For the longest time, perhaps too long, I stuck with acrylic painting for several reasons that I thought was beneficial at the time. They are cleaner than oil, they don’t smell, they are water based so clean up is easy, relatively non-toxic and can be used safely in what was my living space without too much risk of damaging carpets or furniture or my lungs. However, my desire for the flat, plastic character of acrylics gave way to the desire for the luster and juiciness of oil paint. Thus began my quest to untangle the mystery of the fabled “medium of the masters”.
Oil paints often intimidate those starting with them for the first time. It’s a medium that has a rich history and seems to shroud its secrets in a multiplicity of methods, recipes, anecdotes and lore. Eager students often will hear that to handle oil paint one must have mastery, and to have mastery one must dedicate years manipulating and handling before the canvas, seek tutelage and fail and fail until the day comes when failure eludes. Then there are those that say oil is the easiest medium to choose for its forgiving nature. Books, and DVD’s, workshops, mentorships, trial and error, and the always mythical “Secrets of the Masters” .. OOoooohh!
And then, … there is the pencil. The good ol’ pencil that everyone has used at least once to draw even a simple doodle and be satisfied. As basic and humble the pencil seems to be, most really good artists and teachers that tend toward classic proficiency will say that only by drawing can painting be accomplished; Line, form, color, in that order. When I go back and do drawings on paper, it is like going back to the most primary requirements for any artist, that is the connection between the eye and the hand. The freedom to charge a guiding line across the paper, or to flail the wrist during the immediate action of shading the roundness of something, analyzing the subject then gesturing the hand, delivering the mark through the pencil onto the paper, producing the image.
A simple stick, made of wood and graphite. No mystery here, except perhaps in how we revere the final rendering.