abstract art artist artistic
Creative Process

Playing With Oils

In March, when Covid restrictions had eased a bit, I had an opportunity to take an oil painting workshop with Wayne Boucher, a noted abstract painter who lives not far from me. I jumped at the chance because I’ve been wanting to explore the medium but didn’t know where to start.

It was just a half day but Wayne took the time to fully explain the basics – exactly what I needed. Then he let us play with the tools, mediums and paints while he went around the room and offered guidance. I learned so much, not just from what he said to me but also by listening to what he shared with the other students. (The workshop observed all Covid safety protocols so I never really saw the other student’s faces, which felt a little odd.)

I came home excited by the possibilities and immediately made a run to Michael’s. It’s 45 minutes from my home but is still the closest art supply store. I didn’t want to wait for things to be shipped. I was primed and ready.

And then…. (insert crickets here).

I could blame it on Covid ennui or just being busy but I’ll be honest. It was fear, pure and simple. That inner Gremlin whispered “What if you’re wasting your time? And what if you can’t do this?”

I justified my procrastination by telling myself I’d invested too much time and money into watercolours to change now.

But the Universe kept sending reminders that it’s not either/or. Many artists work in multiple mediums. Even Van Gogh worked in both oils and watercolours. In fact, 148 of his watercolours survive and are in collections today.

Then a painting by the Canadian artist Sarah McKendry showed up in my Pinterest feed and that was the push I needed. Her soft blendings and realism are what I miss in my own work. I found her classes on Skillshare and jumped in.

Last Friday, I placed a large order for supplies and now I’m waiting impatiently for them to arrive.

oil painting set up
My oil painting set up (for now)

In the meantime, I’m in “play and experiment” mode. I only have 5 basic colours on hand but for the most part, it’s enough to blend what I need. I’ve now got 4 canvases in different stages of completion. All in one week.

I’m obsessed with getting out to the studio to keep playing. I love the buttery way I can spread and blend colours on the canvas. I love the richness of the colours. If I don’t like how something is going I can scrape it off or paint over it when it dries. Before bed I scroll through Pinterest looking for inspiration and run over ideas in my head while I’m falling asleep.

I’ve learned a lot this week, not the least of which is, just do it. The only thing I lost was my fear. And I still have watercolour paintings on the go, so it’s a win-win.

Sketch ready for watercolour

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