Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Edward Hopper & Painting Life Lessons

On the second day of my beginner's painting class we learned about American artist Edward Hopper. 

Edward Hopper's Self-Portrait
1925-30 (110 Kb); Oil on canvas, 25 1/16 x 20 3/8 in
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 

Edward Hopper was one of the first American artists to paint night scenes. He was greatly inspired by Rembrandt's dark style and used a dark palette in his work as well. In a time where many artists painted with an impressionist or cubist style, he preferred realism.

Nighthawks
1942 (120 Kb); Oil on canvas, 30 x 60 in; The Art Institute of Chicago
Hopper's most famous painting is the Nighthawks painting. When my teacher put this slide on, it was this painting that made me recognize the artist. This painting has been made into prints and displayed in many places, including where I know it from: my uncles house. It was also a big part of an episode of That 70s Show. :) After my teacher finished his lecture, he decided to show us what we will be painting.

Second Story Sunlight 
1960; Oil on Canvas; 40 x 50 in; Whitney Museum of America

He gave us three copies of this painting, broken down into black and white. The first copy was the quick sketch of the painting. The second copy had all the shaded areas shaded in. The third and final copy was the complete painting in black and white. He told us to work from one copy at a time, starting with the first copy. We weren't allowed to use pencils, we had to use oil paint to do the sketching.

Here is what mine looked like in its beginning stages:


It was awkward drawing with paint and a paintbrush instead of using a pencil but I have to admit that I liked it, even if it will take some getting used to. This was also the very first time I had ever used oil paint.

Some of you might be wondering why I decided to take this class. I am taking it because I want to sharpen my skills and strengthen my weaknesses. Some of my weaknesses include drawing with paint instead of a pencil, painting with only black and white and shading. As you can see by the painting above, every weakness was challenged by my second day, lol :)

This made me pretty grumpy for the first half of the day because the negative self-talk LOVED the fact that I didn't know what I was doing. I was saying things to myself like, "Who do you think you are, trying to paint with oil or draw without a pencil? You're crazy", or , "look, you're an idiot. Everyone else knows what's going on and you're stumbling around asking questions and being a nuisance", blah blah blah. By the end of the morning, I left with a strong sense of self pity and a fairly noticeable high from all of the paint fumes and paint thinner that was in the room.
Anyway, I went to lunch and while I munched on zucchini strips and a PB&J sandwich I talked myself back into a positive attitude. I said things to myself like, "Am I going to give up? No. Why? Because I am not a quitter" and, "This is a dream. You don't walk out on dreams, you fight for them until your dream becomes a reality". I then thought about what it was that I was having such a hard time with and thought of a solution.

When lunch was over, I walked back to class, pulled my teacher aside and said, "I am really struggling with the lines and the fact that I have to start from lights first and then go to dark confuses me. While I want to learn how to paint correctly, I think I will find it easier to start by blocking in the darkest areas first" With that, my teacher said, "Hey, you gotta paint the way that suits you best. If that's what does it then do that instead". And so I did and you know what? I cruised happily along through the second part of the day.

Toward the end of class my teacher looked at my painting and asked, "have you ever painted with oils before?" to which I replied, "No, never. This is my first time" and then he looked at my painting and then looking impressed said, "Not bad. Not bad at all. I think oils suit you" and walked off. :)

As it turns out, we did not have enough time in the day to fully complete the painting. There is actually quite a lot more that needs to be done and mine in particular is FAR from perfect but I can tell you that when I look at it, I'm proud. I'm proud of my painting and I'm proud for sticking it out. I'm proud of my new-found love with oils (and my very probable preference for them over acrylic in the future) and I'm proud of that day in general, flaws and all.

I learned more that day than how to paint in black and white. I learned a lesson about life.

Life isn't about knowing everything and living perfectly. It's about enjoying the moments in the journey of life and embracing the imperfections. Besides, without imperfections, life would be boring. :)

So with that, I give you my very first oil painting:



1 comment:

Angela said...

Such a wonderful post :-) Congrats on sticking with it and seeing the bigger lesson. That little questioning voice that nags us as artists can be a real downer sometimes but kudos to you for working though it!

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