Returning to Oil: Loosening Up

by Brenda W. Clough

In my painting class this week one of the other pupils remarked on my ability and interest in reworking the same basic scene. He himself never paints anything twice. This man has clearly never written a series of novels. I consider that I am an expert in taking the car around the track several times, fast and hard, deriving as much as possible from each go-round. Only then, after I’ve sucked it dry, do I go on and never come back.

As I mentioned, I’m probably going to wind up with four separate painted versions of this photograph. Each one, I hope, builds on the last. The first one was a sketch — too small! The second was fairly naturalistic, as close as I’m going to get to actually reproducing the original image. Annoyingly, I haven’t the power and skill to capture the emotion of standing there, that weird deja vu. For that, I need words.

But, given the constraints of paint, there are still places we can go. So I shed naturalism and bought a tube of red paint. And here is 3.0, about as far as I’m going to get with it and, in my opinion, far more successful without all that green. I am actually more comfortable with squidging paint around with a palette knife, another reason I need a big canvas, and here you can see some good stuff going on. The more detailed bits of the bridge arch are brushwork, but if I pumped the canvas size up once more, to perhaps 36 by 24, I could probably execute the entire thing with the knife. And I’d have to buy the large economy-sized tubes of paint!

So this probably will not happen. Instead, we are going to swing to blue. Here is the beginning of the blue version, with its ultramarine underpainting. I have put in the sky and some front stuff.  I think I will have to buy a tube of purple paint, because I’m not getting a purple I like by mixing any of my blues with any of my reds. Why is it so dark at the front? Is it just the contrast with the roughed-in river and trees? I’m still not controlling the form the way I feel I ought to; the paints wander off into directions I don’t intend. If I were really going to master this I’d have to devote a decade of steady labor to it. And I don’t have the time or the eyesight for it.



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. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.


Returning to Oil: Loosening Up — 2 Comments

  1. Different strokes for different folks. He’s a retired architect, so I am pretty certain his main career did involve a lot of repetition. There’s a lot of basic themes in buildings, what with the customer demand for floors, windows, and roofs.