Painting Bob

The month of July was occupied with a portrait class taught by Christian Fagerlund. It was a terrific class (although exhausting). I learned a lot, And I made my first ever oil painting. There it is, at right. I started with a grisaille of blue black and zinc white (I didn’t know about zinc white’s brittleness then. Natural Pigments has a good discussion about this.) I started out with a dead palette of yellow ochre, burnt umber, blue black, and red ochre. After I painted the initial painting, I expanded the palette with alizaron crimson, ultramarine blue, and naples yellow.

I can see a lot wrong with it. And I know there’s a lot wrong with it I can’t see, because I don’t have eyes yet trained for that. But still, I’m pretty happy for my first time painting in oils.

I painted it at home rather than in class, because I didn’t feel confident enough to bring a medium about which I know nothing to class. I needed some time to potter about, fuss and fume, and yes, curse freely when the brush jumped and gave Bob’s eyebrows a Spock-like joie de vivre, or made his mouth a gash of purple red. Which it did. Many times.

I’ve resisted oils for a long time, painting happily in watercolors and pastels. Oils have many drawbacks: There’s the mess, the expense, and the dangerous solvents. But they’ve been courting me all my artistic life, and I think I’ve fallen in love with them. After all this time, I was an easy mark; I lost my watercolor purity with my first time in the buttery charms of oil paint. Now I am no longer an oil painter virgin and I think it’s a pretty good cherry to have lost.