Oil painting isn't one of those things that's taught to kids in school. Even back when art programs weren't in danger and you always took art in school, they didn't teach you oil painting. My school had a pretty damned great art program (consequence of growing up in a rich neighborhood with insanely high property taxes I suppose) and oil painting wasn't taught. It's messy. It takes a long time to dry. The clean-up can be horrible. It just isn't conducive to a grade school environment.
I often envy people who went to college for fine arts. And I don't think that majoring in fine art is a fluff sort of major in the slightest. Those classically trained painters always seem to have some sort of quality I really want to gain. Yes, I went to the Roslyn School of Painting for a number of years as a teenager. My parents have roughly a dozen or so paintings in their house to show for it. I wouldn't really have called it a school of painting. The classes are not instructional, they consisted of me picking a picture out of a magazine and painting it. Fine for getting started and fine for a young tween but not really when you want to take things more seriously. So for the first time, I decided to take a beginning painting course at The Art League of Long Island.
It is a five week course. The first two are with still life and the last three with figure. The teacher, Irene Vitali, is excellent. I feel like I'm really learning how to build up an oil painting from the initial washes to the final highlights. She's very good at seeing exactly what your particular painting weakness is and quickly zeroed in on the fact that mine is painting exactly what is in front of me regardless of whether or not it's good for the painting. She constantly walks around the room, praising and correcting and offering explanations for her corrections.
It was a shame that we only go two weeks with this particular still life. I really would loved to have maybe painted it from another angle (should have taken a picture, just thought of that). I think that her removing the still life and setting it back up actually was a very good thing. The cherries ended up being somewhere else and in a different configuration. Everything was just a little bit off.
After taking a number of pictures with my phone, I printed them out and have been using them as a reference. I think that it is going exceptionally well. I am working very hard to not overwork or overpaint. I really want to leave a very painterly quality. And you also can't really see it in this picture but the upper left hand corner of the background is still thin and you can see bits of toning of the canvas underneath. Trying to smooth out brush strokes and trying to blanket the whole canvas... trying to make it look too photographic are things that I really need to work on. Don't get me wrong I find that level of realism impressive, but if I want my painting to look like a photograph, why not just take a photograph? There are extremes, and I have seen some examples of both on blogs and websites. I've seen paintings so real they truly did look like photographs (Oriana Kacicek's Sunny Side Up). And I've seen paintings where I could probably count the brush strokes on both hands (Carol Marine's Cheery Cherries). These are two opposite ends of the spectrum and I'm not saying either one is wrong. I'm just really want to find my own style and my own way.
Now if I could just figure out how to figure that out.....