Learning to paint in oils

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Learning to paint in oils

Learning to paint in oils

Having read a blog post, Thea's I think, on taking art courses, and nearly adding a comment confessing that I had just booked one and was starting to feel pretty apprehensive about it - I didn't add my tuppence on that occasion, but thought I'd share the experience in a post. A friend let me know of a local one day course which still had places, and recommended the tutor Cathy Barker. It was a day learning to oil paint alla prima with a model. I looked on Cathy's website and liked her style, quite different from mine. We would also use a limited palette, ivory black, (I've never painted with black before), titanium white, yellow ochre and cadmium red (hue). We were asked to bring a prepped canvas of roughly 40 x 50cms, and some large filbert brushes - I'm used to using size 0 - 5 flats. All to the good, I wanted to be taken 'out of my comfort zone'. Cathy showed us how to quickly scrub in a background and then how to mix both warm and cool colours from our palette. The advice was to use a palette knife to mix several patches of colour before starting, using various mediums and solvents, I tried 'zest' for the first time. I spent more time than most on my mixes, a sort of lilac I found particularly difficult from black, white and a bit of red. I've become reliant on lots of colours on my palette, almost the entire range of Windsor and Newton, (slight exaggeration...) Half way through the day I think I actually started to have withdrawal symptoms from the sheer lack of blue with all those earthy colours. Once at the easel with canvas and paint to hand, it was simply a case of 'let the dog see the rabbit' and we're off! Amazing when I'm at home the level of procrastination that often goes on before starting a painting, you can't get away with that in a class..... After showing us the basics, Cathy let us get on with it and came round offering individual help, but thankfully didn't do the thing I dread and take my brush to paint on my work. There was nothing prescriptive in her teaching, and apart from the fact that we were using the same 4 colours and working with the same model, it was absolutely incredible how different each work was, shades of Gauguin and Modigliani in a couple them! It can be pretty solitary painting in my studio, I enjoy this on the whole but it was good to be able chat about difficulties and different ways of working. I don't think I'll go on lots of courses, but I was beginning to feel I needed a challenge to broaden my skills and try new approaches. I left Cathy's day having ticked all the boxes. I didn't produce a masterpiece but the learning curve behind my effort was certainly worth the little angst before hand. I don't think I'll use such a limited palette much in the future, but I certainly intend to explore more mixes and mediums and perhaps reduce my range of colours. Sometimes, I don't know if you recognize this, I feel I've stopped progressing/learning, and at those moments if you're lucky enough to be able to take a course which may challenge you with a good tutor, it can throw open all sorts of new possibilities.
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