I can paint?!

I have been trying to figure out how to write this post for a few weeks now.  I have ventured into new territory (again) and this time it seems a bit scary to share.  I have started painting.  With real paints and brushes.  And it is going ok!  I love paintings. I collect paintings. Good ones.  I have much envy of people who can wield a paintbrush and make the colours look like something. But I can’t paint!! Or so I thought.

A few years ago I had bought some acrylic paints from the dollar store and tried painting, but all that came out were mud puddles.  I think I started with some clouds, but they looked like mucky splotches so I gave up. It is in my nature to want to see some promise right away when I start a new process or I feel like it is a waste of time.  Sometimes it is hard to balance the need to explore and create new things with the need to pay the bills by selling the things I create, so when I don’t see promise, it is partly a matter of economics not to venture further.  Partly fear too, because I’m a pretty harsh self-critic, and I don’t like being criticised!  Anyway, about 5 or 6 weeks ago, in mid-February, for some reason I decided I wanted to paint something. The mounds of snow (that are still out there) made it more difficult to get to the studio so I wanted to do something at home. Something different and brightly coloured. I dragged out the dollar store paints to give it a try.  Most of them were dried up, I think I was left with orange and green and a couple of other colours.  I told myself not to care what came out, just paint something! (Self-critic, please go and stick your head in a snow-drift.) I decided on a moose. Here is the moose (don’t laugh!!):


Yeah, I know, not exactly a work of art. But I had FUN!! (fun=good) Enough fun that I thought I should buy some real paints and see where it led.  I googled painting tips and tutorials and found an incredible resource in Will Kemp: http://willkempartschool.com  He’s funny, very talented and a great teacher with lots of free and paid video and written tutorials on his site. He manages to share his considerable artistic and technical expertise in a very approachable and non-intimidating way.  I eagerly read and watched as much as I could and purchased some paints (acrylics) based on his recommendations.  If you have an interest in painting I really recommend his site.

So, armed with my new paints I painted these and some others:

I was trying to figure out how to display them and got the idea to mount them on little wooden blocks as shown below.  They have a hole in the back for hanging, but are about 1.5″ thick, so they can stand up too. I print them on paper and then mount and seal them. The third photo shows the fox mounted on a wooden panel, about 8 x 10 x 1″.

At this point I was pretty happy with my progress so far.  Of course the self-criticism was there, which is important because that’s how I decide where I need to improve, but that little critical voice wasn’t so harsh that it hurt too much!

My friend Penny who has Colouratura Gallery (a wonderful fine art gallery in an old church about 5 minutes to the south of me) was over for coffee after a snowshoe and she was showing me some photos she had on her camera.  She has two little westies, Duncan and Phoebe.  She showed me a photo she had taken of Duncan and I thought, YES! I had been wanting to find a dog photo to paint from, and this was adorable. (See it there above the painting?  He’s so cute.)  She kindly sent me the photo, and I’ll share a few photos of painting Duncan. (Ps, painting a white animal is hard!! I started having second thoughts pretty quickly, but I’m pleased at the way he turned out in the end.)

So….I mentioned I had struggled with writing this post.  There are a few reasons. One is that it feels scary to share these paintings.  I am happy with my painting progress, but it is so different than posting photos of pottery.  I am comfortable with my pottery. I know it and I’ve been doing it for a long time!  If people don’t like it, that’s ok, because others do.  When people criticise my pottery I do admit to feeling emotional, but after a bit I can digest the comments, learn from the ones I feel have merit and disregard the others (eventually!).  Right now I am so new at painting and these paintings are just all mine, in my little house, only shared with a few friends and family who have always supported me.  However, if painting is to become part of my world, I guess I need to start posting them and get over that feeling!! I am actually proud of my paintings and how I’m doing after just a short time. I suppose I have been doing visual arts for a long time, so while painting is new, I have experiences in other mediums that have helped me.  That being said, I haven’t shared the landscape painting I tried which went horribly and terribly wrong….so far I am sticking to animals, they’re what I’ve always been attracted to making in clay, so it seems natural that I paint them. I’m enjoying just focusing on the animals, like the paintings are portraits, with the emphasis on the animal, not their surroundings.  Sometimes I tone the canvas with a colour that peeks through as I paint, sometimes I just start right onto the white. I have a friend who is also painting and we’ve been sending some photos of our work back and forth and making suggestions and sharing techniques that we’ve read about which has been really helpful to me and a lot of fun.

Another reason this post took me a while is that I plan on selling prints of some of my paintings and I am still trying to figure out how to best present them online and in my shop here in Cape Breton. I wanted to have this all sorted out before posting, but decided not to wait.  Here are a few things I have had to consider:

Colour:  Trying to match the colours in the scanned and printed image to the original painting. This involves working with colour profiles in my computer and some fiddling in photoshop.  I am still working on this, but so far I am pleased with the printed results.

Paper Type: I’ve chosen a matte, acid-free, 100 lb heavy stock that comes in 12×18″ sheets. It is bright white and gives gorgeous results with my printer.

Print Size: I don’t know! Do I offer 8×10, 11×14, 12×16? How do I deal with the fact that some paintings won’t fit properly onto all of those sizes?  Would I be changing it from the original too much if I crop a painting so that it fits on every size? Do I leave an even border around the print? (Then I have to crop)

Matted Prints: Some sizes will be matted

Framed Prints: Some sizes will be framed

And so on, and so on!!

Ok, this post is getting very long and I’ve still got more to say. One of my self-criticisms was that my brush strokes were too small and picky.  I would start out by blocking some colours in with big strokes and larger brushes and suddenly I’d be poking the paint on with tiny, tiny little chicken scratches. So I decided to paint some bigger paintings on canvas.  So far my biggest is 12×16.  I want to go bigger though….I want to paint HUGE ones! I still am fighting the urge to use the smaller brushes, they just seem to jump into my hand.

Here is my first 12×16:

Below is what happened when I printed it and was trying to put it in a mat and frame.  I printed it too large for the mat, and was holding it up behind the mat to see how much smaller I should go and I thought, “too bad you can’t see his nose”. So I fixed that by cutting around his nose and popping it over.  I will offer these as prints both ways, just a straight print of the moose, and then this one where it looks like he’s looking in the window.  I love this way, it makes me laugh. imageI still have more paintings to share, but I will save those for another post. I’m heading off to walk on the Camino (from Moissac in France to Pamplona in Spain, over the Pyrenees with my mum) in less than a week and I still have to get my taxes done before I go!  I’ll be gone for the whole month of April.  My glorious, explorative, creative painting time is coming to an end…when I return I must dive head-first into the pottery studio! Hopefully I’ll be able to take painting breaks once in a while, but there are a lot of puffins still to be made between now and June.

Hasta luego,


3 thoughts on “I can paint?!

  1. Sarah – you’re so talented, it makes me want to dislike you but YOU’RE ALSO SO NICE! Well done, and kudos to you for bravely stepping outside your comfort zone. xo

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