I think the last time I used a paintbrush (other than painting our house) was close to 20-years ago. Considering how much enjoyment I get from painting, I’m ashamed to admit that I let too many excuses come between myself and a blank piece of canvas. From lack of room, having all my paint supplies stolen, divorce, new jobs, a new marriage, new house, a baby, etc. I always had a reason to NOT paint, and yet I always talked fondly and ‘wished’ I still could.
Finally, my amazing wife and fantastic parents decided to remove one obstacle as a Christmas present, and sent me to the art store with a check so I could get the supplies I needed. It was a wonderful surprise and gave me the kick in the butt to start painting again. Back in college, my preferred medium was oil. I hadn’t ever really tried acrylics, but was leaning that direction since I didn’t want the house stinking of oil paint and thinner.
Not really knowing what I needed, I purchased a very basic set of colors, some brushes (a bit on the cheap side), some canvas boards, and a small tabletop painting easel. I found a small corner of our Arizona Room and set up my new painting station. I was excited!
Then I let it sit for two months.
I stared at it every time I was in the room, and I finally had to admit to myself that I was just intimidated. Would I be any good? I was putting so much pressure on myself to create some sort of masterpiece. I watched quite a few YouTube videos about using acrylics and began to feel more comfortable. What’s the big deal, anyway? So I found a number of photos I had taken that I thought would be good subjects to learn about the medium and loosen up those ancient, rusty painting gears.
Then we were hit with another stroke of luck, or a mystical “sign” if you believe in those sorts of things. The home next to us had been vacant for years due to one of the elderly owners passing away. We weren’t sure if it was the husband or wife. The other moved to Florida and the house, still filled with all of their furniture and belongings, was stuck in some sort of trust. We learned that the remaining owner passed and with no children, the house was given to a surviving cousin.
The cousin didn’t want the home or anything within. They decided to put it up for sale, and donate all the belongings to a local church to auction/sell. Trish got to talking with the real estate agent and the local friend who was “in charge” of the donation drive, and she came to find out that the wife had been a painter. She had a ton of old canvas and even a huge, professional, stand-up easel! With all the stuff being donated and sold anyway, Trish purchased the easel and original supplies at a fantastic price!
As a side note: It was fascinating going through the woman’s painting supplies and seeing her sketches from as early as the 1960’s. We got to see a glimpse of this woman’s creativity and learn a bit about who she was, without ever meeting her. So, I say “thank you” to her for helping get my own painting going again!
Okay, bad on-track.
Trish is currently studying for her Master’s degree and has class on Monday nights, so she usually doesn’t get home until 10:30pm. That means I have about two hours once per week (at minimum) after I put Max to bed to have some fun with paint.
Sunset on Yetman
I resisted the urge to become a couch potato and poured myself a glass of wine, put on a The Beatles LP on our old record player, and decided on my first subject: A desert landscape at sunset. I had snapped the photo while mountain biking and thought it would be fun to paint. (In hindsight, a bit ambitious). I dove in, and three hours passed in the blink of an eye. I couldn’t believe it! I had FUN.
During the following weeks, I managed to squeeze in a couple more painting sessions, though I do admit that the couch and a bowl of chips distracted me more than a few times. Sometime Max was quite a bit to handle and I was just too exhausted to paint. But I finished.
Is it a masterpiece? Far from it. Was it frustrating at times? Yes. But I kept telling myself that I hadn’t painted in 20-years AND was using a new medium. Overall, I’m fairlyhappy with it. It’s a 12″x12″ stretched canvas, and I estimate it took me about 10 hours, which (I feel) is a long time for such a small piece. I would doubt myself, then rework areas over and over. But I was re-learning about colors, how to use acrylics, and what brushes were good for what type of stroke.
Now that I’ve been staring at it finished, there are many things I’d change. The greens are all the same, composition is off, too many of the same brush stroke, and it’s overworked in areas. But that’s okay. It was a fantastic learning experience for me, and I got a better feel for the paints and the brushes and started re-learning my old techniques.
I was about to call it done, but the sky (then barren of all clouds) was just too empty. So in a hasty decision, I pulled up a quick reference photo in Google Image search, and just went for it. Adding the clouds took me about five minutes, but I think they’re the best part of the painting. Note to self: Stop thinking so much about it, and FEEL it.
Now, with that one finished, what to do next?
I’ve always been fascinated with all things abandoned and forgotten. Whether it be ghost towns, farm equipment and barns, or vehicles. What story would they tell? What is their past? Why have they been forgotten? I love seeing how nature overtakes human creations. I follow a couple Instagram accounts that showcase abandoned objects, and it’s providing me with a lot of great material.
So that was going to be my second piece. I also wanted to loosen up and not think so much about painting. I was more comfortable with what colors I used (hint: I barely touch 70% of the huge “kit” of paints I purchased). I found a photo of an abandoned old Ford pickup truck, and I went to work on a Saturday when Trish was studying and Max was napping.
This painting took me half the time as Sunset on Yetman. Maybe five hours total. I let go and didn’t think too much about it. I think it is a much better painting and I absolutely love it. The whole “abandoned” theme is going to provide me with quite a few future paintings, but I’m going to stretch out and try all sorts of different subjects.
I’m so excited that I’ve re-kindled my painting fire, and I have my wonderful family to thank for it. I’ve got so many ideas for new subjects, and can’t wait to share them here. You’ll also find them on my graphic design website: graemehuntdesign.com.
As always, I welcome comments. Thanks for taking the time to read!