You don’t have to be a little kid to have an awesome first day of school

Art studio at USM

New classroom, pencils, notebook, lunch box, outfit, shoes, things to learn. How I always loved the first day of school and here it is again, only I’m not a kid anymore. At least, not according to my chronological age, which is 67. I usually hesitate when it comes to putting that figure out there, but I’ve decided I have to get over it. So there.

Diane's workstation

My space

So … what did I need for my first day of school? This semester, I’m taking painting and drawing and I have lots of fun supplies to get. Like tubes of paint.

Tubes of acrylic paint

I love their names.

Cadmium yellows and reds, alizarin crimson, ultramarine and pthalo blues, yellow ochre, umbers — raw and burnt. The umbers tend to be dirt cheap (relatively speaking) because that’s what they’re made of — dirt.

Purple paint

Purple, on the other hand, not so cheap. I got an incredible book from my daughter last Christmas called The Brilliant History of Color in Art. In the chapter on purple, it says that when Julius Caesar went to Egypt he wasn’t only seduced by Cleopatra, he also fell in love with the color purple she wore.

“But, it says in the book, “purple was an extremely expensive and wasteful color. More than 250,000 murex brandaris and muresx trunculus shellfish were needed to extract half an ounce of dye, just enough for a single toga.”

We commoners can now afford to wear purple because about 150 years ago Henry Perkin, an English chemist, accidentally created a synthetic purple compound when he was trying to synthesize the malaria drug quinine. I believe it made him a rich man.

I like to make my own purples by mixing reds and blues, but that’s another post.

Paintbrushes

We also need brushes for class. Different sizes of rounds and flats and filberts.

And we need lots of bristol board because that’s what we’ll be painting on for the most part. Canvasses can be expensive and we are students after all. Students who will be expected to do a lot of paintings this semester — two dozen — in class and for homework.

Students putting on gesso

We got out of class early today, but not before we each prepared a piece of bristol board for the next class by putting on a coat of gesso. I used to be afraid of gesso until I got a chance to play with it in a 2D design class. So much fun!

I need to thank fellow students Danny Evarts and Liza Stratton for letting me immortalize them gessoing their bristol boards.

Danny, 45, works in the publishing industry, mostly doing illustration, design and layouts. He’s back in school because he’s looking for a change.

Flyer for Danny Evarts Pulped Fiction show

You should check out Danny’s upcoming show Pulped Fiction: Stories in Paper at the Pope-Cheney Art Studio in the Wishcamper Center on the USM Portland Campus. The opening reception is Tuesday, September 8 from 6-8 (He says there’ll be food) and the exhibit will be up from September to November.

Liza, 20, is working toward a degree in elementary education with an emphasis on art education. We were in another painting class together last semester and we’re also friends on Facebook. Two more things I love about being here — seeing familiar faces and staying connected.

Oops. Gotta go now so I can get to my drawing class. What a great first day of school it’s been!

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

At the tender age of 65, I decided to go back to college to get an art degree. What inspires me most about painting is that for the first time in my life, I don’t worry (too much!) about making mistakes and I don’t get frustrated (too much!) because something doesn’t turn out as I imagined. Instead, I find myself noticing problems and trying to figure out solutions. Over and over, I will ask myself, “I wonder what will happen if I try this?” It’s the same question I asked when I realized that pursuing a BFA at USM was within my grasp. And so, I am! I also write another BDN blog called Catching Health. Take a moment to check it out at catchinghealth.bangordailynews.com.