This is a painting of my sweet cat Beesa. It is also my first oil painting. The title is my idea of a cheeky reference to Magritte’s famous pipe.
Beesa is our first and oldest pet. We are bad and have lost track a bit but she’s around fifteen years old. Beesa is a Bengal cat, and she is registered with The International Cat Association under Jabara Asia. When we brought her home, Asia quickly morphed into the name Beesa, and if you met her you would definitely agree that is her name. If you call her name she will come trotting from anywhere in the house. She likes to chat with you and makes a noise that sounds something like, “Heeeeeeeeeeee” to emphasize her points. She is very little and we call her the micro cat. Everyone who meets her is shocked to find out she is so old, she is still spry as a baby kitten. Given Beesa’s micro size I thought it would be really nice to paint her portrait gigantic-in-comparison. What she lacks in size she certainly makes up for in personality.
About six months after I took up painting seriously again in 2018, I started to question whether acrylics were the ideal medium for me. My biggest issue with acrylic paint is that it dries way too quickly for my liking. Even using Golden retarder medium liberally I’d always get to that awkward tacky paint stage where the brush is nearly dry and starting skipping across the canvas. Not what I want. I want to blend and have time to really work with the paint. I really had the sense that it was time to move over to oil paints. However, other than an incredibly unfortunate looking self-portrait painted in oils for a grade 11 art project (*think every tooth painted individually*shudder*), I didn’t have much experience. The oil paints themselves were a pretty significant financial investment, I was worried about having to use solvent to clean up, and I really found the number of available mediums to be totally overwhelming. Like what on earth is “oil spike of lavender”? The corner housing oil paints and mediums at our local art store was more like a witch’s pantry.
Now maybe I have too much time on my hands but this transition ended up taking forever. Like many months. I researched every detail. I spent a long time obsessing over which oil paints to start with (finally decision: Old Holland professional quality paints) and which mediums to use (that was really, really difficult but ultimately Gamsol and Galkyd). When I had everything purchased and organized, and my husband surprised me with the gift of a second H-frame easel just for my oil painting I came up against an enormous wall – how to transfer my drawing to the canvas for the oil painting? I read somewhere that graphite will “swim” to the top of an oil painting and ruin everything in 100 years. But if not graphite then what? I searched for old school overheard projectors on Kijiji, and finally went as far as to email Gamblin paint company directly for their opinion (their answer? ultimately it probably doesn’t matter). In the end I discovered white saral wax-free transfer paper. Used on top of a canvas prepped with neutral burnt umber this has turned out to be an absolutely awesome solution for transferring images.
But I digress. I love the Beesa painting. It may just be my most favourite painting I have ever painted to date. I love that Beesa probably weighs less than two pounds and her portrait is 24×24″ It is like a million times bigger than her. And then there is the paint: From the first swatches of Old Holland oil paint I was in love. I love, love, love the luminosity and intensity of the colours. Even professional quality acrylic paints don’t stand a chance against Old Holland oils. I loved painting for a few hours, taking a break and coming back to a still totally workable painting. I felt like I planned this painting and this transition for so long that when it came time to actually put brush to canvas the whole thing flowed really naturally. And isn’t that when our best work is bound to happen?
I put a lot of thought into preparing my canvas before finally getting started and it was well worth it. For anyone interested in trying their hand at oil painting, stay tuned for a video tutorial detailing how to start an oil painting and some introduction to oil painting posts all coming up soon!