The boxes aren’t all unpacked yet, but I needed to get back to work. Here’s my easel set up with a freshly stretched and gessoed canvas, ready to go. It it scary or exciting to face that big blank surface? Well, for me, it’s both.

Not only is it intimidating to mark up a white surface, but a substantial amount of time and money has gone into producing this big white surface. Stretcher bars were purchased and put together. Canvas was purchased, cut to size and stretched onto the bars. Gesso (white primer) is painted on and dried three times. Then and only then is the surface ready to use.

A few days ago, while visiting my sister in Northern California, I was probably rude to one of her friends. The friend asked me what I did and when I told her I am an artist, she said, “Oh lucky you, that must be so much fun!” I think my reply to her was “Actually, it’s the monkey on my back.” She was taken aback at my reply and the conversation ended abruptly.

Now, at that time, I was thinking about money (or lack thereof) and of my seeming interminable struggle to work full time as an artist. Which I’ve done for the last two years, but it’s a precarious situation at best. I need to start selling my work in order to keep on doing what I love. So when she gave that bubbly reply, my thought was, if only I didn’t have this obsession, I could be happy working at some job and cruise along looking forward to my yearly vacation and be at peace.

The normal person out there has no idea what it’s like to attempt to live the life of an artist. And it’s really not their fault. People don’t get any art education in school. The media shows caricatures of artists, artists are portrayed as crazy, eccentric, rich and famous. No wonder the general public says dumb stuff when you admit to being an artist. And who gets to claim to be an artist? Well, anyone who wants to.

Anyway, now I feel badly that I was curt, abrupt, rude, unfriendly. I’m resolving, yet again, that when these situations come up, I will make an effort to have a friendly conversation with the person, starting with the positives, like that I’m never, ever bored.

And occasionally, I’ll use this blog to show some step by step photos, so that non-artist viewers might see that a painting doesn’t just magically appear.

For me, lately, my first step is to rough in basic shapes with a charcoal pencil. My first challenge yesterday was to find the charcoal pencil. Yes, I found it buried in a box. So I proceeded. The reason it’s hard to see is that the charcoal is applied fairly lightly, so it doesn’t interfere with the paint. I don’t use pencil because sometimes the oily graphite doesn’t allow the paint to stick to it.

I mix a batch of Golden Acrylic Light Modeling Paste with a mixture of paint in roughly the color I want. I spread it on with a palette knife, covering the area, kind of like spreading butter. I proceed with each area, quickly (like it takes a few hours), until the white is no longer anywhere to be seen.

After the first layer is dry, I go in with a brush, and start to add variations in the color, move things around, change sizes and angles. If you compare the two paintings, you’ll see a few changes.

So here it is, probably 6 hours into the painting, and I’ve barely started. Now comes the long process of adding life to the painting.

Is it fun? Well, yes, when it’s going well. Is it satisfying? Again, yes, when it’s going well. What about when it’s not going well? Well, then my feet ache, my back aches, my arthritis in my hands hurts, and I wonder why I’m beating my head against a wall.

Do I continue on? Well, yes, so far for 30 some on years, I’ve continued on.