NorthWest by NorthEast Blog

Learning how to paint

Learning how to paint

Mostly exhilarating

Sometimes frustrating


I'm learning how to paint with acrylics. I took some classes a few years ago from an amazing teacher who had been painting for decades and really lived painting. He taught us how to mix colors and some techniques to pick subjects and narrow our focus. I loved going to class and messing around with color and shape. It's harder to find time on my own, now that I don't have the two-hour blocks in my calendar. I find that the sporadic nature of my painting means I often go two steps forward and one step back... sometimes even two steps back. But I still love the jolt I get when I put the first drop of paint on the canvas. Suddenly the white page is becoming a painting.


What do you find exhilarating?



The fruit-laden bough

The fruit-laden bough

Struggles against gravity

Reaching for the sun


Our tomatoes are finally looking like they might become edible! There are more green ones than I can count, and, thanks to the arrival of the SUN, two of them are starting to turn red.


I'm not planning any caprese salad parties yet... but I'm cautiously optimistic!


What's going on in your yard or on your balcony?


Rainier floats above

Rainier floats above

The still surface of the lake

On a bed of pines


I never get tired of looking at Mt. Rainier across the surface of Lake Washington. I like to look at it from other angles too, but across the lake is my favorite. While I don't like being stuck in traffic on the bridge, it gives me more time to create poetry.


What do you do while you're stuck in traffic?


Cloud dolphins frolic

Cloud dolphins frolic

Across the blue sky-ocean

In celebration


When I'm gazing at clouds, I let my mind wander wherever it wants. It often leads to poems or imagery for my novel or a new subject to paint. I guess it taps into my creative side.


How do you let your mind wander?


Wispy clouds layered

Wispy clouds layered

Like oil paint on a canvas

Obscuring the blue


When I look at paintings in a museum, I always move up close to see how the painter applied the paint to the canvas. Sometimes the strokes are as interesting as the scene or portrait that I can see when I stand a few feet back. Some strokes are steady and confident, like the painter was sure that that color should be just there. Others have a thicker part where the brush turned. Was the painter going in the wrong direction? Or did the artist know from the start that turning the brush like that would get the desired effect? 


In some cases, the painter might have been experimenting with color and light and brushes and stopped when she liked what the painting looked like. I don't know. I don't have the artistic patience for oil paints. I want to paint a picture and be done. I don't want to go back and layer and improve and build. For me, visual art is about the process. I love creating something with shape and color. The written word is a completely different matter. I love to noodle with words and phrases to get something just right.


What about you?

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