My Chickens

MyChickens, oil on canvas panel
My first oil painting

I’ve just talked to my sister this afternoon who loves this painting. It is the first painting I’ve done in about 25 years after quitting art cold-turkey a long time ago. With the prevailing art movement in favor of abstraction at the time, pursuing art didn’t seem practical. I didn’t even own a drawing pad nor a sketching pencil during the entire time through my corporate career. Most people had no clue I could draw, including my own husband. One day I just had an urge to draw on a printer paper, and I was glad to discover that I didn’t lose my artistic ability. I proceeded to purchase art supplies with the encouragement of my husband.

I initially had a fun start on that breezy Autumn day with my chickens free-ranging in my backyard around the hummingbird garden I’ve planted. My chickens were uncooperative models so I had to take photos of each and draw their forms on the canvas with a charcoal at correct sizes for proper perspective. It was my first plein-air painting, the weather was perfect without a lot of mosquitoes, and I was genuinely enjoying myself. My chickens were having dandy time enjoying the sun and scratch treats that I spread out in the grass area to entice them to stay. I wasn’t pleased with a chicken for being a bully that day, so I only painted her rear.

Then things went wrong… I realized the painting wasn’t working out the way I’ve envisioned. The painting looked like a cartoon to me, and I got very frustrated. I was trying to be painterly and loose through simplified brush strokes. I was painting with a student-grade oil paint after reading an oil painting instruction book. The book advised to paint thick with lots of paint, but I ended up battling a soupy surface and slick mess that I couldn’t control easily. I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what…

This painting led me to my first taste of artist’s block. I decided that I needed to at least be able to figure out what I was doing wrong. I’ve won 3 consecutive years 1st place on a prestigious State watercolor competition as a teenager, but oil painting was an unfamiliar medium. I sombered into my academic study and research period to purchase and read all books I could get my hands on. I was afraid to make another “mistake” and being afraid left me crippled and insecure. My husband couldn’t understand my despair and loved the portraits of our chickens.

I told my sister today I’d never show or sell the painting since it is my first painting and is a reminder of my failure. In retrospect, I was too harsh on myself and the painting was an invaluable learning experience. I should’ve attempted and made many more mistakes. You end up with better understanding of lessons after an afflictions, and I’m sure I’d be a better painter by now had I divided my time between studying while incorporating actual practices. I was illogical to expect to play at the Carnegie Hall without Hanon piano scale exercises in analogy.

After I ended the call with my sister, I changed my mind and decided to post the painting online on my newly created blog. It’s easier said than done, but I hope I could remind myself that making mistake is a blessing in disguise for self-growth and I should not be afraid nor be embarrassed of paintings that don’t live up to my expectations.

After all, I always get reminded of the enthusiastic freeing feeling I felt on the start of that sunny day every time I glance at the chicken portraits of Buffy, Boo, Star, Rose, Roxy and Sandy.

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