The Guggenheim (photo from Wikipedia)

In grade 12, I visited New York for a week with some classmates, and one of our stops was the Guggenheim museum. Now, while most of the floorspace was taken up with large rooms filled with dead bees glued onto canvas or a stack of paper and a sign saying ‘take one’, we hunted around just long enough for me to come across a small hallway in the back where some of Picasso’s paintings were hidden. And as I looked at them, I was struck by the same feeling most people have when seeing great dancers:

I can see that this is good work, but I know I’m not appreciating this fully. I should be stunned. I should be shocked. This should grasp hold of my creative juices and beg attention. Instead, all I can do is tell myself that this is quality stuff.

And it was right about then that I got the urge to try paint something myself, under the theory that the more you know about an art, the better you can appreciate the masters of that given area. The more you act, the more impressive the great actors. The more you know about drawing comics, the easier it is to be floored by someone who really knows what they’re doing. That’s the theory, anyway.

But I didn’t pursue that impulse in any way.

Years later, I had a couple of opportunities to tour VanCity’s own art gallery, and then again at The National Art Gallery in London, and again found myself wishing I knew more hands-on knowledge of putting paint to canvas so that I could really delve into these works.

Then I had a friend start up some paintings of her own, and I offhandedly mentioned how I would love to try paint something someday. She said I should. I didn’t. But I put it on my to-do list.


Then last week, I found my tired self in downtown Victoria with 20 minutes to spare, loitering in a dollar store, and I saw the Acrylics. Canvases. El cheapo paintbrushes. Impulse. Spent 13.25$. White. Black. Navy Blue. Tuscan Red. Leaf Green. Pine Green. 7×9″ of canvas on cheap wood. Imaginings.

A couple of old friends had been over earlier that week, and the pizza boxes were still stacked on top of my television, so I ripped off the clean halves for use as palates to mix the paints on, and waited for today. My day off. Painting day.

I’m not kidding when I say 15 years; my last painting was in grade 3, at eight years old, of Bartman, Bart’s alter ego. I KNOW. This painting would be up on my wall right now, if it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared (i.e. I probably gave it to my mum as a gift and she silently recycled it a year later or something). So my talents aren’t quite up to Picasso’s standards yet.

I am a visual learner, yet I haven’t painted for fifteen years, and the only working camera I have is one I used back in grade six (seriously), and my scanner’s being grumpy. So bear with me. First, my hand-sketch:

The Sweeper
My source sketch for what I wanted to paint.

Next, the best photo of my painting that I was able to get out of my eccentric, steam-powered cameratic contraption:

Ye Olden Cameratic's photo of The Sweeper.
The Sweeper. (accidentally fattened out from the sketch. Learning process, right?)

And for a view of the brushstroke detail, my scanner’s odd view of what was on the canvas. I have no idea why it looks like this:

The Sweeper - Scanned Oddly
The Sweeper – (scanned oddly – it is much greener than this)

All in all, I call the whole adventure a success – acrylics are a lot of fun to use, always being on a clock to mix and remix the colours on the canvas before they dry, frantically attempting to correct mistakes on one end while waiting for other areas to dry so the foreground figures can be painted overtop….

I’ll make my next painting a little lighter-hearted – buy some yellow and a new canvas when I get the chance, maybe find something other than an el cheapo paintbrush to allow some actual detailwork. Try take less than 15 years to do it. 🙂    And I’m looking forward to the next chance I get to take a gander around an art museum, to see how they used their strokes to piece together their works.

So what about you? Been on any odd art excursions lately? Got any tips for a fledgling painter like myself?

Andrew Wade

2 thoughts on “My first painting in 15 years.

  1. I love that you’ve done a night scene. Very atmospheric!
    Get some nice brushes and keep painting!!

    1. Thanks, Fishy!

      I bought a few better thin ones and a couple small canvasses, so I’m looking forward to December when I may have an evening free to try paint something yellow and vibrant. 🙂

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