I love painting in oils. About a year ago I hadn't painted with them for well over a decade. It is nice to be back in the swing of things. I mostly paint straight from the tube except for a little bit of a soybean based artist thinner in the beginning for my initial sketch/underpainting and as the painting progresses I stick to paint straight from the tube unless it's too stiff or tacky to work with. If the paint is not workable enough I use walnut oil to help the paint behave better. I don't bother with much else, I like the simplicity of working this way as it keeps me focused on the painting rather than complicated potions.
This painting of Julia Garner, aka Ruth Langmore from the series Ozark on Netflix, was created with M. Graham Oil Colors (my absolute favorite oil paint brand) on Arches Oil Paper. If you like to oil paint but haven't tried this paper, you should! It is durable, has a pleasant texture, and it can handle oil paints without any issues. I plan on using this product moving forward whenever I am in the mood to paint on paper instead of canvas. I chose to paint Julia Garner because she is my favorite character on Ozark and I really needed a portrait painting fix :)
Last week, while I was finishing up this painting, a well respected art instructor who works at a high level art academy (that I follow on instagram) posted on social media about his annoyance with the younger generation (in general) who paint celebrities and then precede to ask him how to become better artists. I didn't take offense to it at all, but I felt bad for the students who were looking to him for advice. He basically said get out of your house, go to museums, paint real people and get out of BFE if you live somewhere remote but that painting celebrities on instagram isn't going to cut it. Ha ha! Later on, a person fired back (respectfully so) and reminded him that not everyone is in a position to do all of the things he suggested at a given point in time and that some people have hard lives with more responsibilities than the average person so the prospect of getting out and painting people from life in a big city isn't a real option for them. They look to people like him, accredited artists, for advice and encouragement. I can see both sides - I bet it can get annoying to have people constantly asking you for quick fixes on how to become an amazing artist when there is so much blood, sweat, tears and time involved to get to a noteworthy place in this realm, yet I can also see how his response could have come off as jerky and elitist.
As for me, I love painting the figure and people in general but this lofty ideal of
"it must be from life" used to discourage me from painting people once I was out of art school. If I had ignored the "it must be from life" requirement I would have far more paintings and practice under my belt. If I only have a couple of hours of studio time a day, does it make sense to burn it on trying to find a live model to come to my house at a moment's notice? I agree that painting from life beats painting from a photograph, there is no doubt that it is a superior experience, but it's not so much better that it isn't worth painting from a photo. Also, painting celebrities is a way to relate to others. For many, it is a big ask to care about a photo or painting of a person they don't know personally - who cares? When you paint a celebrity there is a built in story behind it and others can move past the story and study the image and care enough to do so because the subject is not a total stranger. The familiarity can invite one to stop, look, study and perhaps start a conversation. It is also a way for an artist to reveal little things about themselves like saying "I love this show, do you love it, too?
As a young girl I remember relating to female characters who didn't fit neatly into a box. Unconventionally beautiful, awkward even, with grit and guts, who didn't care what others thought of them, those were the girls I wanted to be like. So yeah, I'm going to keep painting cool chicks that I dig from the television screen because it takes me back to being a kid and it's loads of fun to practice painting a likeness of someone who is truly unmistakable. It is a guilty-ass pleasure and furthermore, it is doubly indulgent because I don't actually watch much television. I will binge watch a show nightly for a week or two at a time and then I will go several months before I watch another show again because I spend most of my free time painting and listening to podcasts or audiobooks. Besides, a lot of programming out there is inappropriate to watch around little people (I have two of them).
I would love to hear your opinions about this portrait, portrait painting in general, elitism in the arts, Ozark the show, or your favorite actress or actor at the moment. Tell me what you think!
Wishing you a great week!
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