Wanna be a painter? Paint.

I’ve wanted to be a painter since I was quite young. If it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, I’m still an enthusiastic amateur at art. (By comparison, I’ve got almost 30,000 hours into my website development career–but people pay me to do that for a living, so it’s easier to find time for it).

Even though I don’t get to put in as much time as I’d like to, necessarily, I can see how my own technique has improved over the years.

Case in point…my early efforts to be a painter:

These two pieces are attempts at painting a “hermit’s lamp” scene, separated by about ten years. The one on the right is still in progress, and is on my easel right now. I did the one on the left about eight to ten years ago.

Hermit's Lamp: 10 years of my efforts to be a painter

I can see a quality difference, and I’m interested to see what another ten years of trial and error brings.

The main things I’ve learned are:

  • get good reference material,
  • study the material closely
  • be prepared to put in a lot of time.
  • Also, never get lazy about observing the reference material, because as soon as you get sloppy and start imagining the shapes of light and shadow, rather than actually seeing what the real image looks like, that section is going to start looking cartoonish.

Also, it’s a really good idea to push yourself. While working on this painting, I bought skinnier brushes than I’ve ever had, and used them to painstakingly work on his beard, and the tree branches. It’s my first time aiming for serious realism with the trees (not photorealism, which is a whole other can of worms), and I’m also hoping for the ground and the rose to come out looking like I put some major effort into them.

Tip: if you like to paint flowers, go to Michael’s and pick up some of their very realistic artificial ones. Being to control the light source, pose the flowers, and change the arrangements is really helpful.


A Painting of David Bowie

Like most people, I was shocked and saddened to learn of David Bowie’s death yesterday. Over the holidays I’d given in to a strong urge to watch Labyrinth, for what must have been the 142nd time (I’m probably only mildly exaggerating, and may even be underestimating the number), so my most recent vision of Bowie was as the Goblin King (so young! So pretty! So much glitter!). He was one of my first major musician crushes, to be followed shortly afterward by Bono and Robert Smith.

I have a hard time watching my heroes age…seeing Val Kilmer in a recent episode of Life’s Too Short made it hit home for me that Willow, like Labyrinth (and the 80s!) happened around 30 years ago. Et In Arcadia Ego. I had seen recent photos of David, but I must have unconsciously expected him to eventually start aging in reverse, as a spectacular performance art piece.

Fangirl Portraiture: David Bowie

Realism not being my forte as a painter, I’m usually hesitant to try capturing real people. I did, however, do a fairly recognizable version of Bowie about 15 or 16 years ago. The original art fell victim to canvas rot about ten years ago, when I unwisely stored it under the spare bed, in my shitty apartment on Milford Crescent. But this postage-stamp-sized photo remains.

I may have to take another shot at it before long, now that I have a better command of how to do hair.

Boy, will he be missed.


Revisiting, Re-Painting, Reworking

I try not to get too reflective or repetitive with my painting, but there are a few images in my scrapbook of reference material that keep capturing my attention – even years after I’ve clipped them. These paintings are based on a photo of what I think is a character from an Italian play. I’ve long since lost the context, but the mask and veils and the remoteness of the gaze keep grabbing me. I thought I’d redo this one, 10 years or so after painting the red and orange version. The teal one is a work in progress, and I’m curious about where it’s going to go.