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Why I Don't Paint and How I Remembered It

Updated on September 5, 2014

I'm an artist. I spend a lot of my time on art - well, a lot considering all the other stuff I love to do, like read, write, play with gadgets and obsessively update my blog. Art has been a Thing I Do since I was a little kid. Nowadays I mainly use markers and Photoshop.

But I'm not a painter. As a kid, even though I loved art classes, I hated water colours. I liked oils a little better because they weren't as wet, but never really did any oil painting on my own outside of school. Why was that? thought I earlier this week. I'm older now, I would probably have better control of my brushes. I make art all the time. Surely I could get the hang of it now.

So I went and got a canvas and some brushes - oils I already had - and set out to experiment.

The journey of a thousand miles...

Starting Out
Starting Out

Finally a use for that neighbourhood newspaper we never ordered but get every week anyway.

I was surprised at how cheap it was to get started. I bought two canvases and a set of brushes from the 99p Store down the road. If I hadn't had the oils, they would also have had a set of those for the same price - 99p. The palette is an egg holder that came with the house.

Are you supposed to use any water with oil paintings? I can't remember any more. We spent so much time at school using watercolour it just seemed natural to have some water around. In any case I could use it to quickly wash my brushes.



I have made a start! One thing I remember about oils is that you're not supposed to have any of the canvas showing in the final piece. I decided to start by painting the whole canvas blue, because that's what Rob Ross, the perpetually blissful narrator of The Joy of Painting did in that funny music video I saw online.

After a few strokes I realize this is going to take a while, so I get my iPad out to listen to game shows while I work.

So far so good.


That took a lot longer than I expected, and now my paint dabs on the palette are no longer as neat as they used to be. Hmm. Well, at least they haven't turned brown yet. I am starting to remember why painting is hard. It was the way the paints don't stay neat, wasn't it?



I started painting without having picked a subject. At this point, I thought perhaps I should. What do I like to draw? Well, ladies of course. That's easy! So let's paint a lady.

Done! Getting somewhere!

Pause to wash things.


Having painted the lady, I now have a palette that is all brown, so I decide to take a break and wash everything - brushes, palette, and hands.

This is where I really start to remember that I hate painting. It takes me half an hour to get everything to the point where it can be used again. And that's not even clean! The brushes are still coloured and the palette is still dabbed all over with paint, and now so is my dishwasher liquid bottle and a number of bunched up kitchen towels in the bin.

I remember another thing from my lessons...

Cloud and light
Cloud and light

"Always finish the background first." Oops. So, okay, now she's sitting on a cloud. Maybe she's an angel! I add some light and shadow with white and black paint, which mixes in with the brown. Nice.



I accidentally make some green, and decide to make a tree. A tree that... grows from the cloud? I'll worry about that later.

Everything is looking so rough! I didn't expect it to be this difficult to make clean lines and edges! Well... maybe I can fix it with a fine brush later on. This is still just sketching, right?

Enough for today.

See how there is no daylight
See how there is no daylight

I "run out of daylight", aka get bored and use the light as an excuse to stop for the day. I leave most of the mess behind, and just wash my brushes, water bowl and palette. Tomorrow's Sunday, so I can just pick up where I left off.

I haven't been having as much fun as I thought I would and have already decided this lens is going to be about how painting sucks. I spend some time in the evening starting to put it together.

Day #2.


I go wild with the white brush in a burst of renewed energy.

My girlfriend has promised to join me today. This should be interesting. When it comes to art, she and I are complete opposites. Whatever I can't for the life of me manage, she does as naturally as breathing, and what's easy for me can be the hardest of all for her.

Brushes are impossible to clean.


eHow tells me that the way to clean brushes is to wipe them on a kitchen towel, wash them under the tap and then wipe them again, rinse repeat until it's no longer giving off colour. I settle on "only giving off a LITTLE bit of colour".

My girlfriend joins me!


She's going to try and make a picture of Paul McCartney based on a black and white photo. Thus, black. We put Ask Rhod Gilbert on to listen to while we paint.



Hey this is looking pretty good. She's no longer sitting on a cloud and the strong white makes it look almost like she has a face. Sweet.

...Of course I was TRYING to give her a real nose and features. It's just not happening! How do artists do this stuff? How?

I make a bad decision.

