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  • Writer's pictureLise Parton

Holding a Paintbrush Instead of a Pen-Reawakened Creative Endevours

As a creative human I put my finger into many creative pots! Lately, I have strayed away from my writing again to reawaken my creativity in the form of painting canvases in acrylics...

As a member of the local arts society here I am grateful to be amongst so many incredibly creative and talented humans. The majority of this group are painters, and as such, share with me their fabulous works of art. Some are using acrylics, my currently preferred medium, wherein there are those who work with oils and some who produce pieces in a variety of ways, such as in forms of mixed mediums, wherein a plethora of materials are incorporated to their beautiful and interesting pieces.

Our local coffee shop, pub, and restaurant are now displaying art from my fellow members, and I am delighted to now be picking up an artist's paint brush to join in the parade.

The Arts Society members were given a mission by the lovely gal running the local visitor's centre to recreate and redecorate the town's centre with fresh, "new" art that depicts our area and our little town. The centre supplied many of us with canvases with which to work on.

As a live primarily as a writer, comfortable with pen or computer in hand, so I was certainly quite apprehensive to pick up an artist's brush again and try my hand at painting a canvas or two on this project. Certainly, I have painted over the years, but it had been a minute, if you know what I mean.

My very first life experience with canvas painting was to accompany my grandmother to a stretch of rocky beach along an island's ocean in a painting class she took to improve her own skills. (She was a fabulous painter, mostly painting floral scenes, many of which I have hanging in my home today.) I remember that day I was struggling to paint the mountains and the ocean and the rocky beach where we were located not far from her little house. I do remember her teacher being so kind me, saying that I had done a great job on painting the rocks, because rocks weren't always that easy to do. I was painting in oils that day, a medium I have not painted in since, even if I was blessed with this experience.

I started out in my early adult years with the desire to paint using watercolours. I even ventured out to take painting classes with a rather famous, local, Japanese artist. I was so excited and quite delighted in the outcome of my first watercolour paintings, and when I proudly declared I was going to frame them, my teacher made a unsupportive comment that I was trying to paint too realistically and I should learn to be free with my strokes. As devastated as I was at her comments, I did frame two of my paintings from that class, and still have them today. As imperfect as they were, they still make me smile.

Fast-forward and my painting projects evolved to painting animals and flowers on rocks, something I loved to do for years at my little summer cottage. Those little painting projects bring joy to me every time I see one today...

Then there were the many wall murals I used to do in my home, well, I guess I just loved to paint back then...

I didn't immediately accept the offer from the local visitor's centre to paint a canvas or two. I just didn't think I could do the current images justice by painting over what was on them. Since our mission was to honour the photographic canvases and the original images, I just wasn't sure if I was up for the challenge, creatively speaking.

At the next Art Society's meeting, when I was offered the opportunity again, I had a change of heart. I timidly spoke out and volunteered to paint the last two canvases that remained available. Inwardly, I was still very reluctant to take up an artist's paint brush and try to honour these two canvases after seeing the incredible images I had to work with. It seemed so surreal that I ended up with two of the most iconic landmarks around town to paint. That gave me a sense of added pressure to do a good job in enhancing the original works.

There are those members in our arts society that completely painted over the images on some of their canvases, and there were those who painted a new scene with snippets of the essence of what was originally there. For myself, I could not bring myself to paint over the two incredibly iconic scenes on my canvases. I had to find a way to turn my subjects from framed photographs to new paintings. So before I ever picked up a brush to start, I set about learning how to accomplish this.

Having worked mainly with crafting acrylic paints, I knew it was time to upgrade to actual artist's acrylics if I was going to do this properly, so I ordered all new acrylic paints and a few new brushes online, (we have no local art supply stores in town), and then I went about the business of learning as I waited for my supplies to arrive.

I discovered that there is a method to hand enhance reproduced art, called giclee. Generally, a giclee is a high-resolution, inkjet-reproduced copy of a painting. Invented in the 1980's, The quality of the ink used in this printing process is brighter and more true to life to the original painting, than a standard copy reproduction of a piece. Artists use giclee copies, and somewhere I read art galleries now may offer up to 65% of their art for sale that has been reproduced in this way. For artists, it is becoming more common for an artist to do a process of hand enhancing their own paintings for a client by embellishing and repainting parts of the giclee reproduced to bring formerly an original piece to life as a 'new' painting. An artist is conveniently able to reproduce their own paintings so that have the opportunity to sell more than one copy of their prized original works without having to paint and recreate each painting individually from scratch. Essentially, they have their original paintings reproduced as a giclee and then they will hand-mix and blend their paints and colours to paint over that reproduction creating a 'new' painting for sale. The giclee hand-enhanced reproduction has many of the original painting's attributes, like raised paint strokes using new paint and gel mediums to mimic the original piece.

