My artistic inclinations

There are many posts from my old blog that I’d like to republish here. This one isn’t the best of them, but I was chatting to somebody about my paintings earlier, so here it is… Originally published on the 12th August 2010.

It’s time once again to take a breather from the serious reflection on my mistakes, and have a look at something positive (besides my son) that came out of my time on drugs. I can’t deny that I tweaked on these paintings, but I saw several people who thought they were artists under the influence of methamphetamine, and all of their art was terrible. It seems that while this may have been, to a large extent, a vehicle for my obsessive tweaking and inherent obsessive nature, as well as an escape from my problems back then, I also stumbled upon a talent I didn’t know I had.

My first two paintings can be seen on my Flickr oil paintings set. I painted these, also using oils, sometime between January and June 2009 before we lost the house. Actually we moved with my painting equipment, but the easel, brushes and paints and canvasses were all stolen afterwards. When I have the time and can afford to get back into this, I fully intend to take up this hobby again. To any artists who read this, please excuse any comments I make regarding painting style or anything artistic. Bear in mind that I’m a novice. I learned to paint by reading books on the subject, and by trial and error, all while under the influence of copious amounts of methamphetamine. These are all roughly the same size, around 50cm by 40cm.

Leopard at night This was the last one I painted from a calendar photo. I wasn’t completely happy with the colours at the time, and thought it might be too simplistic, with most of the background black, but the end result is possibly my best so far, with the contrast between the bright highlights and the darker tones working really well. leopard2
Beach at sunset Painted from a small photo in a SA landscapes book. I can’t remember which beach, but it’s quite a famous surfing beach, possibly in East London. I was really happy with the way the rocks came out, but struggled a little with the ocean. I tweaked excessively and painted far too many layers on this one. I also tried an experiment that worked quite well for the highlights and finer details for the water in the right-hand side of this one: I painted the initial layers with light blues and whites, then scraped off some of the darker blues with a small, sharp palette knife for the highlights. beach1
Baobab at sunset Also painted from the same book of SA landscapes, this one came out especially well. The rich colours of the sky look almost exactly like the photo. I took advantage of a little artistic license for the tree though, and left out details of the finer branches rather than copying the photo exactly, trying for an out of focus affect. baobab1

I really enjoyed every aspect of painting, and wish I’d taken an interest in it sooner. I should’ve done art in my school days. I knew I could draw, but didn’t see any future in it. I was fascinated by every step of creating an oil painting, starting with an empty canvas, mixing the paints until the colours were just right, and creating something from nothing. This was perhaps the only thing I could tweak on and not screw up, since adding more layers of various opacity lends toward the illusion of a 3-dimensional image, with rich textures and tonal depth. I developed my own style of painting (maybe not especially unique, I don’t know), where I would initially paint the whole canvas in one sitting using a wet-on-wet style, then when that dried, in subsequent sittings I’d always use two brushes for each colour; a wet brush to apply a little paint, and a dry brush, which I’d continually clean and wipe, to manipulate the applied paint. I’d apply many layers (sometimes too many thanks to tweaking), sometimes blending and toning the wet paint very carefully, sometimes making my tonal changes using semi-transparent layers, and sometimes manipulating the paint for interesting affects when it was almost but not quite dry.

Actually I’m fascinated and intrigued by the creative process as a whole, no matter what the medium of my creation may be. Whether it’s a computer program, an oil painting or a written article, once I’m “in the zone” the implementation details become unimportant, and it feels like the program writes itself, the painting paints itself, and the article writes itself. I’m just the guide, making use of the relevant tools and techniques that I’ve acquired through learning (usually reading) and practice. Of course, luck always plays an important role for me, in almost every aspect of my life. I often get excellent results even without much practice. In rehab, I was taught that insanity is when we do the same thing, expecting different results. Maybe that applies to addicts and their futile attempts at trying to control their drug use, and maybe that is the correct definition of insanity, I don’t know, but otherwise, it sounds almost like some sales and marketing bullshit to me. In the creative process, I would define insanity as repeating the same thing and expecting the same results. One of the most exciting aspects of the creative process, to me, has always been that the implementation of my ideas may come out totally different today vs. tomorrow. Whatever whim or fancy leads me to do things one way today may not exist tomorrow. Were I to write this same article tomorrow, it would be completely different. Although it would contain identical photos of my paintings, the message in my words would differ a great deal. Nothing I plan ever comes out exactly as intended, and this always keeps things interesting and fun.

People have complemented and flattered me, telling me I’m very gifted. But I don’t believe I have three separate gifts. I don’t have a gift for computer programming and a gift for art and a gift for writing. I think I have one gift, which I can’t clearly define, but has something to do with my ability to create anything I can with the tools and knowledge I have, often without much knowledge thanks to my intuition. I hope to continue to use this gift for the rest of my life, to the best of my ability, and without ever tainting it with drugs again. If I’m wrong, then I could be in deep trouble… Don’t people who are so gifted always self-destruct? I’d hate to think that I could be too gifted, or too smart for my own good, destined to time and time again torture myself into depression with my own thoughts, and then succumb to self-destruction and doom through drugs or some other obsessive addiction personality disorder.


About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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