I took an adult education course in beginning oil painting in early 1998. Oil painting had been something I feared: all the paints, the toxic turpentine, the brushes, the mess to clean. I'd done pencil sketches (graphite, regular color pencils and watercolor pencils), which were nice and neat and very portable.

But oil painting is visceral. When we learned to mix colors the second class session I was hooked. Many thanks go also to artist/instructor Ellen Stutman at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.

Clockwise from left:
Yosemite Tree
The first painting done outside class. During a trip that Mary and I had made to Yosemite National Park in late 1997, I found and photographed a towering sycamore near Bridalveil Falls. I had just completed an 8-hour drive including a climb, rife with blind turns, up past 6,000 feet after a start at sea level. I was not feeling quiescent. Then I saw this tree, and simply being in its presence quieted my nerves.

My favorite of all the still lifes we did in class.

Derek Hudson's photo caught and held my attention as I flipped through the pages of Life magazine. The caption underneath reads: "A long civil war has claimed the lives of 1.3 million Sudanese, most of them Christians or followers of indigenous religions. Sudan's Islamic government presses Christian boys into its army, indoctrinating them in Islam before sending them off to fight. Some, like the youth shown here, evade conscription and trek for days in search of refuge. They have little more than the tattered clothing on their backs and a cross, usually homemade, worn like an amulet to ward off misery and death."
Acrylic, based on a black-and-white image I downloaded from the Web. Along with Sudan, this painting (my second one done after my move to Florida) was on display in the Citrus County Art League gallery.

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© 1998-2005, Elissa Malcohn Version 5, 2005-07-31
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