Sunday, April 14, 2013

19th New Thing ~ But I Know What I Like

I'm not sure at what point I failed to opt out but some months ago, I started getting Amazon Local offers in my email.

I don't use Living Social or Groupon but I'm familiar with the premise and this seems to be Amazon's equivalent. I kept meaning to go through the steps to opt out, to Unsubscribe, to renounce my apparent, inherent Internet-given right to unwanted marketing to which I never subscribed....(another post)..but had not gone to the trouble of doing yet.

Then one day, just before clicking Delete, an intriguing Amazon Local offer caught my, ordinarily cynical, eye.
A painting party hosted by local artist, Kerry Cole.

According to the voucher:
The Original 2 Hour painting party 
in the heart of  'New Downtown', Tacoma. 

In this 2 hour painting experience, you will receive:
    • Instruction, 
    • All supplies, 
    • Canvas, 
    • Images to choose from or bring your own, 
    • Light fare and refreshments.
It sounded fun and adventurous. I purchased two vouchers and, looking ahead, scheduled a January afternoon to spend with Ciara before she moved away.

I am not an artist by any stretch. I'm not even an accomplished doodler. Mostly, my attempts at artistic endeavors, are hindered by my perfectionist nature.

Art classes in junior high and high school drove me crazy because I could never get it 'right' enough. I couldn't or wouldn't let go and surrender to the creative outcome.

This is not to say that I've never painted. Even though it was halting and agonizing, I have painted. I've dabbled in some watercolor, some acrylic, some finger. So this would not be a New Thing.
Although, this 'class' would include wine and appetizers. Better than any art lesson I'd ever had before.

Each class participant was to bring an image we wanted to paint. Or select something from a stack of examples once we arrived.

In the days leading up to the class, knowing my perfectionist ways, I was nervous that I'd get twisted up and frustrated in a roomful of enlightened, liberated, untwisted artistic types.

What kind of painting would I do? A landscape. An abstract. Portrait. Still life. With which of these would I have the best chance to do well? Knowing that I'm no painter, I wrestled with the best way to fail the least. I excel at such unnecessary, self-inflicted pressure. It's a gift.

Then it hit me. The way to overcome my concern (aka: "paralyzing fear of failure") was to go all-in.

I'd go beyond doing a regular, perhaps predictable, painting. I'm not saying a flower or sunset wouldn't be challenging, but for me, they would be the safe choice.  Instead, I'd paint what I felt would be the most difficult. The most scary.
I would do my self-portrait.

Me, a definite non-artist. Painting my own image. In front of strangers. This was way past the regular-intimidating artistic endeavor, more of a 'just jump in with both feet,' in a nothing-to-lose kind of way. 

Now this would be a New Thing. 
Self-portrait. A public self-portrait. It felt brave.

Having selected my subject, I spent time studying different portrait styles. Tempted to avoid the pressure of realism, I knew that I could go all Picasso or Pollack with this. That I could portray any image with a swirly, abstract swipe of paint and call it a self-portrait. Something so far from 'real' that no one could say if it was 'good' or not. Right or not. But the temptation was really never that strong. As it turned out, kind of to my surprise, I really wanted to give it my best shot. In the most authentic creative manner I could manage, I genuinely wanted to discover my self-portrait.

Even having decided that, it was fun to look around at different styles of portraiture. Here are a few examples from Wikipedia:  

The Theater Box by Renoir

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La loge (The Theater Box)  Oil on canvas, 80 x 63,5 cm - Courtauld Institute Galleries, London {{PD}} Category:Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Man on a Balcony by Albert Gleizes
Albert Gleizes, l'Homme au Balcon, 1912, oil on canvas, 195.6 x 114.9 cm, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Also called Man on a Balcony (Portrait of Dr. Théo Morinaud)

(Now it sounds like I'm just making stuff up. But it's a fun word to say.)
Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse
Woman with a Hat by Henri Matisse, 1905. Oil on canvas, 31 1/4 x 23 1/2 in. (79.4 x 59.7 cm) San Francisco Museum of Art, Bequest of Elise S. Haas, ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.[1]   
The Scream by Edvard Munche
One of several versions of the painting "The Scream" 
(title: Der Schrei der Natur, 'The Scream of Nature') . 
The National Gallery, OsloNorway.

Trying to find an image to use, I dug through drawers and boxes looking for photos of myself but found nothing that I wanted to see hanging on my wall as a painting. I scrutinized and micro-inspected each image. They all fell short. But of course, that will be the only outcome whenever we scrutinize and micro-inspect anything.

So walking into the painting party, unprepared and unarmed, no image to paint from, I don't know what I thought I'd use. Would I sit in front of a mirror? With an easel to the side?? Similar to Norman Rockwell's Triple Self-Portrait here?

