Sunday, January 20, 2008

painting in oil.


I have paint under my fingernails and I like the way it looks, grungy and all. Something wonderful has happened and I can't quite seem to put words to the sensation that it has created. I started oil painting again for the first time in a year and half. How, I ask myself, did so much time pass? Sure, I've painted plenty in that time, but switched to acrylics after moving to the city because they dry fast, are easy to work with, and easy to clean up.

Late Friday night, after prompting from Vinny, I headed down to my studio. I decided to work on the background of Louis' portrait and so I got out my tubes of paint, my long neglected bristle brushes, a palette knife--and started mixing. Black, white, and a little bit of pthalo blue. What color does that create? Shadowed gray.

Words frustrate me. I can't get them to describe the way the paint moved across the canvas. I can't get them to describe the way the light reflects off of a buttery landscape of brush strokes. I can't get words to describe just how much color there is in such a simple gray. The closest I can come to describing the smell of oil paints are with words such as carnations and chrysanthemums. But perhaps that is only because the scent of carnations and chrysanthemums reside in the same olfactory region of my brain as oil paints. This body chemistry of memory both surprises and delights me. I did, after all, grow up in a flower shop--the sort of place where deep seated memories--wordless memories--are made of smell and color and texture. Or perhaps that is everyone's childhood?

Today and last night and the night before, putting paint brush to canvas, how do I describe it? It wasn't like any of the acrylic paintings I've done in the past year. Dull and pushing. It wasn't like any of the pastel or ink or pencil drawings. Childlike and unsure. It wasn't like anything except painting with oil. I have not felt so deeply comfortable with myself in many months (eighteen, to be exact). And the only way I can describe the feeling is to say:

It feels like coming home.

Finally--after being lost for a long, long time--I know where I am and where I want to go. I find it interesting, these roads we walk to get to where's next.

8 comments:

Leah said...

pure joy spills from your words. love to read it. i'm cheering you on from the sidelines. xox

Sharon said...

This post is truly a poem...an ode to your love of oil.

Can't wait to see the finished project!

Joy Eliz said...

I rec'd a beginners oil set for Christmas and still have not used them yet. Each day I get closer - a plan is forming in my head. Your post today is synchronicity.
Thanks Jesse!!!

bella said...

I'm so happy that you are feeling this way. I hope the joy continues!

laundrygirl said...

If only you knew how much happiness this post brought me... The whole experience sounds wonderful and indulgent and just so full of relief and joy! You have inspired me to do some drawing. I used to work in oil pastels all the time but stopped when I got more involved with sculpture. Lately I have felt the urge to draw...
You are amazing! I cannot wait to see this show. I wish I could be there. Wouldn't that be something?!

Robot Dancers said...

I used to love painting in oils much better than acrylics.
Something about oils is just so natural and they smell positively earthy.

madelyn said...

that photo is so deightful
~ i want to jump in and
try some painting!!

LOL

which would not be pretty:)

yay!!!

*clapping hands*

you go girl!

Kelly said...

Your experience is so delicious, grounded, sure. You grew up in a flower shop? I grew up with the smell of oil paints and turpentine.