Painting Again, Seventeen Years Later

We’ve been home from vacation for over a week now, but I had one last bit of vacation to experience: to complete a small painting for the Community Mosaic Project for The Hardy Gallery. We visited The Hardy on our first morning in Ephraim, Door County, Wisconsin. (The Hardy is housed in the graffiti building I talked about in an earlier post.) The exhibit in the gallery was their juried show. One of the docents asked if I had seen a particular pastel painting. I told it was one of my favorites, and pointed out the artist’s choice of an unusual color that was the perfect finishing element. She exclaimed, “You’re an artist!” I replied that I wasn’t, but I had simply studied art…a long time ago. She told me about the Community Mosaic Project and it took only a tiny amount of arm-twisting to convince me to participate. The 6×6 inch canvas was free, and I simply had to complete a form where I provided my info and a promise to pay for the supplies if I didn’t contribute a project.

What to paint? At the start of our vacation, while Gregg was at his conference, I had purchased a sketch book and some graphite pencils before heading to the Green Bay Botanical Garden. Because I arrived in the heat of the day, I spent the first hour sketching part of an arbor that was viewable from their cafe. That sketch became the model for my mosaic painting.

Starting sketch

Canvas (left) and sketch (right) from Green Bay Botanical Garden

Because it has been seventeen years (17!) since I graduated from my graphic design program, I assumed I would have to buy all new acrylic paints. I hoped that the brushes would still be around, though, so I headed to my workroom and dug out the large plastic bucket I used to store my painting supplies. I was incredibly happy (think $$$) to discover that everything was not only in in the bucket, but still usable – gesso, medium, paints, and brushes! So I began.

Community Mosaic Project - Blocking Colors

The mosaic painting, after some color blocking.

It felt really awkward at first. All my brushes are long-handled – really not the right length for working on such a small canvas at the kitchen table. I also have mild carpal tunnel syndrome. The combination of using the wrong type of brushes and my occasional fingertip numbness meant that my brush seemed to jump out of my hand a few times! But who doesn’t need just a touch of cadmium blue on their kitchen table, hmm? 🙂

Mosaic painting, starting details

Starting to add details

At this point, I had to stop painting and take care of some other things. But before I cleaned up, I took a few moments to enjoy what was on my palette. I always like looking at a used painter’s palette – even when it’s not mine and even (or especially?) the blends that didn’t make it into the painting!

The Palette

Playing with pretty colors without worrying about composition or proportion!

As I later continued to work on my little painting project, I lost some of the awkwardness. I remembered the beauty of working with acrylic paints is that they dry quickly; I also experienced the trial of working with acrylic paints that dry so quickly! Yes, the one item missing from my paint bucket was the paint retarder.

In the end, I’m pleased with the painting. Someone will acquire it in a “blind buy” at The Hardy Gallery. When that person gets their first glimpse, I hope it makes them smile for a moment or two, and that in spite of its faults the painting will convey the utter joy I experienced in picking up my brushes after seventeen years!

Mimi's Arbor

The finished painting.

Here’s the Artist’s Statement I sent with my painting:

This small acrylics painting was inspired by a graphite sketch I did while visiting Green Bay Botanical Garden. A few days later I visited The Hardy Gallery and learned about the Community Mosaic Project.

I questioned whether I was part of the Hardy “community” – after all, I live over 5 hours away and learned of the Hardy only 2 weeks ago!

As I worked on this painting, I realized “community” isn’t so much about physical location as it is about helping out with whatever means you have – especially when you have already received from that community.

So thank you, my Hardy community – for encouraging me to pick up my paintbrushes after abandoning them 17 years ago! Here is my gift to you. I hope that in spite of my limited skills, my little painting conveys the joy I experienced while painting it.

I do wish I could see the gallery when all the 6×6 canvases are hung as a single mosaic!

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