll breathe your last,

And we pray that long you will stay steadfast.