-- George Burns
Today was the last day of oil painting, so we had a big group critique of our last two paintings - the self-portrait and the "updated" classic work. The feedback was based purely on the appearance of the work - that is, we weren't given a chance to explain what we were thinking or how the painting came to be. I think that to get feedback that way - after all, you can't control the context in which your work will be received, and personally it always drives me nuts to encounter a piece of "art" that can't stand for itself. If the painting isn't strong enough to appeal on its own merit, than I don't know that your message really matters. You don't need to know about Abstract Expressionism in order to feel the peaceful spirituality of a Rothko, right? Maybe that's just me...he's one of the few 20th century artists that I love.
ANYWAY back on topic now...
To my surprise, my self-portrait was fairly well received. People liked the dynamic movement of the hair, and the experimental patches of color used on the face. One student, a girl who works at MAC Cosmetics part-time, drawled, "You can tell she really likes her hair." Well... Another student complained that the background was too similar in tone to the hair, which I had done intentionally to flatten the piece. But OK. I wondered if he was voicing a criticism to "get back" at me, since only a minute before I had said something a bit negative about his portrait. (His portrait consisted of himself surrounded by little SD anime characters. The goal of the assignment was to experiment with texture, and the only spot he'd applied any sort of texture was on the collar of his hoodie. I had commented that I didn't think the painting really matched the assignment, since there focal point clearly wasn't the collar and yet that was the only thing he'd bothered to thickly apply paint. It looked uneven and strange.)
The Columbia painting, which I had thought was the more interesting of the two, actually got more negative feedback. Several people commented that she was too pale. I wanted to shoot my hand up and exclaim, "Have you seen the original? In the 18th century, women were basically ghosts with lead white faces!" But even the teacher agreed that she looked 'unfinished', but he defended the work with a "I'm sure that if [the artist] had another day or two, the skin would have been perfect, since it's clear from the fabric bunting on the left that she knows how to paint shadows." His praise is rare, so I treasure it.
So how do I like oil painting?
Surprisingly, I love it. The only thing I don't like is the odor of the solvents and the oils, but that can't be helped. But I like mixing the paint, I enjoy how easily it can be pushed around the canvas, and I appreciate how easily the texture can be altered with additives. If I can just figure out a good place to set up oil painting at home, I hope to do a lot more of it!