"THE GIRL FROM LIFE MAGAZINE" - WHERE IT ALL STARTED..............
Aug 01, 2019
I want to welcome you to my first Blog! My new and vastly improved website is fully ready for e-commerce. It offers you any version of my art that you’d want to buy - from the very small and inexpensive to the actual Original. Please check it out.
For this first Blog, I thought it fitting to have the opportunity to address - you; a group of people that appreciate my Art, and to share my background with you.
I feel it’s a good idea for you to get to know me, and what drives my creativity. Also what places me – now - in this time, of working as a full time artist. My blogs will cover a ton of subjects; my progression & methodology, my vision, the tools I use, insight into my studio, the why’s and the why nots of what I do, and my "Dream Series" of paintings. Also my hardships frustrations too, in my ongoing progression; melding myself into the artist that I personally wish to become. So I will be able to cover a vast amount of ground in my Blogs.
As of four years ago, I decided to take that very big step of the commitment of time and money poured into my Art, and only into my Art. Put on the blinders, so to speak and paint.
My major at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, was Illustration, and I worked as an Illustrator upon graduating. Only one art class in Oil Painting was required. The bulk of intensive training for illustrators was in watercolors, acrylics, dyes or the airbrush. Those were the painting mediums for strict "deadlines". So until four years ago - making that big leap into "Oil Painting" - was a very foreign world. On top of all that, I'd not painted anything in any medium for 25 years! Yes, 25 years; a very, very long time. When my illustration career ended, I gave up painting.
I'd only done one oil painting in high school (Freshman), with no knowledge of oils and won the competition (that's for another story), plus did several wimpy oil painting studies and then a second finished oil painting - that's right only a second one - in college. That second painting from Painting 101, I still have to this day. It’s in makeshift wood frame, assembled on a cold rainy day in a fume infested class in San Francisco. That painting is posted here today, "The Girl from Life Magazine". I look at her every day as a testament to assist me in the belief of my art; my advancement, and my vision that helps me not to give up.
Because I now paint strictly in Oils, I think I'll drop down into memory lane for you - into my first Oil Painting class. First you should know the frustration level of not being able to touch color for the first 3 years at the Academy. Of course that type of instruction in invaluable - but at the time it felt like "torture" to me. No color!? We all suffered a little under that realization. "Hang tight color comes to those who wait".
After dabbling with mixing chemicals, the 1st real assignment was to take very old Life Magazines with their photo depictions of "people" from all different life situations; so pick something from those antiquated black and white pages. Paint it; colorize it. So we all trepidatiously tore out something of interest and put our skill to the test. But admittedly, I recall that my heart sank when I couldn't find landscapes. There were none in Life magazine; it was all people, in stark black and white. The painting in this post, is that photo from Life Magazine; the very one. I know I chose it for the ribbons of that interesting fabric, more than anything else. I've never had the desire to paint "people", I wasn't a "people artist", and am still not a "people artist", so it just had to be that “undulating ribbons” of that fabric.
My "butterfly in the stomach" memories are quite vivid of that 1st day of Oil Painting 101. It was a very wet winter, with the first morning class starting - still when it was dark out. A very busy Sutter Street, its awnings drenched and bowed in water, everything dripping, pelting you in the head with big stinging dollops of water. Taxi cabs I'm sure, felt it was great sport to spray everyone soaked. And it really did seem on those very dark San Francisco mornings - climbing the stairs to the 3rd floor, soaked shoes and all, that the entire semester was wet, wet; . uncomfortably wet. The wooden stairwells dimly lit; smelled of old wet peeling paint. The grooves of many a footprint creating carved out huge dips. Climb, climb, climb, carrying an artist's heavy load, all the way to the top. The air started to change, to gradually take on the smell of "spirits" as each flight to the top lead me to this intriguing new experience. I opened the door to a blinding glare of fluorescent light. The strong smell of turpentine, spirits and oils truly caused my eyes to tear; I'd never smelt this smell before. A totally unfamiliar smell; strong, foreign, arresting, and yet incredibly exciting. That same excitement mirrored my memories from kindergarten when first introduced to clay. The "real clay" the strong smelling clay of yesteryear, not the synthetic stuff of today. It was full of oil, with a very strong, sharp scent. The type of clay that stained tiny hands.
