Back At School

I’m back at the University of New Hampshire! I’m working towards a Master’s degree in Secondary Education, so I’ll be here for two years. Then I’ll be teaching English to kids in high school. Hopefully. We’ll see how that goes. For now the summer is over and I’m able to focus a little more on art.

About a month ago my girlfriend’s aunt commissioned me to do a painting of her day lilies. I said yes. Even though I’ve only done one painting of flowers. This one. I enjoyed that painting and liked the idea of revisiting a subject I’m not normally drawn to.

Figuring out what flower to paint was a bit of a process. My girlfriend took a bunch of photographs of her aunt’s plants, her aunt selected which photo she liked best, and then I worked from that file to create the painting. Did I mention it had to be small? I wound up working on a 5″x7″ canvas. It felt like painting on a penny.

Before I begin talking about every step, I’d like to note that this is the first studio painting I’ve done in my new apartment. Since I don’t have any furniture yet, I sat in a bean bag, lowered my easel all the way, and put my palette, brushes, and brush cleaner on a short box. I wish someone had snapped a picture of me and the setup. It was ridiculous. Surprisingly though, it wasn’t too hard to work that way. The only issue I had was that my knees got a little cramped. Oh well. Don’t make excuses, make art. I’m sure that’s a quote from someone.


I used a medium sized round brush to just lay out paint at the start. Almost immediately I filled the canvas and had to downsize my brush.

Also, sorry for the photo quality. I was into the painting and so I didn’t spend much time trying to make the progress photos perfect. One day I’ll have a gorgeous studio that will be seamlessly integrated with technology and my progress pics will be excellent. One day.


Don’t paint from photographs.

That’s what I was told in my Intro to Painting class.

Don’t only paint from photographs.

That’s what I was told in a later class.

And I understand the logic of both statements. Teachers want new students to learn from life. Bad habits are formed when painting from photographs. Paintings done without a life reference often come out overworked and stale. But the statement was changed once we sharpened our skills and understood painting concepts more. Excellent painting can be done from photographs as long as the artist knows how to use the photo (sometimes when I write on here I feel like I’m just quoting my teachers).

I had to make sure I wasn’t putting in every detail that the photo showed. In the early stages I made sure to keep the background sloppy and hazy. The human eye cannot bring everything into focus like a camera can. I kept that fact in my mind.


I like to work blocky. Block after block of paint until I have it laid all out and the lights and darks are defined. Though in this painting the main dark was the background and there were only subtle light differences in the flower itself.


I like this progress shot. This stage had a lot of life to it. It felt like a cute, quick painting that had been done in plein air. Speaking of which, I’ve been a little obsessed with the Plein Air magazine recently. It is absolutely brimming with a variety of pieces each month.


Well. Oops. I overworked it. You can just feel it in this photo. It was far too stiff and had none of the fluidity of the last rendition. I picked up the knife and started scraping.


This is what I was left with. Not too bad, actually. It has a great softness to it. I would’ve left it here if it had been a personal painting. But commissions are different.


After scraping everything down, I struggled. The paints muddied up and I had to end the session. You can see my lights also got pasty from the use of too much white.


On the last session I worked primarily with heavily saturated colors. I wanted to breathe life back into the piece. It had grown dull since its wonderful start. I tried to work with a careless attitude and paint freely. I concentrated less on exact strokes of paint. Well, until the very end when it was necessary to wrap everything up.


I wish I had been able to bring this painting back to my parents’ house and photograph it properly. The photo I took at my apartment does not do it justice. Of course, that is the complaint of many artists when they photograph their work.

I’m interested in painting more small flower portraits. There was something intimate about the whole process. I have one large wall in my apartment that is bare of paintings. I’ve been trying to figure out a series I can paint to hang on it. I’m not sure if fifty small flower paintings would work in the space, but I wanna try for fifty and I wanna see how it looks. Though I’m always full of ideas. We’ll see if it pans out.


Finally, I’d like to share a portrait from one of my new professors. He teaches UNH’s version of an Intro to Education class, but has degrees in several different fields. One of them being a Bachelor’s in Studio Arts from UNH. Anyway, he’s having us do personal presentations throughout the semester and he demonstrated what they should be like by talking about his passion for art. To start the presentation he had us pair up and draw another classmate. Because we have an odd number of students he paired up with me and we each received about five minutes to draw. I posed first.



I really enjoy the looseness of the line. It’s refreshing to see myself drawn by someone else’s hand. It makes me want to start a project where I have tons of people draw me. Though maybe that’s a bit narcissistic.

Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to photograph the sketch I did of him. We exchanged drawings and I didn’t think to record my own work.

One thought on “Back At School

  1. Pingback: A Return to the Past | Oil and Pen

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