Saturday, May 16, 2009

I'm No Van Gogh

My Art Is A Bit Sketchy

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Quite honestly, I think it was my love of painting that in turn kindled my interest in photography. I don't remember when I began painting, but I clearly remember painting a series of scenes from the Apollo 11 landing and the famous photographs of the lunar mission that were published in Life magazine.

I was always fascinated by the way in which the simple act of moving a brush over a blank piece of paper would completely change its surface, transforming it forever. Like every child, I began with watercolours and I can clearly remember the way each sheet of paper would develop bumps or indentations after each brush stroke had carried water across its surface.

When I was about ten years old, a family member brought me a gift from overseas that forever changed the way I would paint - and in the interim, also dictated the manner in which I would use colour, form and shape in my photography. The gift was a simple one, but oh, so memorable. It was a paint-by-numbers set. For the first time, I painted on thick, fibrous paper and also for the first time, I painted with something more substantial than watercolours.

I remember how intricate those numbered pieces were and I can still re-live the joy of working on what I thought were real canvases. In turn, I have carried that joy through to the growth of my own children. When they painted, I painted. When they sketched, I sketched. Art of any description has always been a joint venture in our home.


It's a bit different from the other painting I learnt when I was little. I must have been about eight years old when one of my older brothers, who was eighteen at the time and had already travelled around the world, was re-painting some furniture at home. I wanted to help. He told me firmly that I was too little. I appealed to our mother, who decreed that I was to be encouraged to participate.

It was not a huge success. I remember watching my brother mixing a can of green paint with a can of white paint to form a beautiful light green of custardy consistency. I was elated when I was finally allowed the supreme responsibility of taking on the role of Assistant Paint Mixer. That went well for about ten minutes.

Then I moved, forgot the can of paint was on the floor - and knocked it over. Yes, a full can.

I was sacked as Assistant Paint Mixer. And while my brother cleaned up my mess with a large, thick cloth soaked in turpentine, I sought the chance to make amends.

After several minutes spent pleading my case, I was finally allowed to help in the clean-up process. But it all came to disaster when (you guessed it) I moved, forgot the bottle of turpentine was there - and knocked it over too.


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53 comments:

lakeviewer said...

Oh, perilous first steps! What a hook, though.

mountain.mama said...

How very multi-talented you are. And what an endearing story about the paint and turpentine!

Margaret's Ramblings said...

But look where that start took you. I would consider a little mess like that worthwhile if it inspired a child to pursue his passion.


Margaret

Maddy said...

Maybe so but we all learn from our mistakes. Very therapeutic too.
Best wishes

Kathleen said...

Bless your little 8-year-old soul.

So beautiful that you felt so moved by art and color and the painting muse. No wonder your photography stands out!

When I browse thrift or antique stores, I always come "this" close to buying an old paint-by-number. I still remember the joy of opening each little container of paint...and the smell...ummmm.

Do any of your children still paint? How about showing us some of your work and theirs?

Sandi K said...

I've never understood artists that choose only one medium - it's easy to see how painting could lead one to photography - I love them both!

Your blog is great!

Hilary said...

I truly wonder, is there anything creative that you can't do?

Grace Albaugh said...

Ah the things older siblings put up with when we are small and growing and learning. I love your paint pots. They are art alone. I share you love of it.

lime said...

it's rough being the younger one sometimes isn't it? well, glad it didn't put you off art forever.

Jewels said...

LOL. That sounds like something I would do. I never grew out of my childhood klutziness.

You should post some of your paintings/sketches! We're all unbearably curious you know!

April said...

I love the way you describe the paint. It makes me want to go out and buy some fingerpaints and glossy paper. I don't think I got my fill of fingerpainting as a child - it still holds far too much intrigue for me!

SweetPeaSurry said...

Awww clumsily sweet! I did some watercolor painting during a phase I was in. I truly and absolutely sucked at it. It was a sad realization, but such is life.

:)

Shadow said...

i salute the artists in the world, for it sure is a gift. one i don't have. i'll have to settle for words...

aims said...

I hope your memory has improved with age David!

mssolitaire said...

Artistry comes in so many different mediums! Wonderful!!!

Sandy said...

i really enjoyed this post and love the photos! ahh and what a mess that must have been. That is a beautiful painting....

9na said...

Ops so clumsy... I guess you had a bad day and that your brother got quite angry...
Thank you for adding me to the blog of the day list, it is an honour for me. I am fore sure a better writer in Norwegian than in English, I really struggle with choise of words and grammar... But I like to think about people who read my blog post and laughing about my English, haha!

Daryl said...

