Friday, November 11, 2011

L is for the Love of Learning Something New

I am learning to paint in acrylics. Actually, I am learning to paint. Learning something new is just about my favorite thing to do - and learning to paint is a challenge on many many levels.

The desire to learn to paint began just over two years ago when I took a class in pastels. After a significant birthday I felt the need to prepare myself for a new stage in my life - one in which I had more time to create, and more need for a way to occupy my time with something meaningful and pleasurable.

From that time on, I was hooked on the fascination of trying to capture color and light and images in pastel, and later, in pencils and markers. As I worked, and experienced both moments of elated success and dismal failure,  I began to understand that each piece is a teacher. I often find myself staring at something and thinking - what did I learn? What did I do right? What would I do differently? How can I get better at this? Sometimes the answers are right in front of me, more often my growth requires outside assistance from articles, books, teachers, and my husband with his logical mind and eagle eye for details. But I have discovered one thing for sure - the answers and the progress and the learning lie in the doing.

So, now I am doing something new, something difficult, something exciting and frustrating. And I am learning - the list of what I am learning grows everyday. For example, I am learning about acrylic paints. The color names are a book in themselves. I read articles on the internet , look at the work of professional and amateur artists, and I take classes. But still, the real learning happens as I work, or rather, as I figure out HOW to work in this medium.  I am discovering that some paints are opaque, others transparent. Not all the tubes provide this information - though some do. Some colors mix beautifully with others, some, not so much. I am learning about surfaces to paint on, the best size for a piece, how to choose and arrange my tools and my paints, how to keep the paint from drying out, how much paint I need, ... I could go on an on (and I will, but not right now.)

One the toughest things for me is to understand WHAT to paint, because the images that lend themselves beautifully to pastels and color pencils do not always work in paint (and vice versa.) Though I often have ideas, I lack the skill to make them work.  So, one of the ways I am able to rehearse a painting is to depend on my digital tools for help.  I layout designs, try different strokes and techniques, play with color and shadows, and by doing this begin to understand where the light is, how the colors work together, how to adjust the proportions to improve the composition, and so much more. And sometimes, the digital image that results in just beautiful in its own right. The image above is one I used to plan a painting called Harvest - which is still not ready for prime time - but I like this  digital painting enough to share.

Now, I need to get ready for today's painting class. I can't wait to discover what I am about to learn.