©Annette Bartlett-Golden, Country Park. Oil on canvas, 9 x 12 inches. $175
Oil Paint, My Friend
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
It was a visceral attraction. I fell in love with oils almost as soon as the paints were in front of me on my palette, and that was long before I could do anything more than smear them on a practice sheet of canvas. The brightness of the colors, the pungent smell of linseed oil, and the creaminess of the paint tantalized my senses. My grandfather painted with these and so would I! It was an unuttered vow, a personal challenge. After my debacle with oils ‘helping’ my grandpa around age three, I was determined to learn this beguiling medium.
More than forty years and hundreds of oil paintings later, I still love oils, though in addition to their sensual properties I appreciate their enormous versatility, durability, and forgiving nature. With oils I can build up successive thin layers of paint or create textured brush strokes to emphasize grass or leaves with a vividness that won’t fade. Because of the medium’s capacity for opacity, or hiding power, it’s easy to correct mistakes or change directions halfway through a painting. Because it takes oils from a day to weeks to surface dry, I have time to blend colors on the canvas and work wet-in-wet, if I wish.
Afternoon in the studio with my dear friends, the oil paints.
For some people, the long drying time of the paint and the necessity of using a solvent such as mineral spirits to clean brushes is enough for them to shy away from the medium. It’s true that the cleanup can be a lengthy process, especially if you use ten or twelve different brushes at a time, as I do. However, there are all sorts of products available to control the drying time of oil paints. Even the choice of paint brands can make a huge difference. The brand I use often dries to touch in a day, two at most, while others can take much longer.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed getting to know the properties of my oil paints much as I would get to know a good friend’s personality. Indeed, my oil paints are as dear as one of my closest friends! I absolutely love painting with oils and can’t imagine never having tried this amazing medium.
Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel Ceiling, fresco, 1508-12, (Vatican City, Rome)
Michelangelo Paints the Sistine Chapel
by Annette Bartlett-Golden
Recently, I’ve been reading a hodge podge of books on subjects such as meditation, Barcelona, olives, Granada, and Canadian painters. Often, I’ll start one of these tomes and halfway through lose interest. So what book can I write about to share with you? Casting my thoughts back to nonfiction books that captured my attention and have stayed with me,Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King leapt to mind. While, I confess it’s been years since I read it, the images evoked remain vivid and zestfully alive.
Ross King chronicles the creation of Michelangelo’s glorious frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome for Pope Julius II beginning in 1508; but more than that, he paints a stunning picture of a virtuoso artist and the milieu of his times. Traveling through the pages, I was transported to a time when Rome was the powerful seat of the Christian world, prostitution and syphilis ran rampant, and extraordinary artistic genius abounded. I met dazzling Raphael at work painting private papal rooms; young, brash, pious Martin Luther on business representing German monasteries; worldly Pope Julius II, also known as “The Warrior Pope” and an extravagant art patron; and of course, masterful Michelangelo.
“Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered one of the greatest masterpieces of all time,” declares the text on the Amazon page where you can buy the book.
What I remember most about Michelangelo, however, besides his brilliance in handling such an ambitious commission and his arduous labor during the project which included painting during a frigid Roman winter, are the odd things. For example, he would go for weeks without taking off his boots, with rather unpleasant results. And, despite his genius, he was reluctant to take the job of painting the Sistine Chapel. It’s these sorts of things that bring to life the seminal artist Michelangelo, and one of King’s specialties as a historian and exceedingly engaging author.
I hope you have the opportunity to experience this fascinating book for yourself!
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.