Ah what fun ... I stopped painting because I couldnt capture things as well as I would like .. and taking a photo did.

I had a teacher for a watercolor class I was in (I went to a special art-centric high school) and he didnt approve of my style .. he took a wet sponge and squeezed it over my painting .. all the paint ran, the colors diluted I was near tears .. he said 'that's how you use water colors'

Not the best teaching method...

Whoever painted that .. I love it

HBFG said...

Great precious childhood memories! Wonderful story and lovely pictures! As usual!
:))
Michaela

Cheffie-Mom said...

Bravo! Beautiful! What an inspirational post! Thank you!

Sandi McBride said...

I never took you for a clumsy oak David! I'd love to see pics of your Apollo paintings...you have certainly mastered that art very well!
Sandi

French Fancy said...

that is such a sweet story and is the sort of thing I do today - not Paint By Numbers but spill things and knock stuff over

San said...

From humble beginnings...to successful artist. David, your post really captured the feel I have for the lusciousness of liquid color, the transformational aspect that brings us back to canvas and paper.

Fat, frumpy and fifty... said...

Lovely post David..and l adore the paint pots...you are inspiring!

Maggie May said...

You are multi talented.
Artistic..... definitely!
I don't expect that you'd knock over the paint & turps now, would you?

I also started off with water colours! dabbled with oils and went back to water colours.

I do admire your passion for colour!

The Quintessential Magpie said...

Sounds familiar, David! I had two older sisters (one much older) that I wanted so much to emulate. They got to do such fun things, and I managed to do a few, too! :-)

Sheila

Robyn said...

At least you weren't scared off by the whole ordeal.

Kirti said...

haha...funny story...hope you're gentler with your cameras...

Sarah Laurence said...

Your title made me laugh. You capture the personal joy of painting so well. Funny story. I'd say stick with photography over paint by numbers.

John said...

Great posting for the theme, David!

lynn said...

Small surprise over at Cheltenham Daily Photo - do come and look!

TheWritersPorch said...

The jars themselves make for a beautiful picture!!
~ Carol ~

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I'm a bit like that with custard!

It's often the case when one knocks one thing over, another soon follows suit - is it the embarrassment which makes us more clumsy?

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

oh the awkwardness of childhood! I once wanted SO badly to unlock the car door with the keys.... it wasn't our car, but a friends and , yep, I broke the key off in the door..... hard lessons we learn as children and adults.

Jeanette said...

Oh it's tough to be a kid. Glad you didn't run away from painting after that.

Sarah Lulu said...

That is a lovely story and a perfect example of never give up!

Angela said...

I remember my first painting as well and thankfully didn't have any mishaps with spilling any paint or turpentine. I really ought to look for some paint by numbers for my 8 year old son. Happy hunting!

Anna said...

And I wish I could paint too. So you tried to be Pollock, lol, excellent shots and nice story. Anna :)

quilly said...

Well, Jackson, given that your preferred method of painting seems to be spilling and slopping, I have no choice but to call you a Pollock.

quilly said...

Dang -- somebody beat me to that quip! That'll teach me comment before I read what everyone else had to say!

marcia@joyismygoal said...

That picture is jarring:)

Greyscale Territory said...

Hilarious paint story! From such tiny (clumsy?) beginnings great things emerge!

Hootin' Anni said...

Excellent photo composition.

My 'PAINTED' is posted now. Hope you can join me at my blog today sometime. Have a great weekend.

julie said...

Aw, what an memorable childhood experience.

gengen said...

Oh they are beautiful. Happy weekend. Mine is posted.

KISSEDALOTATOADS said...

cute story,.... loved the photos. have a great weekend.

ancient one said...

No wonder you have such a good eye for photographs... you are already an artist... love your paintings..

Thumbelina said...

Oh no! You really were a disaster area in the DIY dept as a child weren't you?
So glad it did not transfer to the artistic dept. ;0)
You have a real eye for colour and the effects of light/shade/water etc. on your subject. It shows in your attention to detail.

Paige V. Baggett said...

I like to allow young children to work with thicker tempera (vs. watercolor) for the very reason you describe in my favorite line: "I was always fascinated by the way in which the simple act of moving a brush over a blank piece of paper would completely change its surface, transforming it forever."
Great story I will share with my preservice teachers this summer in art ed classes.

ArneA said...

Nether am I van Gogh, but a Portuguese critics meant this painting was close

srp said...

This looks lovely though... you ARE an artist... who cares about a little mess!!!! Such beautiful colors.
Mine is up here.

chewy said...

Your name should be Jackson Pollock.

The Things We Carried said...

This reminds me of my boys when they were young, and your mom of me! I would have done just the same.