Well, there was no mirror available for the purposes of a self-portrait, but I did have my camera. Ciara took a few quick shots of me sitting at the table.

Maybe some Cabernet would help lubricate the creative flow.

This was the shot I decided to use. 

I worked from the tiny image on the display on my camera. The display that goes black after a minute or two. I had to keep touching it to bring the image back up. There are acrylic paint finger prints all over my camera from that day. "Can we get more wine over here?"

So, how did it turn out? (Drum roll.)

And...ta da! 
Here is the end result. 
My Self Portrait. 

Can you see the resemblance? (I said 'ta da!')
I'm just kidding. It wasn't nearly this easy.

My blank canvas was a bit intimidating. It seemed so big. And so blank. It took me awhile to get started. (Notice the upper right hand corner of this photo. The woman next to me was almost done with her hummingbird while I had yet to start. Not exactly 'jumping in with both feet,' huh?) 

Ciara really liked the sample image of the blue octopus. (The namesake?)

The people around me were making enviable progress on their paintings. 

Time ticked by, I was having a great time chatting with those around me...
...and my canvas was still pretty much blank.
And intimidating.
Tick, tick.
Other people's paintings were coming along quite nicely.
Tick, tick, tick.

"Maybe this self-portrait isn't going to be a New Thing, after all," I said, swirling my clean paint brush around in a glass of clear water.

Studies show that public speaking is one of our greatest fears. I believe this. But it doesn't happen to be a significant fear of mine. I'm confident that I do it well, so it doesn't worry me much. (A couple healthy butterflies, is all.)

On the other hand, if you ask me to do something publicly that I do not do well, we're going to have a problem. Well, I'm going to have a problem. You'll probably be fine. Entertained, even.

I'm not an artist in the same way that I'm not a neurosurgeon and I'm not a Supermodel. (Oh wait, there was that one art class model thing. That was super!) But unlike neurosurgery & super-modeling, I do wish that I was artistic. Consequently, the thought of struggling and sucking at this painting thing, in front of people, caused me anxiety.  

So here's the side-by-side. What do you think? 

Do you know what the strangest thing is?
I mean, THE strangest?  I love it. I do.
I find this quite surprising. I love this portrait. And I loved the process of painting it. In fact, up until the facial features, it was quite easy and natural. The washed out tones of the background, my left sleeve,  the shadows of the sweater and my hair. It was one of the most satisfying New Things I've done. I absolutely did not expect to feel this way. I confess, I thought I'd be relieved when it was over. Like "Whew! Got through that one." 

The facial features were not as enjoyable and much more difficult than the rest of the painting. I saved them for last. It was intimidating, the face. Kerry was most helpful during that part. I contemplated leaving my face kind of pink and hazy, without the distinction of eyes, nose & mouth. It was so pretty without. Kind of ghosty, but not creepy or edgy. Maybe mystical.
But I kept going, as it felt brave to tackle the hardest part.

If I wanted to, I could pick it apart. But I have no desire. I took it home, placed it on the mantel and couldn't stop looking at it. Even now, weeks later, I find it fascinating. I think it turned out amazing. The first portrait I've ever painted. And a self-portrait. Nice job, me!  

It was a great day. A great New Thing. I cannot recommend Kerry and her private and/or group painting parties highly enough. (Between the date of this New Thing and the late night of this post writing, I've been back a few times. I painted another self-portrait just last week.)  I really appreciate Kerry. She was ever-patient, instructive, supportive and engaging. A fun, artistic adventure was had by all.

Kerry Cole's The Blue Octopus Art Gallery & Painting Studio  is located with three other small business at the St Helens Ave Mercantile in downtown Tacoma. 753 St. Helens Avenue

I think this is a genius business model. Brave, independent, determined small business owners sharing the same retail space. By proximity, the businesses market each other.
If I hadn't been at the The Blue Octopus Art Gallery & Painting Studio redeeming my Amazon Local voucher and outing my imperfectionist painter side, I would never had stumbled across ....

 The Tea WorksSandy Wiggans, owner

Gail Scott's Wolf Bear Treasures & intuitive readings 

The OCD Candy Company, owned by Ellen Laguatan

The OCD Candy Company

The Tea Works

Tea and Steampunk!  Win - Win

Wolf Bear Treasures 

19th New Thing ~ Painting my Self-Portrait

I wonder what painting style
mine most closely resembles.

Thanks Kerry!


  1. WOW, what a great painting!!! You did very well and I can see the resemblence! What a fun new hobby!

  2. I love painting and that portrait is wonderful! What I love most about it is that you loved creating it. That is worth the sweat over your facial features... which are lovely... on the portrait as well as on you.