Last Sunday marked the 208th day of I being a teetotaler; this oil painting is 208 days in the making. My story of “From a Borderline Alcoholic to a Teetotaler” will be posted here another day, I promise. Today I wish to write about a hobby that I’ve left behind for about one and a half years.
Ever since I told Cynthia that I refrain from use of alcoholic liquors, on more than one occasion when we were scratching our heads on what gifts to bring along, she always pointed to the bottles of the unopened wine. “I don’t understand why we can’t give them away since you are not drinking anymore,” she would comment.
For the past 208 days, I have five bottles of white wine, one bottle of red wine, one bottle of VSOP, and two cans of cold beer lying somewhere in my home. I am not opening them because I have made a decision and I wish to stick with it; I am not giving them away because I wish to paint and immortalize this moment.
I swear when I lined up the bottle readied to start painting, I had this sudden urge. But that urge was soon overwhelmed by the smell of the turpentine. Do artists get addicted to oil painting because of this thin volatile essential oil? That certainly gave me the lightheadedness. How I miss oil painting. To get the perspective right, I had to sit on the floor. Not a very comfortable position to paint. But it is good to try something different. In retrospect, I don’t think I have got the color of the white wine bottles right. Perhaps next time, I will do a better job.
One day while I was chatting with one of my favourite friends whom I have worked with a while ago, she suggested to me that I shall paint her. I asked how? And she said however way she has inspired me to paint. She kept referring to the “Dark Side” (in a career sense) and just recently I have talked to one of my buddy who is still happily staying at one of the companies that is definitely not one of my top 10 favorable places to work at. He told me that he is happy inside because he feels that the outside world may not be as nice. All that prompted me to ponder upon how different organizations appeal to different people. At one end, bosses reward people with good performance and on the other end, because bosses rely on how relationship works with the clients and are able to get away with sub-standard performance, they reward those who treasure relationships like themselves too. To me, it is a battle between the two. What better way it is to paint this tension some of us face everyday?
My Canon camera has once again failed me (vowed not to buy another Canon product) and the picture above was taken by my Nokia N80. I have made a video while I was painting and have recorded the process via my camcorder. It is a less than 4 minutes video and I hope you enjoy watching that. Many have asked me how difficult it is to paint oils. And I hope this video says it all. “Battle Of The Ancient” is my first attempt to paint abstract art.
Let me show you how my Inspiration Factory works. One fine day I was staring at the big pile of folded clothes awaiting to be ironed. It was more than usual because of our Melbourne trip (note: this blog was written a while back). So I asked Cynthia casually …
Me: (Nodding at the direction of the pile of clothes) How long will it take to iron those? Cynthia: (Looking at somewhere else doing something else) Usually about 15 minutes. Me: No, no … I mean those (pointing at the pile) Cynthia: Oh, that’s a lot. Half an hour I guess. Me: Just half an hour?! Cynthia: Ya (continued doing that thing she was doing) Me: I have an idea … Cynthia: (Paused what she was doing and thinking) Uh-oh …
And I told Cynthia that I wanted to paint her ironing. Her immediate response was, “Do I need to stand for FOUR HOURS?!” “No, no, no,” I waved my hands in mid-air and reassured her that she just needed to iron the clothes as per normal. All of a sudden, I was bombarded with questions such as “What should I wear?!”, “What if I look fat?!”, “Will it be shown in your blog?”, and etc. I was surprised that she did not ask if she needed to wear make-up (she did ask what to wear). The only person I can think of who does housework wearing make-up is Paris Hilton in her Simple Life. I explained to her that the main focus of the painting is the ironing board. I did not know if she was delighted or disappointed.
To paint this, I have to do all the sketching before the model stepped into the picture. Once the sketching was done, I worked as fast as possible to sketch the model and to start putting colors and shadows. Whenever the model stepped away, I painted the surroundings. Keeping the perspectives of the composition to me was the most challenging part because there were lots of lines. In the end, I think I needed a different kind of brush to draw those straight lines. It was really difficult for me using those that I have.
Last week, I have painted probably one of the most expensive oil painting to date. You will see why. Click on the thumbnail to view a larger image and click here to view the real life composition.
So far, I have painted vegetables and fruits, sky and reservoir, teddy bear and human face, I have yet to try painting flowers. How difficult it was for me to paint flowers! There are just so much detail with the petals and stems, leaves and water.
This time, I calibrated both my viewfinder and the board that holds the oil painting tablet into a 8×8 grid so that I can replicate the composition as faithful to the reality as possible based on the coordinates of the objects. In layman’s term, it is much easier for me to paint the objects in the same way I see them through the viewfinder – for novice like myself in especially. It took me 45 minutes just to sketch the composition (which I am happy about). I made lots of mistake this time ended up have to scrap the oils time after time. I wanted to give up halfway because I did not have a clue on how to model the yellow and white flowers and how to fill in the gaps in between the stems.
Anyway, I managed to finish the painting. It is expensive because first, I paid two dollar for the flowers that cannot be consumed like vegetables and fruits. Cynthia looked at the bunch of flower over our meal and commented that they don’t look good nor smell nice. Well, it is no roses I suppose. Second, I have wasted a lot of paint on this and probably have to stock up more paints soon. Took me 4 hours to finish the painting. I wonder how much time I would spend on a canvas that is 4 times bigger.
I have a mixed feeling on this self-portrait oil painting and it is edging towards the borderline of disaster (click on thumbnail to view a larger image at your own risk). Perhaps I am not used to looking at my own image, having this somewhat intense guy who somewhat looks like me with a face larger than me staring back at me … it is sort of scary. When Cynthia returned from work and discovered my new oil painting, she couldn’t stop laughing. I reckon she knows my face better than I do (duh!) and she kept on asking how come this and how come that. I have to drag her into the bathroom and post “that look” to her. To demonstrate how I got “that look”, I positioned my shoulders 45 degrees relative to the mirror, I turned my head at a 30 degrees relative to my shoulders while my eyes looked straight ahead. Still, the questions of “how come” did not subside.
While the result could be disastrous, it was my intend to create a pair of eyes that captivate attention, lips that are redder than normal for contrast, and an overall texture of ruggedness. For that, I think I have achieved what I wanted. Hopefully my next self-portrait will be better.
To paint this self-portrait image, I have to turn my tiny bathroom into a painting studio because that is the only place in my home that has a huge mirror with 3 spot lights over my head. The easel was mounted right on top of the closed toilet bowl with a jar of turpentine to wash my brushes resting on top of the bowl’s lid. The paint tubes were lined up carefully along the side of the bathtub. The smell of the oils can be overwhelming at times because there was hardly any air circulation inside.
An excerpt of our conversation after Cynthia saw the painting.
Me: So, what do you think of this self-portrait?
Cyn: Erm …
Me: (looking at Cyn with anticipation)
Cyn: Well, the painting looks intense.
Me: Shall we frame this one then?
Cyn: Hmmm … how come you are not smiling?
Me: I can’t.
Cyn: You can’t?
Me: No, I can’t keep smiling for 3 hours. Besides it looks insane to smile at the mirror while painting.
Cyn: Hmmm … perhaps we can hang it somewhere that we don’t get to see first thing in the morning?
Looking back, I don’t think I want to hang this painting in the bedroom either. Last night before I retired to bedroom, I dimmed the light, looking at that pair of eyes staring at me sort of freaked me out.