Friday, January 02, 2009

Oil Painting's driving me mad.


WIP after Giovanna Garzoni - oil on canvas 50 x 35cm

I didn't have any desire to paint in oil until I was invited to join a local group of Italian artists. I loved the idea of the company and the opportunity to practise my Italian. Everyone was painting in oils. Everyone was painting after the masters. Our teacher doesn't like watercolour. He saw me as a watercolour painter. I started painting contemporary pictures in oil - very slowly because I am totally lacking in confidence with this media. Eventually, in order to benefit from his vast experience, I started trying to copy the masters.

Currently I'm working on a still life after Giovanna Garzoni. She was an amazing woman - Italian artist who lived between 1600-1670, never married, sold her work for big money to wealthy patrons. She made enough to retire at 45 and left a fortune to an art school when she died. Mostly she worked in tempera on vellum.

Giovanna is probably turning in her grave because my picture is copied from two of her paintings. As usual it is going Very Slowly and I still don't know what I'm doing. I'm missing something in oils, I enjoy the feel of them and love the blend ability but it's driving me mad!

So I put aside Garzoni and grabbed a small canvas panel and set about offending Van Gogh....

After Van Gogh - oil on canvas panel 18 x 24 cm

Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of this genius! It was impossible to duplicate the wealth of his brushmarks. I worked as quickly as I could - got it done in an afternoon but still had that empty, lost feeling.

There was paint left on my palette so I went mad on a piece of watercolour paper....


I sat back and looked at what I had done and thought - something about this looks familiar - not good but familiar. Is oil painting driving me mad?

13 comments:

Toni said...

Oh Robyn thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on oil painting and your lovely work. I sat here and sort of giggled (sorry) because I could hear the frustration in your voice. I have never painted in oils so I haven't a clue what to tell you.
Question? Didn't a lot of the masters paint an under glaze of sepia first? A friend of mine who paints in oils like the masters does this before adding color. So I was wondering what your instructor does.

Lin said...

Honey, you are FAR too hard on yourself! That top painting is magnificent.. absolutely gorgeous .. and the rest are truly wonderful. Honestly. I know about the 'pressure' of painting in other media ... my plein air group members are predominently oil painters, and some of their results blow off my socks, and I so wish to emulate some of their strokes in watercolor -- humbug, can't get it to work, so I get as frustrated as you sound ... but truly, hon, any new venture, any new medium is a challenge at first -- just think of your first watercolors ....

So relax, truly, you are doing some spectacular work ... honestly ....!

Robyn said...

Toni - It's okay, I intended you to giggle. It's all one can do really. Thank you for your concern.

I'm familiar with the grisaille approach and it would probably suit me better because I enjoy graphite drawing so much. It's not the approach in our group. People are inclined to underpaint flat areas of local colour and then work back into it. Of course there is nothing stopping me trying the grisaille method but I don't think it is where I want to go with oils. I think I would be much more interested in following the impressionists. And I do intend attempting to paint en plein air this year and that wouldn't suit a slow underpainted approach.

I think my heart is really saying 'give it up!' but I'm obviously not ready to listen to sense yet.

Joan Sandford-Cook said...

No, dont you dare give it up. The impressionist idea is great - go for it. Theres never any need to follow the sheep ie local colour base and them overlay as your Italian co oil painters are doing. Show them you are unique and not a copyist. Though I did smile at your frustrated description of yourself. Im in the middle of a local scene in oils and cant seem to get back to it after the Christmas break. Its all that turkey and christmas pudding I reckon!!!

Jeanette said...

Robyn,persevere. You have the skills to do this, it just takes some practice. And take that from someone who is currently struggling big time with relearning oils!

Having said that, some of use take to certain mediums over other ones. I know dry media will always be my comfort zone and my expertise, but I love testing myself in other mediums as well.

mARTa said...

Giovanna would be intrigued, VanGogh, well it's easy to offend him and your abstract on paper a good use of left over paint!
I am loving the oils but have an excellent teacher to thank for that. Most of my class working in acrylic. I think that medium would have frustrated me more.
But I think you are doing great so don't get rid of those oils just yet!

moreidlethoughts said...

The imp in me says "Quit if it's not fun." But the pig-headed me says "Stick with it;show 'em who's boss!"
Not at all helpful to you, but this reader rather hopes you'll persevere.You give us such a clear picture of your efforts.

quirkyartist said...

Hi Robyn,
I have used oils at art school, but we never had to copy the masters. I had heard that that is how they teach in Italian art schools, but never sure if it was true. Oils are frustrating, but you get used to them. I did quite a few as grisaille, then glazed them in colour. Also did alla prima. I just get quicker results with acrylics and not that cleaning up drama.
Wendy

Robin Neudorfer said...

Wonderful work Robyn.
Painting en Plein air helped me to learn oils quite fast. I know I would have piddled with them had I been allowed. The instant gratification is what I love so much about the medium.

Keep exploring, it suits you

Anita said...

Robyn - don't give up! I love your "a le van Gogh". I think its a medium that needs work but you will suddenly have a breakthrough I am sure! I was reading in one of my new books that most beginning oil painters just don't use enough paint. Be generous with it! And have fun! Don't let it stress you out!

africantapestry said...

Maybe you shoud put aside these "masters" you've met up with in class and just let it rip with the paint on the canvas. It sounds like it wasn't the right oil class for you(art wise). You have done such a great job with all the paintings here, but I like the freedom of "your" painting...the blue face, the red/blue neck...it's as if Robyn is trying to appear from somewhere underneath this frustration and do her own thing. And I have all the trust in this Robyn struggling to appear. Give her a chance!
A happy impressionistic year to you!
Ronell

Joan said...

Robyn - You are always up for a challenge! I so enjoy when you rant about something that bothers you...you are so amusing! On a serious note, you may feel the struggle inside, but I like your oils. I can't imagine using a new medium and trying to paint like the masters...that would be too much for me. You go girl!!!

Robyn said...

If Van Gogh had such friends as you all, he'd never have had to cut off his ear!

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