Painting the Natural World

Originally posted January 10, 2017.

Those of you who have been reading my blog faithfully already know that I have been taking a painting class at the American Museum of Natural History.  I have class on Tuesday night and the class runs for eight weeks.

So far I have been to five classes and have yet to finish a painting. I am getting closer though.  I have been holding off on showing pictures of my work from the class until they are completed but I have changed my mind and decided to share my work in progress.

The first two classes we went to the hall of North American birds.  The first class we were expected to have a completed basic painting of the bird we chose to paint.  But after the introduction and demo that left me with just an hour. I think it took me at least half that time to get the the shape of the bird correct.

Cranes are beautiful birds and I thought they would be a fairly simple shape but I was sadly mistaken. By then end of the class I managed to get a basic shape but have yet to complete the rest.

For the second class we were in the same hall but expected to divide our canvas and complete two bird paintings A lot of classmates refused to do this but I divided my canvas and began to paint a pelican.  There was a sea gull in the diorama as well and I thought I would paint him on the other side.  Drawing the pelican went a little quicker than the crane but painting did not and I did not even start the other bird.

At this point I felt pretty defeated and out of desperation showed one of the teachers photos of other paintings I had done. I wanted them to know that I did know how to paint even though it may not look like it.

For the third class we went to the hall of North American Mammals.  This time we had two classes to finish one painting which was music to my ears. I decided to paint a grizzly bear and took my time sketching it out.  A little girl who happened to be there for a staff christmas party randomly showed up next to me and told me, “That is a really good bear. You should be a professional artist!” I smiled at her, and said, “thank you.”

Even though I was still embarrassed about my interaction with one of the teachers the week before it actually turned out to be a smart move on my part.  Now that this teacher understood my style of painting which is more flat and graphic he was able to help me  better understand how to paint the natural world.

At the end of the class my bear looked like this.

And after the 4th class it looks like this.

I still haven’t completed it yet but am happy with what I have so far.

Last class we moved to the hall of African Mammals.  I did not feel at all like going to class that night.  I had felt horrible and had been in a bad mood/space all day.  But not wanting to miss class, I sucked it up and went anyway.

I decided to paint a water buffalo. One of the teachers told me given my typical style of painting this water buffalo would be quite a challenge for me to paint.  I decided to go for it anyway.  I again spent a lot of time drawing a sketch of him but ran out of space on the canvas cutting off his feet a little.  This did not help my current mood but I started painting anyway and things continued to not go well.

At the end of class he looked like this. I could say that I embraced my inner kindergartner and let it go, but I could not.

I ended up taking a new canvas to the studio yesterday and started over.

Tonight’s class,  will be our second week in the hall of African Mammals.  We will be working on our paintings from last class. I am glad I took time to work on this guy because tonight will be my last class.

Next Tuesday I will have my first meeting for my art residency, an artist meet and greet.  I got an email yesterday and we will be meeting as a group once a month.  And then once a month individually.

Then the Tuesday after that I will miss class because I will be out of the country.  Jeff and I have another international adventure ahead.  Southern Spain and Morocco will be our destinations.  I am really looking forward to it.

Happy Tuesday and thanks for reading.