Finding What’s Mine

I’ve talked about my tendency to lose and/or misplace things around the studio. I do my best to keep track of all my art supplies, but let’s be honest here. I’ll never have a perfectly-organized studio, and I probably wouldn’t want it that way. I like a more casual feel to my art space.

In truth, I’m a very casual person. I don’t like dressing up. While I do like a clean, uncluttered house, I’m not a fanatic about it. My husband might say otherwise, might tell you about my habit of picking up any spoon he sets down whether he’s finished with it or not, but don’t listen to him, all right?

Actually, this post isn’t even about picking things up, putting them away, or even wondering where something might be. Retrieving lost or misplaced items is one aspect of finding things, but there are other meanings, too.

We often speak of finding ourselves — a psycho-babble term for figuring out who we are, or at least, who we want to be. We speak of finding meaning or finding purpose. Again, it’s more or less that same thought process of figuring things out.

Over the last six-and-a-half years, ever since I uttered those life-changing words and muttered, “I guess I need to learn to draw”, I’ve been figuring out a lot of things. This journey of art discovery has taken me to a lot of places. Some have felt comfortable; others have left me feeling awkward and ill at ease. I’ve “visited” different art styles, learned about different artists and art movements, and, of course, I’ve tried a lot of different media using a lot of different techniques.

It’s been a lot like throwing a whole lot of ideas into a huge ring — some belong to me, others don’t. Now, more and more, I’m learning how to reach into that ring and find what’s mine. It’s been a long, on-going process, of course, not something that simply “happened” all of a sudden. Gradually, though, I’m learning what I love most in art, the materials I’m most comfortable with, the little things I like that make my art uniquely my own.

Let’s start with the very first discovery I made about oil painting, shall we? I’d only been at it a few days when I came to a very definite conclusion: I loved working on canvas panels. I just don’t care for the “give and take” of a stretched canvas. Gallery wraps just aren’t for me. Give me the simple, solid feel of a canvas panel and I’m happy.

I’ve found it most convenient to order canvas panels in sets, directly from Amazon. Here is the 24-panel set I usually purchase:

Another choice is a similar set with a larger variety of sizes. This 14-panel set includes 2 panels each of 3 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, 9 x 12, 11 x 14 and 12 x 16 — all very popular sizes. I’m quite happy with the U.S. Art quality, and there are many other “sets” available with different sizes, as well.  I like having a good variety of sizes to work with.

When it comes to oil painting — my preferred medium — I’ve also discovered that “what’s mine” is water-soluble oils. When I first began using them, I was a bit unsure. I’ve now fully adapted to them and can’t imagine using traditional oil paints ever again. I’ve used several different brands — from very inexpensive to higher-priced and higher-quality paints. While I haven’t tried every brand available, I’ve become quite comfortable with Winsor Newton. The prices are reasonable and they offer a wide range of colors.

I’ve learned, too, that I don’t like buying large tubes of paint. Invariably I end up wasting a lot of paint if I buy the larger tubes. They’re more difficult for me to store, more difficult for me to squeeze, and overall more difficult for me to use. The smaller tubes cost a bit more — relatively speaking — but they’re much more convenient for me. They’re mine — what makes me happy, what works best for me.

I haven’t yet found a particular brand, size, or style of brushes I prefer, except for the mop brush I so dearly love! When I first tried this Moderna goat-hair mop brush from Royal Langenickel I fell in love at once. This is my brush. It definitely belongs to me.

 

I use this mop brush for blending, especially for soft blending in the skies I paint. It helps me get just the right effect. The skies in my recent “New-Fallen Snow” painting are an example. I truly think the gentle color blend in the sky is one reason why the painting received an “Honorable Mention” award.

When it comes to developing — or finding — a personal style, I’ve made a few discoveries there, too. Even though I’ve had fun trying a bit of still life painting and doing a few laughable attempts at portraits and figure-painting, I know beyond any doubt that landscape painting is what I love most.

I can’t say, though, that I’ve yet found my palette. Sometimes I think I have, but then I play with other colors and my thoughts change. I do know that my favorite blue is ultramarine, I love the cadmium yellows and reds, and when it comes to green, give me sap green and olive green, please. I use a lot of yellow ochre and other earth tones, too. I’m a woodsy sort, so my color palette tends to the same hues you’d see while hiking through the woods on a late summer day.

I also lay claim to cold-wax medium. Now I’m also claiming light molding paste and other acrylic gesso products. I still have a lot of experimenting to do with new fingerpainting techniques, but I think I’ll be incorporating more textures into my own impasto style of oil painting.

As I continue to “find” myself and all that’s mine when it comes to oil painting, I’m gradually developing a process. It involves toning my canvas panel, making thumbnail sketches for compositional studies, doing a value sketch, a value-based underpainting, a color-blocking rough-in, then adding in lights, shadows, details, and whatever other “tweaking” might be needed.

These are all what I would call my essentials. They are my must-have supplies for the art I love to create. In short, these are what’s mine, the things I need, the things I use, the things I love. These are the things that help me be the artist I want to be.

I’m learning that I also have definite preferences when it comes to watercolor and also preferences for my drawing materials. Some of it is comfort; some is familiarity. I make some choices based on price; some choices are determined by quality.

As I’m finally beginning now to truly accept myself as an artist, I think it’s good for me to be aware of what’s mine. All of these different things — from the canvas panels I use to the choice of colors I paint with — are part of who I am.

 

 

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