GETTING OUTSIDE THE COMFORT ZONE
After a long period of painting large watercolour flowers I wanted to try something a bit different. For a while I have been interested in trying oil on gessoed panel so I ordered several cut sizes of thick top grade birch ply which I then asked my framer to prepare for me using traditional gesso. This I believe is far nicer to paint on than the ready made acrylic gesso. The finished piece was perfect. It had a smooth silky surface and was of a really lovely soft white colour – I felt it was almost too beautiful to spoil with my first efforts and it took a while to pluck up the courage to make a start. I have never been very good at doing lots of trials before beginning something new as for me the enthusiasm wears off rather quickly, so I prefer to experiment on something I am interested in doing even if the result is not as I had hoped. Possibly an expensive way to learn, but that’s how it is.
I decided on a dandelion clock. I have done many of these in different media and it is an image I love. I still have a dandelion clock from last year – they keep very well as long as they are not disturbed. The stalk had withered but I had secured it with a piece of wire and placed it in a square of oasis. I also have quite a few photographs of dandelion clocks, although most of them are with a black background. I mapped it out in pencil putting in the main elements and the rough outline and had the image on the computer screen.
Oil paints are not familiar to me and I did find the handling of them quite difficult. I think I treated it a bit like the watercolour. I used some turpentine to thin the paint initially and some cold-pressed linseed oil and then someone told me of Liquin. You can get Liquin for fine detail so I ordered some of that. I did abide by the rule of fat over lean but one thing I wasn’t sure about is how long to leave something before painting over it.
I began more or less in the top left side of the clock, and worked towards the middle of that portion. I then thought it might be a good idea to put in some background colour. I had thought of having it on white but changed my mind to the pale grey/blue colour. It could always be altered later. It was terribly slow and there were lots of times I thought of abandoning it. Sometimes I looked at it and thought it was absolutely terrible and then others when I looked at it from a distance and liked it a bit better. It was very easy to get lost and at one point I realised I had gone completely wrong, made one side of the centre much too wide. You can paint over oil though, so that is a bit of an advantage. I added some pencil lines to some of the fine hairs, as I liked the colour of the graphite. Also, some of the lighter hairs I scratched through with a scalpel.
Half way through I got very fed up with it and decided it was taking me far too long. I asked my neighbour to come in and have a look and give me an honest opinion and she thought that I needed to finish it. I don’t really like giving up on things and I had invested a lot of time on it so I carried on and I am quite pleased that I did now because at least I finished it and have learned something from it. Not sure what yet but there must be something. The background colour might need re painting, I shall leave it to dry for now and put the whole thing away for a while. I am not sure whether I want to do another one, it certainly won’t be anything as fiddly as the clock. I shall wait and see.