A resolute drowning: #1

I was away for a week for work, and I didn’t paint at all. I drove home and I really wanted to get the paints out.

I didn’t want to paint another exercise from the book tonight, so instead, I painted from my mind. I wanted to try to use some of the lessons I have learned in this book, so this is what I made.

The event I was at is called Crestron Masters, it’s a yearly training conference for all of the certified Crestron Programmers, and it’s the one time each year when I get to spend time with all the people I work with. It’s also a time when I find myself surrounded by a sea of people who intimidate me. The week is always a very difficult week for me. I dread the days because I don’t program a lot anymore, so a lot of the curriculum doesn’t apply to me, or goes over my head. What classes do apply to me are usually very basic, and I find that I already know most of what is taught. In between classes, I run into a handful of people I really like and only get to see once a year. I want to talk to them, but then I get nervous that I’m monopolizing them when they want to network with others. So I’m constantly watching for signs that they are trying to get away.

If I’m not chatting with them, chances are I’m caught talking to some stranger who tries to impress me with how much they know about AV. I can pretty quickly discern if they are just faking it (in which case they annoy me), or they really are that smart, (which makes me feel inadequate.) I know how easy it is to see through the fakers, and how much I hate feeling inadequate. I don’t want other people to think I’m a faker, and I don’t want to make anyone feel inadequate, so I downplay my abilities, and then worry that I just spend the week looking like an imbecile.

So, for eight hours, I go around trying to avoid the land mine that is interacting with 90% of the people there. By the time I’m finally free and can spend time with the people who I really enjoy, I’m exhausted. I genuinely know that these people like me, so I get really excited to see them, and I start cracking jokes and before I know it, I’m hogging the spotlight. Then I think they like me, but only because I’m “The life of the party” so then I feel like I have to be gregarious and funny, which means I suddenly load a bunch of social pressure on myself and that wears me out, so when I finally go to my hotel room I worry that I either over did it, and just made an ass of myself – or I didn’t perform well and they won’t like me any more.

I know. It’s all just head trash. Believe me – I know. But I can’t get out of it all in the moment. The only way I feel like I can breathe is if I step away and talk one on one, or just go to my hotel room. God! It’s exhausting!!!

This year, for some reason, it was particularly hard for me. I got to have some really great conversations with some people, I learned a lot in some of the classes, and I felt more free to just be myself than I have in the past. I connected with people more, and feel like I established real relationships with some of the people I genuinely admire, but all while I was particularly worried that I would let people down this year.

Anyway – that’s not what I am here for. I’m supposed to talk about this painting. Basically, I wanted to paint how I feel right now. I feel like I’m trapped in a car crash of a storm and I’m frantically kicking my legs to try to keep my face above the waves so I can just fucking breathe while the waves foam and slam me into the rocks. At the same time, I feel like I am the rocks – like the storm is raging and the whole weight of the ocean is slamming into me, broadside, for the thousandth time, but I’m standing strong, firmly planted with my chest out bearing the force of the waves, daring the storm to blow harder. I’m resolute and firm and exhausted and drowning all at the same time.

So I painted this.

I started by sketching very roughly what I wanted. I wanted the waves to crash all the way up the side of the painting, as if to imply that the rocks are stopping the storm completely-the waves crash so hard that the storm can’t get to the other side. I also wanted the rocks to be fairly small, hoping to exaggerate the impact of the waves. I wanted the horizon the be off kilter, to make it feel like the viewer was being rocked sideways, making the rocks even more steadfast. And I wanted the stormy sky to be a beautiful chaos.

For the sky I wetted the paper, careful to leave the right side dry, and then dropped and slashed Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, and Quin Purple pigment into the wet paper trying to establish the colors of a grey/black stormy sky. Then nearer the horizon I used Quin Red, Hansa Yellow and a tiny bit of Perinone Orange to try to give the illusion of a sunset in order to beautify the chaos. Once that dried, I rewetted parts of the paper, being careful at the ragged edges to get the paper wet right up to the edge. Then, I dropped in more pigments to intensify the value contrast, and used clean water to try to soften some of the edges to give the sky a swirling feel that is simultaneously crisp and blurred.

The waves I painted first in a green grey of Prussian Blue, Raw Umber and New Gamboge. I tried to use expressive, confident, large strokes hoping this would make the ocean appear forceful enough to spray foam all the way into the sky. When that dried, I went in with some New Gamboge to try to make the water more green at the crest of the farthest wave, but again leaving the ragged white edges. Once that dried, I went in with full strength Indie Blue on slightly damp paper to increase the value contrast, and give the ocean the swirling quality of the sky.

The rocks I painted with crisp tops and ragged bases to make it look like the foam was washing up onto them, and flooding the gaps between them. After laying an initial wash of Raw Umber, UM Blue, Perinone Orange, and Hansa Yellow, i knifed highlights (I wanted the light to be coming from the horizon just between the wave and the rocks. Then, I went back with Bloodstone Genuine, and Quin Purple, and knifed highlights again.

When that was all done, I tried to add some very light value green to the foam to provide it with some depth, weight, and texture.

There you have it. A Resolute Drowning.

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