I wake up at 4 a.m. every morning and spend an hour writing in my journal. Why do I do that? Anxiety. But also, general self-discovery. The “morning pages," as they’re called in The Artist Way, are a daily practice of writing 3 full pages of stream of consciousness writing first thing in the morning. It’s recommended that you set aside an extra 30 minute to do this, but honestly, it takes me 45-50 minutes to complete them. I’m also using the official Artist Way workbook if that’s a helpful data point for you, but you can choose whatever size paper you like. For four weeks, I’ve had this routine and made this an almost daily practice (i’ve missed three days total when company was in town) and I’m seeing the fruits of this labor. (I did not mean to do that but I’m keeping it.)
The morning pages are supposed to give you insight into your feelings. I can say things in my morning pages that I have been hesitant to say out loud for months or years. “I don’t like that,” “I actually don’t want to do this anymore,” or “I have had this idea forever. I want to do this now.”
There is something about writing something down, I’m sure you’ve heard. But I never experienced the actual power of it until the morning pages. Since I’ve begun writing them- I finally bought a huge easel and put it in my husband’s man-cave: something I’ve been “thinking about” for more than 4 years. Then… I bought another one. I put that one in the other corner. I’ve made progress on a long-neglected painting and created a new one in less than 48 hours. I finally declared that I want the next phase of my life to be immersed in my artwork instead of continuing the corporate climb to a title that may just mean nothing to me. It’s been an illuminating three and a half weeks.
One such idea that sprung from the morning pages one day was Oranges. I just wanted to paint some oranges. I don’t know why- I’m not particularly fond of oranges. They’re fine, I guess. I don’t drink orange juice. I’m super into the color yellow right now, which is totally not orange. I can’t really explain it but I just wrote it down as soon as I thought it, “I wanna paint some oranges on a big canvas.”
Not one to argue with myself, I got a canvas, had the husband pick up some oranges which he handed to me in a grocery bag when I was in the bath; “Here. I got you these.” I looked in the bag and saw three lighter-than-i-was-expecting-but-i’ll-just-mix-darker-paint oranges. “Thanks honey.”
And then I set to ripping them apart.
I spent most of my Sunday on my second easel painting a square a custom-mixed orange. Then watching Neon Genesis Evangeleon on Netflix while it dried. I held my little platter of orange parts in front of me as I stood and outlined the shapes roughly on the canvas. Then I mixed 2 more shades of orange and blocked in the orange elements: darkest for the skin, lighter for the pulp, lightest cream for the inside of the rind.
I’m doing something new with the details- I’m using oil pastels. I used them this weekend on top of Octopus painting to create details and fill in gaps and I’m liking how they add a bit of detail and are easy to work with on dry acrylic. The pastels are giving a unique rough texture to the white rind that would be more time consuming to achieve with smooth acrylic. In this way, this painting is teaching me new techniques. It’s a try-as-you-go experimentation that I love about painting.
I stopped Sunday night with the details, but i realize I need more contrast eventually. I need to decide on a shade for the shadow. Do I keep with the orange hue as originally envisioned or do I introduce a new color? If I do, I’m thinking teal but I’ll have to experiment a touch before I commit. There is something in the all-orange look that appeals to me, but it seems to be disappearing in itself at the same time.
Like the morning pages, this painting is telling me what it wants to be as I put it down on the canvas. Most artists will tell you, that’s the way it happens. There is a vision- but the art already knows what it wants to be. To be honest, sometimes I disagree hard with the end result and it’s frustrating, but in the end- it’s what it was always mean to be. I was meant to paint oranges this weekend and Alex was meant to help me apparently.
I finished the painting! One of the most satisfying parts of painting is adding those final touches. For this one, that was the shadow and the hilights. I knew both had to be minimal and not overpower the work. I didn’t want to seperate the parts from each other too much or give an outline effect on accident. Also, unless you’ve broken the membrane around the pulp, it’s not a very shiny texture. It’s very matte- including the skin and especially the soft inner rind. So the risks were overdoing both shadow and hilight.
I mixed in a bit of purple to the darkest shade of orange for the shadows appearing on the skin and did the same thing with the middle-orange shade for the pulp. For the highlights, I took a tiny brush and ‘dabbed’ tiny, seed-shaped hilights to the pulp. Occassionally, I’d drag a little line to pick up the texture, but that was it.
Now, here is the finished product! The dimension I was missing has now been achieved and I had so much fun painting that I think I may either move onto another citrus fruit or do a eclectic still life. I have a desire to play with more light and shadow now- stay tuned.