First post: "Red Flowers" brushwork and colour explorations, plus a bit about my painting background
oil on canvas paper 12 x 17cm (4.75 x 6.75")
Last Friday night, I was playing at an event gig with the funk/pop band Fuse at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo. Afterwards the wonderful guys who did all the flower arrangements were kind enough to let me take home as many as I could carry. I told them I wanted to paint them. "We'd rather people took them than just throw them away" they told me. I'm forever grateful to them. The theme of the night was red, so I now have a mini jungle of lush red blooms in my front room. The above painting is of a couple of them. If I'm able to find the time I'd like to paint these again a little larger.
For the last few months I've resumed lurking at the wonderful online art community, Wet Canvas, yearning to paint but not quite getting it together until recently. Inspired by the "small stuff" threads in the oils forum I decided to try my hand at creating small works in oils on a regular basis. Folk up there of varying painting experience (from newbies to 30 year painting veterans) have all been reporting that doing these small works regularly has been a wonderful enhancer for their painting in general, not to mention the fun of doing them!
For myself, apart from the pure enjoyment of it, I want to use this format of painting to hone my oils skills further. I'm still really only at the beginning of my oil painting journey. Since this is my inaugural first post here, I'll provide a bit of background. I've painted perhaps around 15 paintings in oils since my first one in 2000. Before that I'd only dabbled in water based media, including 6 years of studying sumi-e painting (6 months with Tousui Tanaka and the rest with Ilan Yanizky).
Sumi-e teaches all about capturing the essence of the subject, and Ilan's inspiring style and way of teaching also allowed me to discover and express my love of bold, expressive brushwork and colour. All of this has had immense influence on my painting style. Indeed, my mantra (or perhaps my zen koan) when I paint seems to be "what is the essence?"
I eventually quit the sumi-e class after doing two Betty Edwards' 5 day courses within a month of each other back in 1999 - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and the follow up Colour course, both taught by Kristin Newton, which basically teach artists' perceptual skills, thus everyone doing these courses tends to make quantum leaps in their ability to see and thus draw (or, in the latter, paint) what they're seeing. This was the first time in my life that I was able to produce anything vaguely realistic, and the Colour course changed my life forever as it allowed me to reach a childhood dream of learning how to mix whatever colour I see, something I had been incapable of in the past. As a result of those classes I found myself wanting to paint more realistically compared to the more symbolistic approach in the style of sumi-e I was studying.
Had I been living in the west, after this I would have gone straight to some kind of art school or regular painting class. However, being in Japan this was more difficult due to the language barrier. So my learning since then has consisted of a couple of drawing classes, two 5 day oil painting workshops in Australia, and lots of self learning from experience, books, DVDs and at art sites such as Wet Canvas.
It's so wonderful to return to painting again after such a long lull. While I was in production for my CD Timeless, it was impossible for me to focus on anything else but the music (and the album artwork, though that was all in the digital realm). When I get caught up in big musical projects like that, or simply busy music work periods, I find it impossible to get into the headspace needed for painting.
It's sometimes odd to feel so passionately inspired about something I might want to paint, and knowing the way I want to paint it, and yet at the same time feel fettered by my lack of technical skills to express myself with paint as powerfully as my spirit yearns to, in the way it's already so accustomed to doing musically, where I'm able to effortlessly sing/play a song from the depths of my soul.
The creative spirit feels strong and reasonably well-honed while my hands-on painting experience is still in the early stage, thus there is quite a bit of catching up to do. At any rate I have definitely fallen in love with oils - I love the sensuality of the medium and it totally suits the way I want to paint.
Regular Sketching, Good For the Soul
For the past 4-5 weeks or so, in my breaks at work, I've started sketching people in the venues I play at using conte on grey paper (the paper I'm using comes in books). This has been so much fun and great practice. After filling my first book with sketches, I'm starting to see some improvement. Once I get a few on the computer I'll post them here.
About a week ago I discovered ink-filled synthetic sumi-e brushes. These are like regular ink pens which are filled with ink, except there's a sumi-e brush on the end instead of a nib. I've always known about the black ones, but I have now found grey ink as well - so I've started playing with those as the grey allows me to get the gradations that I so loved about sumi-e. I've started using these ink brushes on white watercolour paper around postcard size to do quick sketches of people on the train (or wherever). I'd still like to add a lighter grey for increased tonal value, so next time I get to the big art store I'll see if I can find one of those synthetic brushes that I've seen which can be filled with water instead of ink. I think they're meant for use with watercolours, however I would use the "water brush" to lighten the grey ink of the other brush. At any rate, all great stuff for honing seeing and drawing skills, though I doubt you could buy those brushes outside of Japan, (except maybe other parts of Asia).
Just to end this post off I've put up another small work that I did last week. More red flowers....
"Red Flowers, White Bowl", oil on canvas paper 17 x 12cm (6.75 x 4.75")