Torpedo Factory

Shimay, take me away.

Ladies and gentlemen, I got my butt handed to me today in the first class of the “Color: Achieve What You Envision” class at the Torpedo Factory.

I haven’t painted since, like, I don’t know when.  Last time I tried was with alkyds and that was a mess.  I wish they would have mentioned that buying everything on the supplies list is expensive.  $350 for art supplies.  I was told that’s a good deal but it’s been a long time since I purchased art supplies en masse.

First, we had to paint a still life.  White bowls on white cloth in front of black cloth with a bright red cloth accent, BUT we had to paint it using only raw sienna and burnt umber.  In other words, brown and dark brown.  Then we had to paint the same still life using only white and raw sienna.

I started to get a feel for it on the second one.  Then again, white and raw sienna is much easier to deal with than the raw sienna and burnt umber.  Apparently, burnt umber is a translucent color, just to make things more interesting.  It’s dark but you really have to lay it down for it to take hold.  Good grief.

Everyone else — it’s a small class — seems to know what they’re doing.  I’m wingin’ it.  I was stressing for a while there.  Like, maybe I missed a prerequisite.  Which, apparently, I did.

The Lesson

It was an exercise in color values.  And it was tough.  Intentionally tough, though.  The instructor said that the point was to make you painfully aware of the fact that you’re working with a very limited choice of values.  In this case with two colors.  But, he said, you’re always working with a very limited palette even when you have a rainbow of colors on your palette.

When I say that I was struggling I’m not trying to be modest or fish for compliments.  Some of the others, both of their paintings looked like — well, as the instructor said.  They didn’t look like overexposed or underexposed photographs, as an analogy.  They looked like the same painting in a different value range.  The clean consistency and control over colors and values was impressive.

I’m not there.  I’m pretty sure I ordered a color mixing/theory book a while ago.  It’s in here somewhere.  I’ve got some reading to do.  And have to learn how to clean up and travel with all these supplies.

Whatever the case, despite the artistic trepidation and all that bullmess, it feels good.  To be in the paints again.  The feel, the smell (which is much less obnoxious than I remember), the mess.  Yes.

The Past

I used to paint a bit in high school and college.  I gave just about all of them away to family, friends, people I wanted to like me.  So I only have one.  Some of them were okay.  There was/is potential,  y’know.  I’d always get a few things nearly perfect.  And then completely miss something.  Like, I couldn’t capture the color of a faded blanket with a pattern, for example.  Or the color of the walls in a room with natural light coming through the window.  My colors often looked cartoonish.

So a little education and experimentation will go a long way.

Hm.  They look better as photos than they did live.

There are lots of classes to choose from at the Torpedo Factory.  I recommend checking them out if you’re local to Old Town Alexandria.

I’m hoping that by the end of the course I’ll be able to paint an album cover or two for myself.


Add Yours
    • garyarthuryoung

      thanks. the dark one was a bit of a mess but started to come together and then we ran out of time for that one.

      i think the instructor’s going to give us something equally challenging next week. I guess it’s good to be humbled, though.

  1. Sarah Benelli

    Is this oil? I have been painting for a couple months but *really* need a class. I’m considering going back to De Anza for it.

    Great work!

    • garyarthuryoung


      Thank ya, lass.

      Yes. Oils. I could never quite get the hang of acrylics. I like being able to move the paint around.

      I tried alkyds when I was in Cali. The water-based/soluble oils, if that’s even possible. I made soup.

      What/how do you paint, aye? I recommend a class. It really gets you in the groove. A little structure, incentive and gaining some skills. Seeing other people’s styles.

      I’m diggin’ it.

  2. Moon

    They look great, Gary! You’re such a perfectionist, lol…you’re a phenomenal artist in so many areas! I got some canvas and paint for Xmas and have yet to begin on a project. Your blog inspires me!

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