Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Kildeer on the Way to a Painting

I bought my first acrylic paints in over 20 years about a week ago. I painted in acrylic for about 10 years, then switched to oils for another 10 years or so. But when I moved from my live-in studio to my home with my wife and cats I felt I really couldn't safely use oils and their solvents in the house.

Perhaps I could have switched back to acrylics but there was a problem with that too. No room was big enough for the really large abstract paintings I used to do. Since I switched from abstract to naturalistic about six years ago it made some sense to do my paintings in watercolor. It is traditionally used at a smaller size than many oils and it's pretty safe to use at home.

So I've used it, more or less starting from scratch, for the last six years. As much as I love watercolor and as much as I think I've improved with it there are still moments when I miss the freedom that acrylics and oils offer. So that was the impetus that got me to buy those acrylics recently.

I've spent a lot of time recently looking through photos and old sketches trying to find the subject for my first acrylic. The Bic pen sketch at top seemed like it might work as a painting. I could see myself finding a lot to play with in the water and foreground sand and rocks.

But last night I finally became a member of the Manayunk Roxborough Art Center Artists Coop. And there is a group show in less than two weeks! All of a sudden I started thinking about what I could include in the show.

Rather than undertaking a painting in a medium I haven't used in 20 years it seemed better to return to small watercolors. So that is the second image at top, a breeding male Kildeer seen at the wetlands pond at Morris Arboretum this spring.

Those orange washes on some of the feathers are just irresistible. I may touch this up a bit but I've already gone overboard with the background and lost a bit of the sparkle of untouched paper. So I'll do very little more.

I had thought I would use kildeer on my way to my first acrylic painting. Instead I ended up with a surprise watercolor painting. But I can't complain. Unless I turn it into complete mud there is always something appealing about watercolor. Acrylic will have to wait a bit.


Gabrielle said...

Hi Ken,

That's great that you joined the MRACAC! I like the watercolor killdeer very much. Best of luck getting ready for the show. I'll look forward to hearing how it went.

As far as different paints, personally I like being comfortable with a couple of different kinds (one could argue that there's a risk of being a jack of all paints and a master of none, though...). Some subjects just call for a certain type of paint and then also some paint lends itself to the situation; as you said, watercolor is so much quicker to set up and use in a small space with limited time.

I've never worked in oils for the same reasons as you gave it up, but the smell doesn't bother me personally - it always reminds me of my dad. He worked in oils exclusively. My paint-of-choice is acrylic, but I do love the effects and the immediacy of watercolor. It's nice that, given the right circumstances, we do have the option to go back and forth between types of paint!

Ken Januski said...

Hi Gabrielle,

Are you familiar with MRAC? Just went to my first meeting on Monday and I very much like the people who were there.

I'm familiar with the jack of all paints, master of none theme but I think you're right: mainly it serves you well to know and feel comfortable with a number of media. Then you don't have to hem and haw when you know you should be using one medium rather than another for a certain subject but just don't feel comfortable with the best medium. I'm happy to say that after 6, yes 6!, years I'm finally somewhat comfortable with watercolor. I just stumbled upon and tossed out one of my first bird watercolors from 6 years ago today. Boy, it was bad!

Personally I love the smell of oil paint, linseed oil, turpentine. I'm just not sure if it would healthy to live with it, though of course that's exactly what I used to do when I had a live-in studio. So we'll see how acrylics go once I finally get started with one....