Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tackling Creative New Year's Resolutions: Just Do It! With Mandy Russell

I'm not usually into making major New Year's resolutions. I've never believed that all of a sudden I'll commit to some big life changes simply because I'm writing a new number in the date section on my checks. I find it imposes more stress on me than necessary and often leads to a feeling of failure down the road. If you can do this, the more power to you!

That being said, I do however brainstorm some minor creative resolutions for each new year. Usually this type of resolution involves a trendy technique I've been itching to try. Or a resolution that I'll finally finish that one project that's been sitting on the shelf now for several years. Well, this year was a simple one. I was going to paint with oils for the first time. Yep, that's it: try oil painting.

I knew that in order to fulfill my New Year's resolution I needed to act fast. If I waited until after January, I would simply kiss it goodbye. I seized a peaceful moment when I had a couple hours of free time.

I set out and got prepared; I primed a piece of canvas with two thick coats of gesso and laid it in front of the wood stove for it to dry quickly. I already had a decent-sized collection oil paint because I paint with encaustics. (The oil paint acts as the pigment for the encaustic medium). I got out those tubes of paint. I grabbed a piece of glass to act as a palette and some scruffy stiff brushes. I found a few palette knives and got out my jar of Turpenoid too, a natural and safer form of Turpentine.

What to paint??? I had no idea. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some plastic figures. The children who come to my art studio love to use in these in their assemblages so I always have a fresh supply.

Mandy Russell, OOAK Artisans, New Year's Resolutions

I reached for them. I chose the hedgehog (why not?) and sketched him on my canvas. I squeezed out the following colors on my palette: flesh tint, titanium white, a very dark purple, Van Dyke Brown, and green gold. My set up was quick and haphazard. After all, I only had a couple of hours.

Mandy Russell, OOAK Artisans, New Year's Resolutions
Once my gessoed canvas was dry and with a brush and some flesh tint, I basically started coloring in my hedgehog's soft underbelly area. I learned quickly that, like everyone says, oil dries slowly. I couldn't overlap colors without them blending. It was a creamy slippery medium that behaves nothing like the sticky, quick drying acrylic that I was used to. I needed to shade areas and the brush kept dredging up the paint color underneath. So instead I switched to a palette knife and began slapping on thick layers of paint, but I did so very gently, much like frosting a cake.

Mandy Russell, OOAK Artisans, New Year's Resolutions

I did this for the rest of the piece, including the cerulean blue sky and the cadmium orange ground, using only a small palette knife and really putting the paint on like frosting a cake. The entire piece was thick with wet gooey paint when I was finished. All the details like the shading, the eyes, and the mouth were just balanced atop other layers of paint.

Mandy Russell, OOAK Artisans, New Year's Resolutions
Now, is this the way I will always paint with oils? Probably not. But I accomplished my goal; I have forayed into oil painting. I've dabbled and I've fulfilled my resolution. I learned too, about the medium and how it behaves. I must admit that in all my years of being an artist, about 90% of learning or growing is through hands-on experience, during which many mistakes are made. Am I totally happy with my hedgehog oil painting? No, not 100%. I wanted him to have more spikes. He looks like he's wearing a football costume. 

 However, he's still pretty darn adorable and I forgive him for being too smooth. Since he's on a canvas, I can see him being stitched into some sort of garden flag. He should be dry by springtime!

Mandy Russell, OOAK Artisans, New Year's Resolutions

For those of you who make creative resolutions, my advice is to just do it, and do it soon! Do it and don't look back. Don't make all sorts of fussy preparations. Be efficient with your time, as we all lead terribly busy lives. Get a basic set up and go for it. Move past your perceived mistakes with a sense of humor. Soon you'll be done and checking off that box. 

May this new year of 2018 be filled with creative expression!
You can see more of Mandy's creations online!

Instagram:  www.instagram.com/mandy.russell.940/?hl=en

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