This morning was the first day of a short class that I am teaching at my high school in Sedona on – guess what! – oil painting with cold wax medium. We will meet for 6 three-hour sessions, and my two principal challenges are, first, to combine the mechanics with enough theory to present a balance of action and thought, and, second, to get enough layers down soon enough to build a satisfactory painting or two in such a short time.
I decided to limit the theoretical side of the class to two concepts that are broad enough to challenge the students with previous painting experience, but simple enough that those with no such experience can grasp the basics. So, we are addressing basic color theory and color field theory, along with some concepts of abstraction and design. Today we put down base layers of a warm hue and a cool, a light hue and a dark, on each of four “assignment” panels, in order to introduce concepts of hue and value. Tomorrow will be more of the same, but adding texture techniques and analogous color contrasts. After the initial layers are down, they will switch to each characteristic’s opposite (light to dark, etc.) in successive layers, and we’ll begin to look at removal techniques. Along the way, we’ll address abstraction and mark-making. Each student has two additional panels, which they are free to paint as they choose, but they need to show the use of some of these concepts that we will have covered by the end of the third day, when they start the free-lance panels.
It is a packed schedule, but these teenagers are smart and energetic. I’m recording this here because the whole experience is teaching me about my own painting, as well. Being forced to parse out rationale from instinct, to explain the basics of color interaction and abstraction, to have the patience to lay down layers one at a time (I am painting along with the kids), is being a good exercise for me; in a sense I am taking the class at the same time that I am giving it. I have never approached a cold wax painting as deliberately and consciously as I am doing this week, and the discipline is being good for me. I have always had the sense that I do not put down enough layers, especially at the lower levels, and while the rules I am setting for these students are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, there is a point to them, and I will be interested to see the results of following them in my own work.
The photo above is of some of the first-day panels; some of the colors are stunning. What fun it is to watch these young people create!