I learned a lot about how to do this so that when my paints arrived, I cleaned and prepped both canvases I was given and got to work. There was dirt on the canvases I could not remove, but because I was essentially repainting the scenes over top, I knew I could, most likely, hide any imperfections along the way. Even though I was not starting with high-quality images such used with an authentic giclee, I was optimistic I could bring these scenes to life somehow. The eternal optimist in me was in charge, trying to beat down the fearful negative thoughts of not being able to complete these projects by honouring the beautiful iconic scenes I was given to work with.

Two things in this process were a rude awakening, I can tell you. The first is that I think I could have painted these scenes from scratch more easily than trying to repaint the colours and shapes of these photographic prints to bring them to life. Maybe it is because I am a 'realist' when I paint, and I try to make my subjects look as similar to their original shape, form and colours, so yes, this was hard...and yes, I know I really should lighten up and use a lot more creative license when I paint.

The second thing I learned was to really take a look at what I signed up for. For instance, on that last canvas that was available, the second one I took, there was a large, black banner across the bottom of the painting. It was some sort of ad for the local area. It goes without saying that I was not going to repaint an advertisement across the bottom my project, so I had to find a way to paint over the unsightly black banner, with its white letters and an old logo that included black trees, circles and areas of bright yellow. So how I was going to have to blend all of that into a new grass lawn, and somehow match up the new painted grassy area with the existing section? Omg, I thought to myself, why had I even agreed to use this last canvas with that heavy black banner across the bottom?

Not being the type of person who wants to fail, and being the type of person who will do my best to accomplish this task, and to not let anyone, including myself down...I took a deep breath and dove in anyway. I will admit, I spent weeks at first quite afraid of picking up a brush and screwing it all up. No, once again, thoroughly ingrained as a human who was once was a Girl Guide, I had to plan and prepare. I had to Google and YouTube and learn before I even touched a brush or the paints to start. Even though I had painted a lot over the years, and was very happy with what I had accomplished, I knew I was still rusty when it came to painting a canvas scene, never mind this new form of hand enhancing by recreating and refreshing an existing piece.

I really wrestled with my confidence, on the one hand, how hard could it be to mix up and match the existing colours to repaint these scenes? How hard could it be to use a little of this and that and hit the colours I wanted on bang on? But then, what if I couldn't get the right coloured and shades happening? What if I just messed it all up? Well, it turns out it was incredibly hard to match up the colours and textures and reapply them to the canvas, and to apply them without covering up so many of the tiny details that are really be far too integral to the painting. My focus was to paint to enhance these scenes, not paint them right out and basically start from scratch, because one, I just couldn't cover up these incredible scenes, and two, that is how I understood we were to do this assignment in the first place.

It took hours, and I do mean hours, to do the first one. Every day I went at if for weeks, assessing, adding, repainting, and building up the textures. There is was every day, mounted on my grandmother's well-used and slightly rickety easel calling to me. My kitchen island was covered in brushes, paints, and supplies. Gratefully, it finally came together and I'm thrilled! As for the second one, the one that had the banner across the bottom, well, I am pleased with that one, too, although, I did make several last minutes tweaks before the show. At least now, I realize I had enough painting skills to do it, and I feel very grateful to have managed to hand enhance and repaint these two iconic scenes. I truly do think I have managed to honour the original photographs, enhancing them rather than repainting over them, essentially not losing the original moment caught in time by the original photographer.

Gratefully, they made the wall of the Visitor's Centre and are offered for sale. As most of the artists displayed outdoors on the lawn in the rather brisk winds, I only had the two paintings to display and I am so excited to see them up on the wall! I am blessed to have had so many positive comments from the Visitor's staff and my fellow artists, I hope someone soon will appreciate and purchase them. I know I bonded with every cloud, every rock, every tree and every blade of grass, and maybe someone will feel that, too. It is tough to give them up for sale, but that is what needs to be. After all, I can look out my window and see one of the scenes, and in a short distance away I can visit the other. I certainly don't need to keep the paintings on my walls, they should go to someone else who will appreciate and enjoy them.

I am just truly grateful to nurture my creativity in new and exciting ways! So forgive me, once again, for taking a break from my writing projects, dear readers...

Cheers! Lise



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