Cabbage gone wild…

Today, we went to the Expo at the Zaadel Makerij. I’ve been taking a Tuesday night painting class there for four seasons now,  so that’s two years. The time has flown. When I attended my first class, I’d never done anything like serious painting. I’d never done much like casual painting, it was just one of those things I wanted to try and heck, why not?

Ingeborg, my instructor, and Zaadel charmed me right away. The place isn’t just a studio, it’s also a concepts store with second hand and locally made goods, a hair salon (Korte Mette), and a welding workshop. It’s all custom built and constantly changing. Creative people work and live here and you can feel it.

My painting journey has been kind of a weird one. It’s hard to say now what I expected of it when I started. I remember being completely awed by the talent in the room when I saw what the folks on my course were painting. It was also intimidating to be the new person in a group of people who seemed to know each other rather well.

Unexpectedly, one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is selecting a subject and deciding on things like size and color. It’s not about inspiration, but choices. Some time last spring, I took a number of pictures of vegetables as I cooked. I’d cut open a cabbage and be struck, awed even, but the intricacy of the patterns inside. When it came time to select a painting subject, I decided on an oxtail cabbage I’d taken a picture of weeks before. It proved to be an immense challenge.

For several weeks, Tuesday evenings were cabbage painting evenings. I’d paint with utter concentration for two hours or longer and step back to see minimal progress. The goal was to observe and paint shadows in this cabbage. Do you know how many shadows there are in a shadow? Have you ever looked at the shapes of those shadows? At some point, time ran out and I ended up exhibiting my cabbage unfinished. Because of its size (it’s a 70×50 cm canvas) and color there’s something weird about it. I liked that.

No one looked at the painting and saw a cabbage. They saw all kinds of other things, but never a cabbage. I love the effect and decided early on that it would not end up green. This season, with another few months of lessons under my belt, I decided to try to finish the cabbage. The first day I worked on it again, I made some mistakes. The color gradation got messed up, things were all wrong. but then I continued working and in my work, the difference those few extra weeks had madden terms of my ability to see and interpret the color differences became apparent. I was exciting.

I don’t think of this now as a finished piece, but I’m done working on it and had a fantastic time doing it. It’s not yet clear whether I’ll paint again next season or not, I’ve got some scheduling issues. But I do know that if I do,  the final project may well be vegetable again and will certainly be a good bit smaller!

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