Oil Painting for the First Time…

posted in: Oil Painting | 1

So, I entered this contest sponsored by Art Supplies, Ink. Here is the task: two tubes of Daniel Smith water-soluble oils (one yellow and one blue), an 8″ x 10″ canvas panel, some drying medium and one month. That’s it. No black. No white. Any subject.

Yellow and green on canvas panel
Green leaves on a yellow canvas

Who knew what a wonderful protocol this would become for learning a new medium: get two colors, a medium and an appropriate surface for mark-making. 

What do I do with yellow and blue? Explore shades of green… Green means Green Man; a celtic holdover from a much more pagan England. Green Man becomes Green Woman. 

Pinterest.com is an inspired tool for the artist.  Look up anything that is image-based. Collect images in a ‘board’ and you have a glorious set of reference photos. And the best part is I don’t need to cut them out and store them somewhere in the studio. Try searching on “green man” and see the rich collection of images. Very inspiring.

I found the most beautiful green leaves from a nearby tree at Cabrillo College. Arranging the leaves on the canvas, I traced the leaves, letting them overlap. I painted a bit of thinned out green to give them some definition. I knew that I would be painting a green woman at this point and that the opening in the center would have a face…

At some point along the way I let go of being strictly representational and instead I got lost in what the paint can do… I explored this new medium of oil on canvas. And without meaning to, in fact fighting every step of the way, I fell in love with oils.

Green woman face with nose
Green woman begins to emerge

Artists learn two important things along with whatever skills that come with learning a particular medium: we learn to solve problems and we learn to think outside of the box.

Green Woman with brushes and paint
Brushes, paint and canvas in progress

In my painting class the assignment was to “do a cubist painting.” I have had this exercise in the past. And I have failed spectacularly on repeated occasions. For whatever reason, my brain could not get to anything that resembled cubist. This time, it was different…

As I struggled to define the face and the nose I realized that I could solve this problem by eliminating it. I put a big leaf shape across the offending nose, allowing a cubist treatment of the face. NOTE TO SELF: If I can’t resolve the problem, think outside of the box and deal with it.

From there, it was one glorious slide into forms, value ranges and allowing the shapes to tell me what they wanted. I loved the marriage of the urban with the wildness of the natural world. When I showed my painting teacher she informed me that I had successfully done “Bio-morphic Cubism” ala Picasso in the 1920s.

Here is the result…

Bio-morphic Cubist Oil Painting
Green Woman, 201


The contest results are in on Tuesday, May 20th. In the meantime, I want to do it again!

One Response

  1. Excellent – love the explanation of the “process”

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