I have spent the better part of two months without my oil paints. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss them. The aroma of fresh paint mixed with the sickly sweet smell of my homemade glazing medium is etched into my being; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget it.
This is also the first time that I’ve had a chance to really slow down and contemplate the situation that I find myself in.
We started packing up non-essentials to get the house “show ready” for our sale all the way back at the beginning of May. The organized chaos of my studio was one of the first casualties of our slow departure from Orcas house. I wasn’t phased at the time, I was thinking more about the future than the present. Where could I take my oils and really be able to set up shop? Now I find myself firmly back in the present and wondering what am I to do with myself without my oils? I’m not just thinking about my medium either. The average size of one of my paintings is 2’x4′. I can’t work on something that size on the road and still have room for the dog or our stuff, not to mention my lovely wife.
I have to shift my focus. Nay, I want to shift my focus. At lease for a little while. I don’t want to railroad myself into only one medium, I want to be versatile and I want to push all of my art into places I may not be quite comfortable with. Otherwise how would I grow as an artist?
Drawing was the first natural progression my mind went through. I love to draw and have been doodling since I was a small child. I didn’t want to solely rely on pencils and paper either, so picked up a few pens and calligraphy sets from the art store. I’ve never really explored pen and ink outside of the classroom and figured now would be a great time to experiment. That being said, drawing seems harder now that I’m older. The creativity doesn’t come as easily as it used to. I find myself staring at a blank page, my mind screaming just move the pencil across the paper! What I want to draw and what comes out are usually pretty different, unless I’m copying something. I typically find myself wanting to give up when what I draw doesn’t look like what I meant it to. At least with pencil I can erase and start over. Throwing pen and ink into the mix will surly give me some headaches, but I look forward to the challenge. I’m not working, I don’t have to be anywhere I don’t want to be, and honestly I’m willing and able to wade through a bunch of bad drawings to get to something better.
Halfway through our packing I had an epiphany and ventured back into the recesses of the pod and dug though dozens of boxes (all very well marked, if I must say so myself.) to pull out a set of half pan watercolors and a few watercolor brushes I forgot I even owned. I did have to supplement my paper inventory as well as my watercolor brush assortment before I left the art store, as anyone who knows about brushes – good ones aren’t cheap (I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to pay full price again…). The big caveat here – I’ve never seriously or continuously used watercolors in my life. I have vague recollections of using crayola 8 pan oval sets as a kid, but other than that I can count on my right hand the amount of times I’ve sat down to paint in watercolor. That number is 3 by the way. I do love what you can do with watercolors, I just have no idea if I can do those things. It’s almost the exact opposite way of painting with what I do with oils. It will take some serious mental chops to work in this medium.
I also have to shift my focus from large to small. The biggest pad of paper I’m bringing with us is 12″x18″. So I not only am working with different mediums, I also have to think smaller and adjust to the tiny (in comparison) surface.
My goal for all of this is not to become some sort of an expert or even to become good. I want it to push the boundaries of my oil paintings and, honestly, I just want to be that guy in the bar doodling into a pad or painting with my beer instead of reading news or playing games on my wonderfully large smartphone.
Now that I’ve decided the direction I’m going to take on this trip and now that I’ve gathered all of my supplies in one largish pile on the floor I had one final decision left to make. What do I carry it all in? As far as I can tell, those “ArtBins” you can get at art store are useless in every way; that is unless you want to just throw everything together in a massive pile and dig for what you need at every turn not knowing where it is only knowing that its in there somewhere. I, however, prefer things to have their place and for those places to fit neatly with everything else. In other words, custom. So my plan was to make a quick trip to Lowe’s to buy some wood and make my own case. The problem here was that I wasn’t sure I had everything I needed. What if I make the case and I can’t fit everything, or I don’t get the correct measurements, or it’s too big or too small?
Needless to say I didn’t get everything I needed in enough time to actually make something, so what was I to do now? I shifted my focus and started thinking that maybe I could repurpose something cool and make it useful again. I took a trip to Goodwill and shopped around, but nothing really popped out at me and I started thinking I was just going to have to break down and buy something from the art store. Then, serendipitously, during our packing adventure we were pulling everything out from under the bed and turned up a suitcase I have been carrying around with me since I was a 10. I remember bringing it home from my grandparents house and just putting all of my “important” things in it (Toys and rocks if I’m being honest). I had an almost immediate epiphany when I saw it. So I repurposed the suitcase to be my ArtBin. To top it all off, not only did all of my supplies fit but I had extra room for my paper pads! I knew I kept that thing all these years for a reason, and that reason is this trip.
Now that I’ve got my art supply set-up and a special place in the car to put it, all I’ve got left to do is jump in. So here is to a new life in a new direction – Cheers!