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Reporter's Notebook: Learning to take my time

July 21, 2011|By Joanna Clayjoanna.clay@latimes.com
  • Joanna Clay and her oil painting at an Art-A-Fair workshop.
Joanna Clay and her oil painting at an Art-A-Fair workshop. (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

This week, I took some time out from being a journalist and tried to be something new: an artist.

Art-A-Fair offers daily art workshops, so I decided to take a stab at one — oil painting with festival artist Richard D. Keyes.

I was looking forward to the Wednesday class, but at the same time I was apprehensive because the extent of my artistic ability is drawing stick figures, stars, Christmas trees and hearts. Even a simple landscape seemed daunting. Blending colors would be pushing it.

I showed up right on time at 10:30 a.m. Keyes was waiting.

Jaye Saha of Laguna Niguel sat beside me. She had some experience painting and seemed to understand the task ahead.

The last time I remembered painting was in kindergarten, and I'm pretty sure it involved using just my fingers.

Keyes, 81, has been at the Art-A-Fair for 21 years and started painting in 1957. Patient and full of knowledge, Keyes turned out to be a valuable ally as I embarked on my painting journey.

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First, Keyes had us choose an image. He shared photographs he had taken of various beach scenes and a book of landscapes.

I chose a desert scene with palm trees. I trusted him when he told me it wouldn't be difficult. After some preliminary sketching, the paints were out.

I became obsessed with finishing and realized that while one talented young woman was spending the full two hours on clouds, I was already onto the foreground and figuring out how to touch up my palm trees.

At first, my setting looked less like Palm Springs and more like some far-off planet. My sky was a strange combination of grays and peaches, the mountains were a vibrant shade of purple, and the ground was a hot fluorescent green.

Keyes looked at my painting and nicely suggested I might want to make the colors less "intense."

The former Long Beach City College art teacher sat down in my chair and showed me how to "fill in the blanks," so to speak. Instead of solely focusing on the bigger picture, I needed to think about the details.

He mixed various shades of paint with ease and showed me how to consider the distance and where the sun might hit the palm, shading the base.

I realized how a tendency of mine — to see a goal ahead and run toward it — had crept into a day of artistic relaxation. Without knowing it, Keyes and the class made me realize the importance of slowing down and taking my time.

Whether it's creating a new color or adding a detail, it's important to stop and pay attention to the small things.

Art-A-Fair workshops run Monday through Sunday and feature every medium from jewelry making and collages to oils and watercolors. Visit http://www.art-a-fair.com for more information.

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