Ana experimenting with oil paint colors.
Teaching Ana to Paint
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
I was about seventeen when I took my first oil painting class and I fell in love with painting in oils. So teaching teenagers to oil paint is especially dear to my heart. For a month I have had the pleasure of teaching Ana, my fourteen-year-old cousin from Panama, the basics of painting with oils.
I started with an introduction to the care and use of materials. Then Ana experimented using ultramarine blue and paint thinner to make a variety of brushstrokes. She discovered that a little paint here creates a pale line, there a lot more paint on the brush makes a dark solid stroke.
First experiments with ultramarine blue oil paint by Ana.
To introduce Ana to tonal values (a range of darks and lights), I had her make a monochromatic painting. I set up a cube under lights and Ana made a painting of it using only black and white paint and three shades in between, which she learned to mix. Ana gained an understanding of the importance of values and how they can define form and the appearance of space.
Of course a great part of the joy of oil painting is the range of possible colors. For the next exercise, I played music for Ana and asked her to paint her emotional response to the music by using her choice of paint colors. Before starting the exercise, she added her own twist by placing strips of blue painters’ tape on the canvas. After she had finished, Ana removed the tape with excitement, revealing a new composition. This process let her experiment freely with colors from the paint tubes and notice how they mixed on her canvas.
On the left is Ana's music painting with the blue tape and the finished result is on the right.
I set up a simple still life with an orange sitting on a blue cloth lit by a small spotlight. I had Ana begin by drawing the composition using burnt umber mixed with a paint thinner and then painting in the dark and lighter areas. This is called the underpainting. Over that Ana painted the blues of the cloth and the colors of the orange. Although the painting is unfinished, Ana achieved the purpose of the exercise which was to paint a scene from life with a good composition using tonal values and a few basic colors. I think it came out well.
Ana's unfinished still life of an orange and a blue cloth. You can see parts of the underpainting peeking out at the edges.
After that it was Ana’s turn to choose the subject for the next painting. She decided on trees so we put on our jackets and walked up the street to take reference photos for her tree painting. Back in the studio we made drawing and painting sketches from one of the reference photos. Experimenting and refining the composition for a painting is one of the purposes of preliminary sketches. Through this process, Ana realized that the scene she had selected was too complicated for her. I selected a simpler version for her that featured just a few tree branches rather than the canopies of several trees. Over two more classes Ana worked on her tree painting. I reminded her to observe the areas of dark and light carefully and to step back from the painting often to gain perspective.
Ana working on her tree painting over several classes.
Ana's finished tree painting!
We still have a couple more weeks for painting classes. I’m excited about our next projects and to see what else Ana can accomplish!
Searching for cork in the Parque Natural de La Sierra de Espadán.
By guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden
Often when thinking of oak trees, an image of tall stately trees comes to mind. However, the oak genus has a strong connection to wine - from the barrels used to age wine in to the corks sealing the bottles. Quercus suber is the tree from which cork is harvested.
The cork tree, Quercus suber, is an interesting plant, intermediate in size with deeply fissured bark and evergreen leaves. At home in the Dehesa of Spain and Portugal as well as the Mediterranean Rim, it has evolved a unique strategy to resist the regions’ forest fires. Commercially used as an insulator, cork bark also functions as insulation for the tree, insulating the trunk and branches from the heat of forest fires and allowing swift recovery. While very rare, the bark can grow to 20 cm thick if the tree is left to grow naturally. Limited in range primarily by the presence of suitable acidic soils, Q. suber requires around twenty years before the first harvest of bark, and depending on the region, nine to fifteen years to reach a suitable thickness necessary to produce wine bottle stoppers.
Last semester I took a class called Protection of Forest Health: Wood and Cork. As part of the class, we took a field trip to the Parque Natural de La Sierra de Espadán to learn about cork. Near the park we visited the Sierra Espadan Corks company and watched the cork manufacturing process first hand.
View of the Parque Natural de La Sierra de Espadán.
The first peel of bark from the cork tree is usually too rough for making stoppers and is commonly used as a decorative substrate for orchids and other epiphytes in cultivation. Planks of bark to be used for stoppers are usually dried from six months to a year before being boiled in water to clean and improve the workability of the cork.
Once dried, the planks are cut in strips the length of a stopper and manually or mechanically punched. The blanks then get sorted optically by machines and by hand into differing grades and defective stoppers are removed. The blanks are then labeled with ink for red wines and branded for white wines where ink could potentially bleed. Finally, the blank is usually waxed with paraffin or silicone, although some manufactures use naturally derived paraffin of beeswax.
After sorting, washing, trimming, stamping, and waxing, the corks are finished.
The Sierra Espadán Corks company is one of the very few to use FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified cork which ensures that the product comes from sustainable forests. The company also uses cork from the natural reserve, one of the only parts of Valencia where cork grows. The conditions here require fifteen years between peels but the end result is a special cork sought after for some of the finest vintages of Spanish wins.
After seeing the factory, we hiked through part of the Sierra Espadán reserve and observed cork trees in different stages of growth. We also noted fungi and diseases in Q. suber and intermixed pines. This was a grand experience in very gorgeous country.
Guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden is a Horticulture Science major at North Carolina State University. He is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain.
Students walking through parts of the Parque Natural de La Sierra de Espadán near Valeancia, Spain.
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.