New directions
New directions

I probably ought to smooth out these lines and make the edges cleaner... Oh, well, there goes all the progress I made with the strong light. POO.

Meanwhile, my girlfriend gives up on creating a neat Beatle moptop and decides to paint the entire canvas black.



I am getting frustrated at how difficult it is to put in any detail, and my girlfriend is getting impatient with filling in the background, so we swap. Brilliant!

What did I tell you?

My girlfriend is a genius
My girlfriend is a genius

I finish painting the second canvas black and go check out how my girlfriend is doing.


I really shouldn't be surprised. I told you, right? What I can't do, she can! Okay, maybe I have some cause to be surprised, since she specifically told me she can't paint, doesn't know what she's doing, and has never been properly taught. Natural talent, that's what it is, and a lighter touch than mine. But the lady has a face! I'm very pleased. This is starting to look more like an actual painting.

I can paint a face too, you just watch me!


Even if it has to be a huge face because I can't manage any kind of detail in paint!

Well, it's a face.


Actually looks a bit like Noel Fielding from this angle.

We swap again!

Swap again
Swap again

I think this is a good move, because I would have had to attempt McCartney's ridiculous eyelashes next.

I decide it's finished.


There. Good enough. True, I had to get my girlfriend i to finish it for me. It's our painting now. But it's FINISHED, because I declare it so.

I leave, triumphant.

Still working
Still working

Paul McCartney is still being worked on, but it won't be long before my girlfriend gives up, too, and, being kindness herself (and because I asked her to) she does the final washing up, which makes me feel a whole lot better about the whole thing. (I really don't like the washing up.)

So, was it worth it?


Well, okay... I admit it. Towards the end there it got to be kind of fun.

I'm not at all happy with the lack of control the medium gives you, being used to markers and digital colour. Even though Paul McCartney was squinting with one eye in that photo, one of those eyes is much too big. I feel like we worked for hours to create nothing but hasty sketches. I'm used to having a finished picture by that time! And the mess!

So yeah, we'll probably do it again next weekend.

Beltane by Kivitasku Designs
Beltane by Kivitasku Designs

Kivitasku Designs on Zazzle

Check out my shop for postcards, shirts, prints and more featuring my art and photography.

Subjects include:

- pinups

- nature photography

- cute cartoony characters

- holiday cards

- historical figures (as pinups)

- and, as they say, much much more!

Guestbook - Tell me what you think!

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    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @indigoj: Hah, thanks! I think the trick with oils might be dabbing - or letting dry and adding vast amounts of detail later. I tried acrylics later and they're better suited for my temperament, because you can get such nice clean lines with acrylics.

      I've heard a lot of good thingsabout ArtRage. It is not really an option for me, though, until I get another tablet, which could be years. I don't make money off my art, so it would be too much of an indulgence at the moment.

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 

      6 years ago from UK

      They turned out very well, despite all the pessimism! I also like all the texture you were able to add with the oils. Me, I'm experimenting with ArtRage as it's less mess and quicker to make progress digitally. Plus I love being able to Ctrl+Z my mistakes! Thanks for sharing your art process and also for making me smile today, I enjoy your writing style

    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @Judy Filarecki: Thank you! For both the compliment and the advice. I actually used water and dishwasher liquid. Dishwasher liquid works so much better than soap - on grease stains and dough-dirty hands as well as paint.

    • Judy Filarecki profile image

      Judy Filarecki 

      6 years ago from SW Arizona and Northern New York

      Actually they turned out pretty good. As to your question of do you use water with oils....NO... unless they are water-soluble oils. Cleaning up goes much better if you wipe excess paint ff the brushes then use some vegetable oil or baby oil to continue cleaning them and then finally soap and water. you could also use solvents to clean the excess off first, but I tend to avoid anything that is toxic and has fumes.

    • Vilja profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Helsinki

      @FlynntheCat1: :D So I read! I want to give it a real go, but I don't have a tablet at the moment and have limited time on my Photoshop computer. I have some hours today, though, so I might give it a go after I've done my other stuff.

      I don't know about clumsy! Your stuff looks great!

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Haha the mess is why I switched to ArtRage. I was always a bit of a clumsy painter and always overworked things - I'm better now, but fine detail is hard! (You have to make sure to have a good and tiny brush).


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