my homecoming: a lesson on texture and patience

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“Make it Rain”
Oil on canvas, February 2013

My first oil in 7 years.

Painting has become my default answer to the question, “What makes you happy?” But for over 10 years now, I’ve been saying it without actually living it.  Someone I’d just met called me out on it recently– I haven’t seriously painted either because #1 I’m lazy, or #2 I’m scared to find out that I don’t have what it takes, or that it’s not for me (doesn’t make me happy).  Sometimes it takes a stranger to put you in your place and jumpstart what needs jumpstarting.

This year, 2013, I had a mindset change.  I decided that I wouldn’t hide behind the money aspect of painting anymore (“I don’t want to be a poor artist”) and just go for it 100%.  Not as a hobby I pick up more passionately when business is good, and not as an activity I act on when random inspiration hits.  Important belief shift: I can make a living and support a family with my art.

To be fair and gentle with myself, I haven’t been idle in trying to get in front of the canvas.  I’d brought out books on Chagall and Klee as early as October 2012, looking for paintings I’d like to copy.  A painter friend once told me that was how he learned — just intuitively copying the masters.  My Bargue plates are also ready and waiting for me to get back into drawing again, although just reading through the painstaking process of learning the sight-size method is overwhelming me already.  Baby steps.  I’ve also picked out dream schools I’d like to go to for further studies — I wish there were more classical ateliers in the Philippines — and have begun the arduous process of letting go of my house, which in truth is my latest art piece (a 2-year labor of love!).

Why hadn’t I painted?  My simplest answer: I had nothing to paint.

Last week, I decided to just pick out a favorite doodle and translate it onto the canvas.  There was something crucial about the first piece to come out after my hiatus, and I wanted it to be true to where I was in my life…a beacon to ready the path.

Make it Rain 

Doodling became my output of choice when I began my house project in 2010.  Zero set up, pack up, and drying time — it was heaven sent for busy me who lived on the go.

Now that I have a well-ventilated, well-lit studio and the stillness and quietude of having time, I have no excuse not to pick up the brush and work with oils again.  A friend has called it my homecoming.

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I came out with this painting initially thinking it was almost done.  One look at it and my brother said: more texture.  I realized that too; I painted it in a flurry.  I had gotten used to painting with quick-drying gouache and acrylics, I’d forgotten the texturing that oils lent.

The painting looked flatter and more lifeless than I would’ve wanted — and it didn’t have the whimsical spirit of the doodle.  Although there are times that I’d welcome a flat image, something was amiss here.  Masyadong manipis.

I played around with the waves, and ended up layering.

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While re-doing the waves, I kept thinking, “All this feels very personal, this call for texture.  I’m in my 30’s now, and the layering applies to every aspect of my life — relationships, business, food, health.  Di na pwedeng mababaw.”  And this texturing is not of hodgepodge, random layers.  It’s a decluttered layering, hindi maingay.  Every layer is meaningful, mindful.  But not without the surprise of possibility.

The flowers needed extra TLC as well.  Old habits get unearthed when given the opportunity– I found myself doing Van Gogh-inspired strokes.

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With the waves, flowers and clouds layered, I kept staring at the ground and felt it needed to breathe some more.

Didn’t know what wanted to come out, but ended up playing with greens:

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I worked on outlining the areas I wanted to pop out, and knew it was time to put the brush down when all I could do while looking at the painting was smile. 🙂

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It’s a happy painting, and I’m happy that this was what came out as my first comeback to oil.

I had so much leftover paint on the palette, and just played around with other doodle translations.

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Already bought bigger canvases, will see what comes out next.

I know I have so much to learn, and it will take the best of me to proceed with courage and caution at once.  Would love to pick up where I left off with my acrylics in 2010— was working on learning to paint people.

After working with oils for a weekend, though, I’ve been reintroduced to the patience that painting demands.  I know what this will ask of me. Will be gentle and patient, and also rigorous and unrelenting.


If you’d like a look at my 2010 series of paintings (acrylics), visit my flickr album.