Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paint Marks of Distinction

Last week I had my first Acrylic Exploration class and enjoyed it very much. We spent the first hour of the class learning about the composition of the paint, how to mix it, color values, light and shading, complimentary colors, etc. In the second hour we pulled out our art supplies and put the first hour's art theories into practice by mixing some colors of our own. I learned a lot that should be useful once it sinks in, which hasn't fully happened yet. I also learned how much paint it's possible to get on one's hands, arms, and clothes in a single hour.

Midway through the class our instructor passed out copies of the picture we'll all be painting in this six-week course. It's trees! You know how much I like trees, right? I took that as a good omen. The first part of our homework assignment was to do a rough sketch of the picture on the canvas or paper we'll be painting on--not a work of art, just enough detail to differentiate between the light and dark areas of the picture. I did mine a couple of days ago. I'm not proud of it (there are some errors in proportion), but you folks have always been supportive, so I'll go ahead and post it here. That way we can see the step-by-step process as the weeks go by:

The other part of the homework, which I did this afternoon, was to experiment further with mixing paints:

See that messy palette paper on the right? I ended up with a mirror image of it on the underside of my forearm. Fortunately, acrylic paint washes off skin fairly easily. (It isn't quite as easy to get it out from under fingernails.)

I realized by the end of the first class that I was going to need some kind of smock or apron, so I've been thinking ever since about what it should be. I knew it needed to have sleeves and should be easy to put on and take off. The fabric ought to be heavy enough to keep paint from soaking through onto my clothing. I thought maybe a men's heavy work shirt would do the job. This morning I was getting ready to go see if I could find one at a thrift store when I spotted this shirt-jacket hanging on the back of a chair next to my backdoor:

It's a little too big, so it'll fit easily over a blouse or sweater. The zipper takes care of the on-and-off issue, and the cuffs will keep the sleeves of my good clothes from falling out. Also, the wide-wale corduroy is nice and thick. It's perfect. I wanted to laugh . . . and I wanted to cry.

The shirt belonged to my mother. It's one of the things of hers that I brought home after she died thirteen years ago. I thought the small stains on the sleeve would wash out, but they didn't, even after several washings. The shirt has been in my closet all that time. I've never worn it even once until I grabbed it last week to wear while I hosed mud off the dogs' feet. Mud washes out, but paint is a different story. I postponed my shopping trip, but the idea of getting permanent paint on Mother's shirt unsettled me.

After thinking about it for a while, I remembered that Mother was the one who drew pictures for my sister and me until we were old enough to draw our own. She was the one who brought home reams of paper and a steady supply of crayons and encouraged us to use them. It was she who bought paint-by-numbers kits when we were adolescents and let us work on them alongside her.

Knowing Mother would support my efforts to try something creative at this stage of my life, I made a decision: I will wrap myself in this shirt and know that she's there in class with me, that every spot of pigment and every splash of color that falls on her shirt will reinforce the memory of something we once enjoyed together. The little stains that have kept the shirt hanging at the back of my closet for so many years will no longer matter. In fact, now that the shirt has a new purpose, I'm thinking it might become one of my favorite things.


  1. I'm thinking it was your Mom's way of saying she wanted to go to class with you!

  2. Years ago, when I was still painting, I took an Acrylics class. I had always used oils, and didn't realize how versatile Acrylics were. I tried using them like watercolors, but I was pretty heavy-handed, so I ended up treating them like oils. Good luck with your class. Your drawing looks good!

  3. How exciting! I know you will have a great time in class because you're doing it for all the right reasons. Any mother would be supportive of that. I like the image of you having her arms wrapped around you while you create something beautiful. You should paint the shirt first and just get it over with -- "Yes, I meant that blob to be there."

  4. I think your mom will love that you are using her shirt! Feel her love. :))


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