And so this new experience; 14 years later; well, I loved it from first encounter. It's still so firmly planted in my olfactory; it amazes me, still to this day - that this college memory could be just as vivid in my senses, as it was back then. It's one I will always hold onto. As arresting as that whole experience seemed back then, it was the backbone to the beginning for me. Back then oil paints were at least 60% stronger in their smell compared to the new advanced oils of today. Strong, raw and pungent; they almost pushed the air around by themselves. Now with all the advancements; they're quite mild by comparison.
Our instructor was a "hippy looking type" appearing like she'd be a lot more comfortable on a horse farm. A large woman; a disheveled mass of sandy red hair and ruddy skin, in green rubber rain boots, up to her knees, and tie-dye T-Shirts, on most days. But she was a fun introduction to the mysterious world of oil paints. And of course the play aspect; squirting out gobs of gleaming paint and taking a good sniff - that was magical and so exciting. Of course, not so, to the non-artist who likely would have preferred to run; to get out of harm's way - but to someone who could hardly contain her excitement upon grasping this instruction; the dangerous fumes and all, it was absolutely wonderful.
We started with a cotton duck canvas that I bought a week before at Flax the big San Francisco emporium of Art, again in the midst of a massive deluge of wet. This list of mandatory supplies that I was required to bring the first day of class was astonishing. And I'll never forget my utter confusion, and frustration in selecting hog brushes, with big heavy varnished handles and rough hog bristles. I had only known small, soft, delicate red sable brushes from my teens when I dabbled in painting. Cotton duck and hog - those just did not feel right. I held these clumsy brushes in my hand and the balance felt all wrong. Their handles were too long, and that's when I truly thought that I was going to hate this class!
But I came in with the full list of everything, and a somewhat open mind. Later I realized that I wouldn't be using these clumsy supplies for many years later; only at times when I chose to dabble with them mostly out of curiosity. Beside my overall elation with this new oily, highly colored paint, I feel instruction sadly lacked in the art of stretching and gessoing our own canvas. But I suppose time was of the essence, so the stiff cotton duck canvases ruled. I was armed with boxes of vine charcoal sticks - those bulky burnt, black branches that were the essential drawing tool, for this class. Even Conte Crayon would have been a lot easier; those I knew well, but I just followed instructions thinking somewhere, there was some type of "magic trick" to drawing with charred bent branches onto on raw canvas, then fixing it with a brain deadening spray fixative. If you can imagine 20 students spaying a noxious spay fixative all at the same time to fix their charcoal drawings with not a heck of a lot of ventilation on a cold winter day; with windows shut, well, I think we were all high and brain dead at times. I think our giggling bouts came from the massive grey cloud chocking the room with our aerosols. The giggling; a fond story for another time. It was truly crazy, and I doubt this practice still exists; I'm certain there are sensible health codes.
Next came the eye opening instruction on the careful balance of "fat over lean". Who would ever think that as you paint in oils that you have to start first with very thin paint; a soup of turpentine and just a smidgen of paint mixed in? A soup, in essence. And as you paint you must remember to mix each progressive layer with more fat (paint itself plus linseed or walnut oil, etc.), as the painting progresses to its end. As fat as it can be in its finality. If you want a cracked painting, well that's easy - just break the rule and forget what you did at the last sitting. As I became more accomplished, I learned that this skill was the foundation literally to creating a painting of depth, gleaming color and texture. A very important skill and a very important part of memory for the artist, in the eventual outcome of a painting in its longevity. Now no matter how long. . weeks or months even, I can come back to a canvas and know just by looking and feeling - exactly where I am in the process. It's one of those "learned over time" things.
Because the charcoal took over many of our first paintings as a smudging of black soot, they all tended to look dirty, drab and watered down. Heck, we had no idea about the skill of it, so those first months produced a lot of really ugly art. And we were certainly encouraged to create that ugly art so we could learn what NOT to do. I remember thinking this is horrible. I painted with watercolors in high school and those were pretty; transparently vivid in color even, and this was a sooty ugly mess!
As I struggled with this new medium it progressively got to be more and more fun, my lungs filled with more chemicals; I think we all giggled more, but I truly loved it. It was the first class that I and all the others who finally got past those first three "colorless years" - got to play with oily globs of color, as we took in that dangerous cloud of chemicals. Make a mess, smear your clothes and really feel it. I'm still feeling it today.
Until my next Blog, thank you for reading. Please share my art with others, and I hope you will support me by choosing to adorn & beautify your home or office with a piece or two of Bonnie Sailer Fine Art.