Sunday, August 22, 2010
Learning to paint
When I painted this lady, I used all ultramarine blue to lay her on the canvas. I just started painting and watched her appear. My sister was visiting and giving me painting lessons. I loved how sister would guide me carefully through each layer of painting. She would watch me design and paint. She sat on the porch with me and watched me, and then she would go in the house to watch TV. Then, she would return and peek at what I was doing.
Betty Ann has painted over sixty years and produces magnificent art works. Perhaps this is why I never tried to paint. I knew I could not paint like her. She had always been the artist in our family. I was the writer and the teacher. Now, in my sixties, I am trying to be a painter. She had encouraged me for years. I just was too busy rearing children and teaching school. Retirement gave me time for the plunge into oil paint.
I was trying a new technique I had studied on this blue lady. I painted her in an impressionistic style but decided to give her eyes detail and focus. When I would get stuck, I would call to my sister. “Sister, come look. Are her eyes too far apart? Are the shadows right?" I thought she would have blue eyes and suddenly I had painted them brown. I tried to make her have long straight hair, and it turned out curly. My sister just laughed and told me that someone was guiding my hand and my artist eye.
It was reassuring to have my sister available for questions and critique. I had lost my fear of not being able to paint as well as her. I replaced it with a hunger for her knowledge. She had training and skill that I needed. She was willing to offer it and help me learn my way around a canvas. This day was such a warm memory. I love my sister dearly. She is six years my elder, but no one knows that. We are still two girls playing, laughing, and creating.
When I was five, Betty Ann would have art lessons on our front porch in Florida. I loved watching her draw the things her teacher suggested. Mrs. Hoight, her art teacher, would gently suggest and show Betty where shadows should be. She explained that painting was just using light and dark to form the desired images. Now, sixty years later, Betty was giving me a porch lesson in painting. What she had learned, she was sharing with a new artist. My sister’s instruction was filled with wisdom and laughter.
The day of the blue lady painting taught me to love my sister even more. The day brought forth a painting that seemed to pop out of the canvas with such ease. This opportunity was provided by God. I just trusted God to move in me. I know my own skills and talents are limited. I must rely on Him when I paint because I get stuck and don’t have my sister on the porch to help me. I learned that porch day that my sister wasn’t my competitor but instead my advocate. My paintings were not going to look like hers because I had one year of experience and she had sixty. I relied on God and asked for His help. Each time I approach a new canvas, I remember my porch teachings at five and sixty-five. Both brought me pleasure and learning. However, best of all, the lesson taught me art expression is a gift from God. We are made in His image. He finds pleasure when we learn to create.