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Art(fart)istic Tendencies

See LINCOLN? See the beard and nose? It got even more Lincolny as I went along.

I am not crafty. My artistic impulses never come out art-tastic. I am not crafty or coordinated or skilled or even blessed with FLAIR of any kind. My friend Julie says my favorite color is drab…AND SHE IS RIGHT.

This did not stop me, however, from going with a group of girlfriends to an artist’s studio in Marietta to learn to paint. Or rather, to indiscriminately slop paint in the general direction of a small canvas.

It’s a neat and counter-intuitive process, painting in acrylics. You begin by mapping your shapes with your darkest colors and then you paint lighter and lighter colors over them. (Unless you are me. Then you just paint drabber and drabber colors over them.)

As you can see, I made shapes that might (or might not) be two tall trees, and a hill, and a meadow, and three more trees and a horizon line at back that, when I started putting the green on in phase two, insisted on looking EXACTLY like the profile shot of Abraham Lincoln that graces every penny. I had to put a stand of bushes that stuck up in bunches and knobs OVER it before I could eradicate Honest Abe.

I was so concerned about my accidental president that I failed to notice I was relentlessly making my two tall foreground tress look like Ents or perhaps monks—none of my posse could decide WHAT the trees were, but they were in agreement that they were more like bipedal mammals than treelike. Me? I see a lady in a peaked hooded cloak standing next to a tall thin wizard in spectacles.

The instructor was very ZEN about it, encouraging us to take BIG brushes and smash the shapes on with mad abandon, and then, as we got to the outer layers, to not be afraid of orange. For the record, I was not at ALL afraid of orange. I was moderately terrified by the blue, though.

Of all the pictures, mine is the dreariest. (being a hypercompetitive little SNOT, I wanted to WIN painting in some way—and that was my way. I WON DREARIEST!) Here is the final result:

Lincoln is gone, but now can you see the lady and the wizard?

You can see I couldn’t even manage a cheery blue sky—You can call it a COOL color all day long, but Pale Blue is spooky-cheerful. I went right for a darker, empurpled sort of blue-lavender, creating a virtual Forks so lightless and sad that Edward could march out at high noon and not so much as spark, much less sparkLE.

My trees are drab, my hills are experiencing a downcycle, my sun is not so much setting as giving up and fading away to a lackluster dimness. Even the orange I claimed did not frighten me got mostly dabbed out of existence with brown.

UPSIDE? IF I had ever been worried that I had wasted my life on foolish pursuits when the WHOLE TIME I was secretly a latent and untapped acrylic genius….I can now rest easy. *ahem*

All that said? Super fun. I gabbled with my friends and ate about a pound of really good chicken pecan and apple salad in between slopping on layers. In a Mental Illness Number way, it was very very very soothing—a definite LOWERING experience. I HIGHLY recommend art as a way to CALM YOUSELF RIGHT THE CRAP DOWN.

And in the end, looking at my drab misshapen crap-fest—I had this weird misplaced PRIDE reaction. I MADE SOMETHING.

Something ugly, granted. BUT I MADE IT. I felt proud of it, in that not-blind-but-simply-uncaring way the adoring mothers of really ugly babies––the kind that look like garden gnomes or little old dyspeptic men—always seem to be feel. You just LOVE it, ugly and all, and you wouldn’t make it any other way, could you start over. Like that.

It’s much too ugly to have in the house, but I can’t quiiiite bring myself to paint over it or ruin the earth by adding it to a landfill. I finally compromised and got a tack and hung it in the garage by the roach spray.

It was so soothing—I am tempted to do it again. After all, I have a large garage with much wall space. And by the time the garage walls are full, perhaps I will have become SO BLIND to my own inadequacies that I will begin inflicting bad art on all my relations at Christmastime! Lord knows I did so with my wretched quilting! Perhaps I need to buy myself a STOP ME BEFORE I PAINT AGAIN T-shirt….

But I won’t buy that shirt. This lady also teaches classes where you paint with a PALETTE KNIFE. I find I become so pleased I am almost pre-soothed as I imagine myself in a sweaty old smock, smearing DARK FETID MOSSY TERIRBLE COLORS in in BIG THICK WAVES and CURLS and LAYERS with SCORING and BLOBS.

Drab , but with TEXTURE. I am so there.

21 comments to Art(fart)istic Tendencies

  • Oh, it’s not at all terrible, silly writer person. I would definitely hang that in some corner of my house. And do it some more because I hear with that art thing? Like many things, you might get better with practice. Plus lowering mental illness numbers is ALWAYS a good thing. As is chicken pecan and apple salad.

  • Jen — Let me hasten to assure you that the PICTURE of the picture looks much better than the real picture. And the picture of the picture looks like crap. SO the REAL picture is crap squared.

    The pictured paiting is small and it is like seeing my painting from VERY far away. Like, from SPACE, even.

    And as we all know, EVERYTHING looks better from SPACE.

  • I gotta say, if you put this picture up as a prize in a contest, you could totally count me in. Signed or unsigned. I think it’s kinda eerily cool. It suits several of my moods, and oddly, not all of them are dark and dismal.

    Congrats on finding a way to lower your Mental Illness number! I can’t wait to see what you do with a palette knife!

