Most earth pigments tend to be opaque, literally like “looking into dirt” because that’s what they are, dirt. They can be thinned so they seem transparent — watercolors make use of earth pigments but in particles so fine and watered down so well, that paper or other layers of colors show through. Mineral pigments and some modern chemical pigments are often transparent by their nature. Some pigments made from stones — Ultramarine blue was made from Lapis Lazuli — retain a magical reflective ability even when they’re ground to powder.
I stopped painting sometime last year. I’ve tried to figure out why, and finally came to understand it. Basically, it’s other people.
I can’t remember not drawing or not painting. I have done both those things since I was a little kid. But, as I got older, and more interested in it, my mother became vehement about not wanting me to be an artist. “I just want you to be happy,” she said. “Artists are not happy people.”
Now I know that people are either happy or they are not. Just because one is an artist, doesn’t mean they’re on the verge of schizophrenia or suicide. There have always been more happy artists than unhappy artists, but because of our twisted mentalities, we humans build cults around romantic misery — van Gogh, Jim Morrison, etc. Plenty of artists — most artists — just do their work, earn the wage, and live their lives as respected members of the community. Before cameras, being an artist was a respected trade. Humans have always wanted — and created — images of their world.
When I moved to Monte Vista right after retiring, I immediately joined the local artist group and became a member of the fledgling art co-op. I’ve written about both experiences in other places and have moved on, but the painting thing? I’ve done one painting since I left these organizations. It was a pretty good painting, acrylic, the person who owns it loves it, but…
To be an artist, you need a thick skin. I don’t have one. I have several artist friends with whom I have a mutually constructive relationship, but being in an organization in a small town with local artists? What a nightmare that turned out to be. I know art has always been competitive — look at Michelangelo and Leonardo, competing against each other and several other very fine artists — but in a milieu like this one where no one’s life depends on it, and no one’s work is really that good, it seems stupid.
I’m hoping to return to the place where my work is personal to me, and the sounds of these strident voices (“I hate realistic art!” “Why would anyone paint landscapes!”) have faded far enough into the distance that I will want to paint again. Why? Well, as you can see, I have a lot of paint…