Ever get the feeling you’re overthinking a project?

I know exactly how I want to paint the figure, and then I thought “Hang on. I tend to treat the background as an afterthought, but this time, I really want to be sure I choose the RIGHT colour scheme”. So I cracked open Photoshop, and next thing I know, I have too many variations to choose from.

My husband likes #6, but for me, it’s a toss-up between #4 and #8. At least… I think? 😉

View From the Train

©2019, Emma Pittson, “View From the Train”. Photoshop.

When it comes to selecting a seat on the train between Montreal and Toronto, you have two choices: you can either face Southwards and catch a view of Lake Ontario (for at least part of the trip), or you can face North and watch endless farmland and villages roll by. I’m so glad I chose the land side because who would want to miss out on a sunset like this?

South Island Mountains

©2021, Emma Pittson, “South Island Mountains”. Oil on paper, 6″ x 8″.

Confession time: this New Zealand landscape has been sitting on my easel as a faint pencil outline for almost 3 years. THREE. YEARS. I wasn’t satisfied with my first attempt, so I plugged away at different studies, first as a digital colour test, and then as a digital value study.

First attempt in oils – bright colours and all!

Eventually, having studied the Heck out of this thing, I felt ready to make a second attempt. I stretched and gesso’d the paper; I taped the edges for a nice, clean border; I transferred the lineart; and then… I got bored with it? Honestly, it was so long ago that I can’t even remember what happened! I’m guessing that it was a combination of work/parenting obligations getting out of hand, and the fear that I had simply chosen the wrong image to wrestle (let’s face it, for such an impressive landscape, the camera lens makes it look pretty flat).

Colour Study in Photoshop (I may have cheated and used the Colour Picker)
Value Study in Photoshop. This was my screen saver for a while!

Ain’t gonna lie: the final version almost died on the easel. I hadn’t touched REAL PAINT in 3 years, and water-soluble oils are a tricky beast even at the best of times. I got so frustrated that I even resorted to working with a palette knife! But I threw my faith behind the power of layers and persevered, and while it’s not perfect (colours are STILL too bright! Is it my eyes or is it you, Holbein Duo Aqua oils?), I can now say that this painting is DONE. And it only took 3 years! 😉

First Painting of 2021

©2021, Emma Pittson, “Laurentian Lake”. Acrylic on canvas, 8″ x 10″ x 0.5″.

I have made some New Year’s resolutions – although not many because, let’s face it, 2020 was an abysmal year, and I think that, on a certain level, it’s enough just to keep going every day. So with that in mind, and with the bar at a very low and comfortable level, I have vowed to devote 15 minutes a day to making art! And it can be anything: digital art, painting on canvas, serious studies, doodles, original work, fanart, commissions, prepping a painting surface, or gathering inspirational images for a future piece. As long as I’ve done something, I can check that day off my calendar. The goal is to have an unbroken line of check marks for the entire month. And so far, so good!

Thanks to the pandemic, I have been permanently ensconced in my dining room since March while my husband has taken over the office/studio. I really hesitated to break out the paints because the only space left in the house for artmaking was, well, right back in the dining room, and I felt that I was already spending enough of my waking hours there – not to mention the slow and insidious breaking down of the boundary between work and home that is a feature of Life these days. Mentally, how would I make the separation? If I’m sitting down at my easel, would I feel guilty and be unable to work if I heard that tell-tale “ping” from the computer letting me know that a Teams message has just arrived? If I crack open the water-soluble oils, will the smell of linseed oil (which I’m not a fan of) linger long after I’d done a final clean-up and make it harder for me to concentrate on my job the next day?

Thankfully, none of this has turned out to be a problem! Windows can be opened to clear out the smell of the linseed oil, and computer speakers can be turned off to ensure a peaceful studio (it helps that my co-workers also want to reclaim their lives outside of work, so the threat of urgent e-mails at 9pm isn’t really a thing after all). If anything, I find myself turning away from the computer every now and then throughout the day and looking longingly at my easel! (If any of my co-workers are reading this, you now know why I occasionally turn my head screen right and gaze wistfully into the middle-distance…)

Here are some progress pics…

Colour Blocking