When I was about eleven years old, my Dad asked me to paint a simple image in poster paint of our family dog, Tia, as a prototype for a printmaking class he was preparing (he was an elementary school teacher). I had pretty much learned how to draw by making copies of images from cartoons, especially Walt Disney, and the Saturday morning comics that came as a supplement to the newspaper.
Those comics were delivered by a local paperboy, who would race down the driveway on his bike, shout “Here’s yer paper!” and dash off again. Our two dogs Jinx and Cocoa waited all day with evil anticipation for this very moment. With Olympian speed, they would race around the corner of the house to the front door. Jinx would seize the paper in her jaws and shake the paper into smithereens, after which Cocoa would pee…er…urinate… on the shreds. It was a race against time for us to interrupt these two partners in crime before they executed the dreadful deed.
But I digress.
This summer I had the opportunity to paint a different dog image, while teaching private classes to a 12-year old student.
I had met her parents when I was looking for a new home on Vancouver Island. Although I ended up not renting their suite, synchronicity was at play because they had meanwhile checked out my website and were excited to learn I teach art classes! Their eldest daughter has always loved to paint, and has been getting great results through her lessons with 4Cats. But her parents felt she was at the stage of needing some more detailed guidance, and they were eager to have her train with me.
I encouraged them to sign her up for introductory oil painting lessons, as she already had a nice facility with paint-handling using acrylics. The family would be traveling on their summer holidays, so I recommended a quick-drying oil-painting medium: Gamblin Galkyd Lite.
Over seven lessons, we covered the concept of value (the range of light to dark), how to pre-mix some of the main colours before diving into the painting part of a session, and how the best way to work with oil paint is to block in the dark values and mid-tones (on the value scale above, the mid-tone would be the “3”). It’s a good idea to hold back on painting the lightest passages to near the completion stage, to avoid muddy colours.
I remember, when I first learned to paint, that watching the instructor at work was probably the most exciting and important part of understanding how to use the materials. I still get a bit of a thrill watching other artists do their thing on Youtube! So with beginners I usually paint along with the student.
She chose several subjects, including a flower, a couple of landscapes, and her final project, a portrait of the family dog. Here is my version:
And here is the student’s version, which I think has a special sparkle.
Beautiful things happen when you paint what you love!
If you know of anyone who would really enjoy learning how to paint, or has some knowledge already and wants to go deeper, check out my Class Menu for several options I will be teaching this Fall. I also offer mentorships, critiques and demos.
You can tune in to a live demonstration, “Space and Light: Painting the Domestic Interior” I will be giving online with Opus Art Supplies on Saturday, October 9, 11am – 12:30. The announcement is not yet up on their website, but I will send a newsletter soon with the details. Meanwhile check out some of the other inspiring demos on offer with Opus in the next several weeks.