The term “self-indulgence” has different meaning to different people. Some may see it as buying a new tool and perhaps spending a little more than necessary for the better model, others may see it as having that extra bowl of ice cream after a nice Sunday dinner. Since we all have different ideas of what makes us happy, the definition of being “self-indulgent” changes with every person who answers the question. Generally speaking however, it means doing something that we aren’t normally able to do that is special to us.
I look back at my day yesterday as being one of total self- indulgence. It tuned out to be a day where I did something that I have been wanting to do for quite a while, and haven’t been able to justify spending the time for me to do. Painting.
Now those of you who have followed along here are probably wondering what I am talking about, as you have seen me do painting projects from time to time over the past several months. But somehow that was different. There always seemed to be a reason or a purpose behind it. A motive, if you will. I had either planned to give the projects away for a gift or make a pattern to sell or do something that was related to my business with it. But it was never really done just for the simple pleasure of doing it.
Many of you don’t know that I love to paint. Dare I say in this forum that my passion for painting sometimes exceeds my passion for woodworking? I admit, it does at times, although I wouldn’t want to go through the rest of my life choosing one over the other. It is as if a parent would have to choose one child over the next.
Of the two, the woodworking has allowed me to support myself and given me a career. Therefore, since I need to eat and keep a roof over my head, it is the one that is my focus most of the time. It is what I call the ‘meat and potatoes’ of my life and I am very thankful for the success that I have achieved in it.
Things have been tough for my business over the past several years, as you all know. But they are finally getting to a point where I am not so apprehensive about things. I don’t see myself slowing down any time soon, as any successful self-employed person can tell you it just isn’t in the cards. But I do find that it is OK to back away for a day or so and do something that may or may not benefit my business at all.
Over the years I have painted several what I will call “nice” paintings. These aren’t off of patterns, but are my own creations, using photographs for reference. My favorite subject to paint is realistic wildlife, and I find myself getting lost in creating them. I keep them tucked away on gallery page on my site and I only have one quality painting hanging here in my home to remind me that “I can”. That painting is of a cheetah that I created in 2005 and it has been difficult for me to top it, as it is one of my favorites. With my business struggling over the past several years, I could not justify the time it would take to attempt to paint more. Any spare time whatsoever would be spent working on my business.
But I have finally reached a point where I am beginning to feel comfortable and creative again. I am not saying that I am shopping for a Farrari or anything like that – perhaps just the fact that I am not losing money anymore is enough for me. I live a very simple existence and because of that, it frees me up and allows me to enjoy all the beauty around me. It also seems that it is allowing me time to be truly creative and take some time to do exactly what I want to do, no matter how silly or frivolous. And for me it is to paint.
After painting the Northern Lights scene on Saturday, I had mentioned that I wasn’t quite happy with the bear. I don’t think it is all bad, but I said before, I am not really a cartoonist and I found the painting to be somewhere in between cartoon and realism. It was as if I was consciously trying to do something whimsical and my sub-conscious wanted to do something more realistic. The two were battling inside me and the result, although nice, was not something that I was completely comfortable with.
In looking through my reference files of polar bear photos yesterday to see what the problem may have been, an idea came to me. I suddenly had the urge to paint a realistic and detailed bear. I knew I had other things to do, but I really didn’t care. Don’t I deserve a day off too? I settled in and took another 8” circular wood blank that I had cut the day before and just started painting. And it felt great!
It had been so long since I painted in this style, I wasn’t sure I would get it right, but I forged on. I laid down the undercoating and toning and was quite encouraged. It looked odd, but I saw the my vision coming to life and I knew I was on the right track.
|From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake|
I used acrylics for this work. DecoArt has a medium called “Canvas Gel” which is a clear jelly-like additive which not only extends the drying time of acrylic paints, but also allows better blending. The label says it allows acrylics to “preform like oil paints” which is a little bit of a stretch, but it does help a great deal with keeping the paint workable longer and also varying the transparency for glazing and washing and toning your work. I was very happy with the results.
After about three or four hours, here is where he is at:
|From Northern Lights Polar Bear Snowflake|
I planned on finishing him after supper, but we had unexpected company, which was also a nice treat. I still want to improve the highlights on the top of his head and snout and work on his nose a bit. These will be subtle refinements, but will greatly improve the overall look of the painting.
So what am I going to do with him? I really don’t know. Of course, he will fit inside the snowflake frame if I choose, but I am not really sure that I want that. I could possibly try to make an instructional pattern as to how I accomplished him, but it would definitely be geared for a more advanced painter, as much of the process of painting him will be “feel”.
For now, I feel that I am just going to look at him and enjoy him. I know he isn’t perfect, but he shows me that I didn’t forget how to paint and with some improvement, I can create some nice paintings. I know they will never really support me, but just knowing that I can do them makes me feel really good inside. From what I hear from many of you here, that is the reason why you all do what you do with your woodworking. I had almost forgotten what that feels like. And this is a great reminder.
I hope you all have a wonderful Monday!
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"