Drawn from Life

In the Woods, Nerstrand Woods State Park, Fall 2022, oil on canvas 18" x 24"

Fall 2019, I did something I thought I’d never do, I took up landscape painting. I guess it was doubt that drove me to it. With the words of Leah Cohen, my high school art teacher, ringing in my ears, “When in doubt, draw from life,” I drew a plant. In a pot on my kitchen table a house plant drew me to its life.

And then all hell broke loose. Sitting on my front porch I drew the Maple across the street flaming red. I drove to area parks, Crow-Hassan, Battlecreek, Silver Lake taking photos and sketching. Later I’d squirrel through the images and try to paint. Oils, just the word makes my heart jump. Terrifyingly more difficult than I thought it would be, one messy afternoon after another, I stumbled through the steps: tone the canvas, no don’t tone the canvas, put in the darks and background first. But what if the background is light. The darkest dark should be warm; the lightest light cool. Ok but what if you want a warm light? Or a cool dark? When you change value - change temperature. But what if you’re working on just the darks, or just the lights? To accent value, suppress color. What?!! To accent color, suppress value. Oh ok. I watched youtube videos, read books, took a class.

When friends came to my studio and I’d show them my latest works. A nervous silence ensued. “I’m gonna figure it out,” I’d exclaim. They’d respond with either a furtive glance, a change of subject or a quick exit. My paintings sucked. I knew it. I felt it. I saw it, but I kept going. Driven by life, drawn from life, eventually life would seep into the paintings. Eventually my skill would catch up with my passion. Eventually something at least OK would happen. December 2022 indeed something OK did happen.