Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dabbling with Oils

I've just discovered Bill Guffey's Challenge via Liz's blog, and seeing that I've registered for an oils workshop which is coming up soon - painting urban landscapes - I thought I'd get some practice and see a bit of Lisbon at the same time. I found a street name that I recognise -Rua Bartolomeu Dias - who left little stone crosses around our southern Cape coastline 500+ years ago when he discovered the sea-route to India.
I settled on No 102 Rua Bart Dias because it had a nice bougainvillea peeping over the wall (although I didn't get much of it in my painting - I have mostly road-surface in that!) and it would make me tackle perspective - not my forté.

I love painting in oils, but feel very uncertain about what I'm meant to be doing, with fats over leans and how to stop everything squidging together when you try to finish a painting in one sitting. My good, kind, thoughtful husband gave me a set of oil paints, brushes and a stack of huge canvases for my fortieth birthday, and a few smaller canvas boards to experiment on before starting on my large 'works'. The first ones that I did on the small boards were so enjoyable, I felt free to dab away without obsessing if I was doing it correctly... and they are still the ones I prefer over all the attempts at masterpieces I've done since.
This early arum lily painting spent time leaning against a wall that had a severe water leak down it and the canvas peeled away from the warped board. I hadn't left enough space around it to stretch it over another support, so its a bit wrecked - any suggestions on how to stretch it again? That white border is all the canvas I have to work with.

My very first oil painting is this one on the right... done when I was 11 or 12 years old, on lined exercise book paper with a paint-by-numbers set of little oil pans. We were living in a flat next to the railway line in Cape Town, and I had just read a book about Vincent van Gogh, and loved his Café Terrace by Night so much that I was inspired to do a version - sort of (note the rather tipsy-looking man's bell-bottoms - it was during the 60's!)
I had forgotten all about this - I don't remember giving it another thought - until my little sister (who would have been 9 or 10 at the time) presented it to me a few years ago. She had put it away safely, kept it through four family house moves, high school, art school (me) and drama school (her) and my moving up to Johannesburg, taken it with her to live in America, and on a visit back to SA, one very surprising middle-aged birthday, tucked it into a gardening book she gave me! It's the only art from my childhood that has survived the years - thank you Gillian!!!

10 comments:

Charlene Brown said...

This Virtual Paintout seems like a great idea, and I love the paintings you and Liz have put in. This is great preparation for the urban landscape oil painting workshop you're taking, and I think you've done a masterful job of integrating that massive chunk of road surface (a big part of many Google street views) into your design. I'm going to give this a try (next month, maybe).

Pat said...

I love your story of your childhood painting. Aren't sisters the best? Your lily painting is fresh and you used a great design. You are going to have so much fun painting in your workshop.

BTW the word verification was
'tocathyl'

Art with Liz said...

Wow Cathy, this is great! And thanks for the mention. Love the arums and your first effort was incredible for someone of that age. You are so talented and I hope you produce many more oils, big or small, to share with us.

laura said...

These are great, Cathy, and I love the street scene--there's something. a sense of rushing up the deserted street that makes me think, De Chirico!

Teresa said...

Your oil paintings look really good. I love the "stretch" you get from working in a new medium. When I'm working in oils I'm much freer and tend to just happily paint away without worrying about technique etc... and I usually like those paintings more than the ones I've taken painstaking care with. Hmmm.... maybe there's a message here? :-)
Have fun dabbling in your oils!

BTW - how appropriate... the word verification for this post is "dable" !

Cathy said...

I love your arum lilies!! They look so much Irma Stern-ish!!!! Very lush and vibrant!! You MUST find a way to stretch your canvas! Why don't you take it to some art supply store, they sometimes provide services like that - stretching canvas the size you want, so they might be able to help you - or maybe your oil class teacher, he/she might be of help there too...

Nancy Goldman said...

You've inspired me to tackle the virtual paintout this month. I discovered it a few months ago and even looked for something to paint in each town but never followed through.
Your comments about your uncertainty in painting with oils also hit home. I just signed up for oil painting classes because I'm unsure of what to do with them. I've worked in watercolors for years but now feel the pull toward oils.
I love your painting of the lilies. Perhaps you can have the canvas mounted to a hard support. Then you wouldn't lose any of the edges as you would if it were stretched.

africantapestry said...

I love your very first oil painting...bellbottoms and all!
ronell

Artpencil Radisch said...

wow wonderful artworks!

Gillian said...

Oh wow - I haven't visited in a while and have lots to catch up on! Very exciting to see your adventure into oils. Well done - I love how you show your process. The arums are lush and gorgeous - wish I could get them to grow here. And great to see your very first oil again. I didn't realise you'd painted it at the Harrow Rd flat!! Keep it safe. (I had it in a frame on the wall in Portland for many years.)