They say you need patience to paint with oils. “Oh, oils are hard,” they say. “You need to use dangerous chemicals. It takes too long to dry. It’s easy to turn it all into mud.” It’s all worth it to me. I start a painting, set it aside, let it dry some, work on an alternate painting, go back to the first one…
The first time I smoothed oil paint on a canvas it felt so natural to me; Previously I had been working so hard (with various mediums, water, utensils, etc.) to make acrylic paints do what oil paints do naturally. I found a medium I truly loved to work in. It felt so good. I wondered why I waited so long to try oils. Why had I been intimidated by something new?
My abstract process consisted of layers and layers of paint mixed with various amounts of cold wax medium, adding, scraping off, revealing things beneath, getting lost in the magic that happens in texture and color interactions, light and shadow. But somewhere around the middle of a painting it would start to feel like hell. The painting would come to a stage where it just looked and felt horrible. Each time I had to remind my self “This is your process, remember? Move through it. Just keep working.” And eventually I would come out the other side feeling good about the painting, loving what was happening on the canvas.
Metaphor for life? For the inevitable darkness we need to trudge through sometimes? Maybe that’s why I’m good at this painting thing. I’m not sure where I got the courage to face the scary stuff, to know I needed to go straight through it, to confront it, to keep reaching toward the light, in order to persevere.