Returning to Oil: A First Stab

by Brenda W. Clough

Here is the studio in the underground S. Dillon Ripley Center at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. An, oh dear, now I remember. There’s a reason why I shifted to water color, to acrylic, to words. I’m a whippet, a greyhound — fast, fast. The work has to spin like a Porsche on the interstate, seventy, eighty miles per hour while I slam the gas pedal down. Oil is the quintessentially slow medium, the glazing and underglazing abetted by the s=l=o=w drying time. A good thick layer of titanium white in the clouds can take three weeks to become dry to the touch. It does not come as natural to me. I have been ruined, painting signs in screaming yellow and red. A protest sign painted tonight can be on the march tomorrow.

Another couple errors I immediately made — too small a canvas. This board is 9 x 12 inches. There’s no room! Since I have to carry the canvas into class with me (I have impressed my husband into driving me, but I still have to carry it) my instinct for the 9 by 12 foot canvas has to be throttled. But I’ll have to go spring for something with more elbow room, otherwise it’ll be impossible. And, I forgot even though I knew it fifty years ago — ultramarine blue does not dilute. Mix it with white, and you do not get light blue. You get gray! Why is this? It’s wrong. My instructor lent me a dab of cerulean for this first run at the image, but I have to buy a tube if I want any sky in future. And while I’m at it I now recall that my favorite yellow is Naples yellow, more mellow that cadmium. Buy more canvas board, more paint, yes, gotta do it.

Anyway, you see the original photograph, above? Here’s my first hack at painting it. In many ways unsatisfactory. Must try again. 

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires.
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3 Responses to Returning to Oil: A First Stab

  1. Cat Kimbriel says:

    Let it dry. Come back to it. You may need to have three paintings going, at the speed you want to work at. (I have new acrylic tubes unopened in my storage container, and a book on working with new acrylics. Maybe we can both go at this later.)

  2. Your unsatisfactory work is better than anything I could do. I’m impressed.

  3. The one thing that years of writing has taught me is when there is more to be done. This thing is not done — but the only way to amend it is to do it again. In other words, I can’t rewrite, I have to write again. Bigger…

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