Artistic talent is not one of the assets in my arsenal. I had a flirtation with macramé in my hippie days, was seriously devoted to photography for many years and passionate about refinishing furniture, but drawing and painting? Nope. In my book, those skills are right up there with sewing and any other craft requiring long hours of patient sitting and dexterity.
I wasn’t expecting anything life-changing to occur when I joined the Forte Acrylic Pouring workshop with Sheila Wright last month. It was fun, and a great time was had by all, but I didn’t picture myself heading off to the dollar store afterwards to pick up a few bottles of paint and a couple of canvases. Just for fun, you know. Pouring medium and silicone, the expensive components, were also required.
I loved my first home pour. The second had some issues. Four canvases later and armed with a rudimentary understanding of all the things I did wrong, I headed back for more supplies. I bought a greater supply of everything the second time with two visions in mind. There was a large wall in my bathroom that could really use an update. Six or eight small paintings would do it, crafted in the purples, blues and greens of the room’s existing art pieces.
We have a cherished collection of black and white paintings, prints and photographs displayed on both sides of our hall walls. One side needed reconfiguration to accommodate a wonderful caricature by New York artist Eric Jones, recently gifted to guests by the SOS Lounge at their second anniversary celebration. Two small black and white canvases on either side would be perfect. Ten canvases were purchased, along with the paint for two dedicated colour schemes.
Sheila taught us the flip cup, the simplest technique, at the workshop. It calls for layering multiple colours of paint into a cup, upending it and tilting the canvas to manipulate the flow of paint. Messy, but rather a sensual joy as the colours and patterns swirl out. She also taught us the swipe, which is a little more difficult. A layer of paint is pulled over a constructed pattern of paints, which then emerge through the surface in a spectacular reveal.
Creating a successful black and white for the hall was unexpectedly challenging, since the three colours I had chosen (black, white and metallic silver) pretty much blended together to create a sparkly gray with little contrast. Sort of nice, but bland. I started experimenting with direct pouring and with turning a vertical swipe to horizontal to create an entirely new pattern. At this point, I was beginning to see possibilities for greater control of the outcome, and I found myself getting seriously motivated and trying new ideas every day.
I was delighted with some of the pieces I made, but I also experienced countless disasters. Some canvases were scraped and remade, only to be rejected a second time. Back to the stores for another round, and then another. By this time, other walls in my home had come to my attention as potential recipients for new art. My bedroom could use a couple of additions, and the vibrant colour scheme in our basement rooms beckoned with creative appeal.
And so it began. I took to reading up and watching countless technique videos. The artists make all techniques look like a simple process that produces an astounding piece of art. It’s not always like that for a beginner. According to my stack of receipts, I have now made seven trips to the stores, spending increasingly higher amounts of cash each time. Winning entries started to accumulate and be hung temporarily on walls, while the pile of someday-I’ll-sand-and-gesso-those-canvases-to-reuse grew.
I was painting every day, making three or four at a time. Acrylic pouring makes one heck of a mess, so it only makes sense to maximize efficiencies and reuse dirty cups while the paint in them is still good. Sheila invited me for a painting session at her studio and I was wildly inspired, not only by some of her work but by her organized and waste-reducing methods.
The time had come. I had been playing Picasso in my kitchen, early in the morning. We have a long, extra-wide counter and I was able to use the non-kitchen side for two paintings and accommodate a third at the far end. My eating space at the table was claimed. There were paint-spattered gloves, rags and supplies on every other available flat surface. Paintings were drying on trays in out-of-the-way spots on the floor. The mess and clutter were horrendous.
My project for this past weekend was to set up a studio in my basement, which is also home to my workout studio, laundry room and guest room. Fortuitously, we added kitchen cabinetry and a counter to the area opposite our laundry facilities last year, so the space is perfect and has a sink. I made my first painting there on Friday night.
The current plan calls for one more 10x10 for the bathroom wall, two large paintings for over the bed in the guest room and a couple of challenging visions in the riotous colours of the existing art in my fitness studio. After that, who knows?
Creating art, whether good or bad, is a beautiful thing that stirs the soul. Acrylic pouring has an absorbing in-the-zone chemist aspect to it as paint colours are selected and mixed in tiny little cups. I have been loving it. And, at the risk of sounding pseudo profound, the flowing abstraction of this art form in its completed state often brings order to chaos as the mind processes analogies to what the eye sees. I've seen storms, battles, attacking armies, undersea tranquility, flowing water, trees, flowers, creatures and animals in these paintings. Really. Animals.