  • Melissa Montez

    I think the colors are peaceful. I could hang it it my yoga room and meditate on the wizard and his mysterious companion. It would be soothing to me.

  • Quite frankly, I don’t think it’s THAT BAD, but PUH-LEEZ do not give up writing for painting. You ARE an artist. . .you paint with words (sorry if that has some melty cheeze slindin’ all over it but it’s TRUE.) I DO, however, vote that you continue to go and paint with abandon–consider it “research” for a book not yet written–all of the paint and turpentine and foreground and palette knife action. Now THERE is an unlikely weapon of choice! I think the time is ripe for Quirky Woman Child to off someone with a palette knife. Just sayin’.

    If you really want to do a Happy, Cheery Painting With Color–then I say try to capture the essence of Maisy and her piping voice–all auburn hair and brightly colored furry coat with earnestness thrown into the bargain. Better yet, bottle her essence up and SELL it.

  • So maybe it won’t go for a million bucks at auction a hundred years from now. I like the sky and the lady and the wizard, and if it makes you happy (or you version thereof), do it. I admit, I have some reservations about you working with something that has the word ‘knife’ in it, however.

  • Gail

    Acrylic is the worst paint ever. I am sure some artists like it, but I am an oil or watercolor purist. You should always, always learn with oil paint. I say this as someone whose college program only used acrylic because the facilities did not have the proper ventilation for oil paint (who let them design an art building with no ventilation?). Acrylic doesn’t let you blend and smudge things together, which makes for a kind of weird layered look that some artists can pull off, I’m sure, but it doesn’t lend itself to most styles. One of my art teachers used to have us add all these mediums (I know the plural is media, but that just makes it sound like I mean CNN) to acrylic to make it seem more like oil, but it didn’t really work.

    One of my friends says I will die young because I use oil paint, but whatever, I paint in ventilated areas, and dying for your craft is probably a pretty cool way to die (like if you could only write on some kind of vaguely poisonous paper–this is a bad analogy). Not that I can really claim painting as my craft, but it is a craft in which I take part.

    Anyway, don’t give up on painting until you’ve tried oil. You might find you are way better with that than acrylic.

  • “I am almost pre-soothed” ROFL. That is worth the price of admission right there. I find you lowering your mental illness number oddly soothing to my mental illness number. Thanks!

  • Brigitte

    I did watercolors back in college days, I’m far too impatient to wait for oils to dry! That acrylics class just sounds like purely soothing fun, I’d love one like that around here. Even better if it was fingerpainting. 😉

    I guess for the same reason I’ve always wanted to do a pottery class (if only they weren’t so pricey); it would feel good, even if I could only make crooked, misshapen blobs.

  • DebR

    I couldn’t see Lincoln no matter how hard I tried (maybe I tried too hard?!?) but I totally see the wizard & the lady. I think they look like they are very into each other.
    PeeeeEsssss….I remember your quilting days and I LIKED your place mats!!

  • Aimee

    Yeah, I kinda like it. I’m not saying you’re a secret Rembrandt or anything, but I think it’s better than anything I could do, for sure.

    I like the idea of painting being a stress reliever. Maybe I’ll try it, even though I can’t draw a proportional stick figure.

  • Kathy

    I couldn’t see Lincoln either. What I DID see was a pond perhaps with a near shore with two trees and a far shore with a lot of trees and reflections or shadows on the water. Oh! And a boat with shadows. And those trees in the foreground are definately Lombardy Poplars. At least that’s what I see……

  • JenniferG

    It is not so bad – I like it! It is quite good for someone with NO experience, one lesson, and one day to paint. You tried and that is more than most people do. And if it made you feel good then there you go, you WIN at painting.

  • My mental illness number is always better when I do something with my hands, but I keep forgetting. I’ve sewed (decently), crocheted (that afghan’s 90% done and makes a good shelf-warmer), but my favorite is bread-baking (responsible for my burgeoning waistline and therefore on hiatus, despite my kids’ objections).

    Alas, I will not be following in your visual-artist shoes. I am Canadian. We have no need of roach spray.

  • Scottsdale Girl

    Just popped in here to say I finished BackSeat Saints last night (I LOVE ME SOME KINDLE!) and thoroughly enjoyed it. KEEP IT UP! 🙂

  • Kim

    I made it through law school by spending inordinate hours at those paint your own pottery places because it was the only relaxing thing I could do. My poor family was gifted with loads of my “art” and I kept nary a piece.

  • Quick! Someone set up an easel for when she’s drafting! Anything to keep the MIN from completely exploding. And I’m sure we can find plenty man caves to decorate with your art. 😉

  • Jeaneva

    Those trees…I thought you were maybe trying for that kudzu look…

  • Oh, I can so relate! I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. So I’m impressed that you tried something new. Can’t wait to see what you come up with in the next class.

  • Lulu

    I totally see that lady & wizard! I think the whole picture has the feel of those old dutch masters, if impressionism had occurred to them. Kind of like in this landscape:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jan_Both_002.jpg
    or even this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Allart_van_Everdingen_Forest_Scene_with_Water-Mill.jpg
    but without quite so much detail…

  • Les in AZ

    I think Roxanne has said it all! Off someone with a palatte knife – LOL 🙂