I should know better, right? I mean, come on. I’ve studied color theory, and I learned a lot of the “do’s and do not’s” about color mixing when I was painting with watercolor. I should know how to avoid making a muddy mess on my canvas.
Yes, of course, I should. But, as I’ve been told, sooner or later everybody makes mud when it comes to oil painting. Why should I be any different? I should probably just be glad that I discovered mud-making early on in my oil-painting adventures. Now, I can chalk that off my list and move on to new discoveries.
I might have really liked this forest scene had I not muddied up all my colors.
What happened? I discovered “medium” — that curious mix of oil and solvent that every oil painter must have close at hand. Although pre-mixed “oil painting medium” is available, I tried mixing my own. It seems I went a little heavy on the solvent and managed to turn my paints into a drippy mess. My colors started running together, and I knew I was headed for disaster. Instead of lovely oranges and reds, I ended up with rusty-looking mud. Maybe it’s dirt with a lot of iron ore. My foreground grass turned to a dismal muddy gray, but you know what? It didn’t matter.
I was having fun. Even as I saw what was happening, I didn’t care. I shrugged, figured I’d do better in the future, and went right on dabbing at the trees and the leaves, still having fun with it all.
For a time, I entertained thoughts of letting the painting dry completely and then adding in a few yellows, maybe a bit of orange, definitely more scarlet. I considered making the little pool of water (yes, that’s supposed to be water at the very center of the foreground) a delicate blue.
But then, I decided not to touch this painting again. My husband actually liked it the way it was, and in my own perverse way, I like it, too. Not for what it is, but for what it could have been. If you stand back at a distance and squint a bit, the painting looks good. I love the feeling of light in the center, and even though the little clouds were an afterthought, I think the sky alone shows promise. Paintings like this — landscapes, woodsy forest scenes — are what I’ve always dreamed of painting. I never thought I could.
Now, though, I know differently. Despite making a muddy mess out of this first attempt at a forest scene, I feel confident that I can learn all the right techniques, that I can figure out how to successfully use oil painting medium, and that I can avoid mixing too much mud from now on.
Note: Another important tip I’ve learned. With oil painting, work from dark to light, otherwise you can easily end up with mud.
So, be forewarned. You’ll be seeing a lot of forest scenes. You know how I love trees!