Out of the blue, one really boring afternoon, a friend came over to the house and gave me a box of Prismacolor pencils—36 different colors! I took out some paper and started to doodle a bit, but nothing exciting came of it. Later that evening, as we, my family and I, were watching television I pulled the pencils out again and started on a fresh sheet of paper. All I drew was a sandy beach with the waves of the ocean rolling onto the shore, a bucket and shovel not far from the tide. It was very crude and looked as if a child had drawn it, but it was kind of fun and wondering what else I could come up with, I began on another blank sheet. This time, I drew a park with a bench, a bike leaning against it, a garbage can beside it, and a dog running through the trees. A bit more detail this time, but still, not any better than a child could do.
I liked the vibrancy of the colors and the smoothness in which the pencils glided on the page. What I needed was a bigger pad of paper. It was a few days before I could get one, but when I did, something fresh emerged in me that I did not know was there. I began drawing detailed pictures with a regular school pencil and then coloring them and the shocking results inspired me to continue this new-found love of mine. I kept drawing more and more, each one so very different from the last. I spent hours perfecting them until I was satisfied that it was the best that I could do.
I was becoming obsessed and wanted to do more, so I went and bought a few “how to” books and practiced the exercises on shading and shadowing. Simple things at first, like an egg and a walnut. From there I drew a kitten and a stuffed dog propped up in a corner. The practices become more difficult as I went through the book, but I pressed on. I completed a house with a brick fireplace with trees in the background and a fence in foreground. I really liked that one, so I drew it again, only on a larger sheet of paper and then added color. The final exercise was an old car in a field and though what I did do of it turned out very well, I did not finish that one as new ideas of my own were emerging.
A few months later, my partner and I were walking through the aisles of Goodwill and I came across a 16”x20” stretched canvas on a wooden frame. It was blank, unused, and had a price of only $0.50. I had to have it. I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but I knew it was meant for me, so I bought it and brought it home. It sat for many months before I ventured to do something with it. My youngest son had one of those art sets that came with pastels, water colors, colored pencils and markers, so I asked him if I could use the paints. He said I could have them. And so I began.
I remembered a quilted picture that hung on a wall in a magazine I recently browsed through (I think at the doctor’s office) and wondered if I could paint something similar. It was a huge multi-colored sun and was reflected in a lake on its horizon with a couple of stands of trees. I was able to get the gist of it down on the canvas and then for days, I continued to add more and more color, blending and trying to get it to look like the picture I had in my head. The tiny little tubes of paint ran out quickly and I had to set it aside for a while until I got paid and could go to a craft store and buy more paint. That day finally came (as I thought it never would) and I discovered a different kind of paint—acrylics!
Acrylics are amazing because it takes so little to cover so much and the coverage is solid. They also dry super fast and if you make a mistake, you can paint over it. But the real kicker is that they come in hundreds of colors, which at the time I could get for roughly 4 bottles for one dollar. Now, they are about two for a dollar, but still, that is affordable. Brushes and canvases, not so much, however, they make great gifts, so I have a pretty hefty supply.
Some of my paintings came from things I just envisioned in my mind, while others have been variations of photos I have seen in magazines or in “how to” books, more advanced ones now—those showing you different tricks you can do with your brushes and mixtures of paints that can either give it crackle look, make it more shiny, or give it a little more wet time, meaning it won’t dry as fast as it does on its own. Just the enjoyment of using a mixture of brushes and textures and mixing different colors of paint is a lot of why I continue to paint, but also seeing the finished product and how that makes me feel—Happy!
One thing that inspires me the most is the sky. I used to look at paintings and wonder why someone would paint orange trees, blue grass, and a pink sky. Now I know. These colorful views do actually occur in nature! I have seen them myself. As a matter of fact, I saw a solid yellow sky with brilliant purple mountains. It was so surreal, but I stared at it for as long as I could trying to memorize every detail. I have started a painting that will hopefully depict what I saw that night. The colors that come from my mind through the brush in my hand and onto the canvas, are usually chosen and driven by my emotions. I can look at most of my paintings and remember what I was feeling during the time I created them. There is a lot more of me in those pictures than meets the eye.
It is funny, but my favorite artist is Norman Rockwell, though I do not paint anything like what he does. One simple reason for that is I cannot, for the life of me, draw people. I cannot get the human body proportions right, or even facial features to look even remotely like they are supposed to. I do try to draw individual eyes or mouths or just the shape of a face framed by different styles of hair, but it is very difficult for me to get them to look real and in the end, it becomes a way for me to laugh at myself.
For me, art comes in many forms and though painting is what I do the most of, I have done other things. I have tried my hand at ceramics, which is fun, but very expensive to get fired, and then have to get fired again after applying glaze. I did a few pictures on wood, where I used a wood-burner to etch in the outline and then painted them. I have used the diamond tip on a Dremel and etched suns and moons and stars on mirrors, then painted in some highlights with glass paints. My favorite by far though is the many small white bathroom tiles that I painted many a quilt block on (I love quilts and will someday sew my own log cabin quilt). Unfortunately, they were much too heavy to try to mail or tote on the airplane with me when I moved from Oregon to Pennsylvania, so I had to leave them behind. But that is ok. I will do it again and enjoy every minute of it.
I have posted many of my paintings here on my blog and will continue to post pictures I have drawn or paintings that are finished. I was once given an offer to hang my paintings in a gallery and chose to decline, as I do not ever want to part with the beauty that has come from my heart and soul. I am not great at this, but I do so thoroughly enjoy doing it, so for me, it is how I entertain my “me” time.