I had a Zen moment during my Kelowna Art Gallery painting class this week. It surprised and discomfited me just a little bit.
You see, one of my challenges as a would-be artist seems to be generosity. With the paint, I mean. My teacher, artist Megan Bernard, gives us these inspiring demonstrations of things we can do with our acrylic paint. Mixed with matte medium the paint becomes thick and stiff, adding wonderful texture with ridges and dips, peaks and valleys. A wash of contrasting colour, added after it dries, ups the interest factor even more.
But I just can’t seem to do it. I want, I try, I fail.
You’d think something like this would be as easy to fix as slopping more paint on the canvas and stirring it round. But really it’s more psychological than that and I think I’ve sussed out the problem. It’s either a) I am inherently stingy and/or b) I am afraid to commit. I don’t want to waste significant amounts of paint or medium, and so I measure out my paint in careful, small amounts. When the time comes to slather it across the canvas, there is only, at best, just enough. Exactly the right amount to spread thinly over the space. No extravagant bumps or wanton ridges.
Practical? Yes. Creative? Hardly. And it smacks just a little too much of J. Alfred Prufrock for my comfort.
Could it be, I asked myself, that acrylic paint is a metaphor for my passion? Measured out in dribs and drabs, making it stretch, not wanting to waste it on the wrong effort?
Did I stop living passionately? Have I ever? Or have I just so admired the passion of others that I convinced myself that I, too, was just like them – in the same way that I see the work of artists who work their medium so beautifully that I am certain I would paint just like that if only I… umm… could paint.
“Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me,” says J. Alfred.
I don’t know if forcing myself to slather paint unsparingly across a canvas will up the quality of my life significantly. But I love how devoting those three hours a week to learning about it has opened a space for me to think about it, removed from the myriad distractions of children, work and life.
So. While learning how to transfer images onto paint (wildly exciting potential there) or make pseudo encaustics – like we learned this week – certainly make the class interesting, informative and well worth taking, this opportunity to reflect on things, while exercising the creative muscle, just might be the most valuable thing I take from it all.
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson I
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson II
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson III
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson IV
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson V
Channelling the Painter Within – Lesson VI