Pictured above is Laprarie's second largest collage, finished in 2019 photo by Margaret Laprarie

An Ode to Oil Painting

Laprarie recounts her artistic journey from collage to oil painting along with some current projects.

I’ve painted my whole life, but for the first time, I feel like I’m really painting. As a kid I always had some acrylic paints lying around—a few of those Crayola watercolor sets—and sometimes I would make art that I liked, but I felt like something was missing. In high school I had a very intense galaxy painting phase, but where was that getting me? What connection to space or the galaxy did I actually have? Honestly, it was nothing more than the pretty colors, and I knew that. Eventually I moved on from painting entirely and found a much more fulfilling medium: collage!

When I returned from my short stint as an exchange student in Berlin in the summer of 2018, I had no idea what to do with myself. I had all these new experiences and feelings, and coming back home I felt so restless, so bored. I also had a lot of paper souvenirs, postcards, brochures, newspapers and stickers that I didn’t know what to do with. I’d been exploring collage throughout that year but on a much smaller scale, using only a sheet of paper or so for one project. I decided to try something bigger. Using scraps from magazines, the things I had picked up in Berlin and a few homemade pieces of watercolored paper with song lyrics and book quotes, I created my first large collage, the theme being nothing other than myself.

This was the first of what would become a yearly practice, where I collect as many pieces as I can find and spend a portion of my summer covering my bedroom in little bits of paper, paint and glue as I create a new collage. They line the walls of my apartment, giving every visitor a glimpse into the things that fascinate me.

Last fall, I took my first painting class. I had no idea what to expect, and my first couple of paintings were incredibly ugly. I had to use oil paint for the first time, and I wasn’t sure how to master its temperamental qualities; don’t add too much oil but make sure you add some, use one jar for cleaning and one for mixing, wait an entire week for one little section to dry, make sure you put all your oily rags in the red fire-proof trash can so they don’t spontaneously combust!

As much as the oil paint puzzled me and permanently stained a few of my favorite articles of clothing (yes, I had an apron; yes, I’m still so unexplainably messy), eventually I grew to love it, and I think it grew to love me. I loved swirling around the gloopy paint with my palette knife to make a new color. I loved the smoothness of the paint, the way it would seamlessly blend with the paper and the other colors. The more I used it, I started to feel more and more in control. I really felt at home once our assignments became more abstract, and I could worry more about capturing a feeling than copying an object.

I came out of painting class with a B—my first B in college and something I joked about for a while. Honestly, I wasn’t upset at all. I did think it was funny, but I had learned so much that my grade didn’t matter to me. By the time I completed my final project, I realized I really did love to oil paint. It calmed me down, helped me clear my head and gave me a chance to catch up on some podcasts or just zone out to my favorite album. I thought about art in a way that my previous work with collage didn’t really have room for.

Oil paint and all its various supplies made up a large chunk of my Christmas list this year, and I acquired enough to set up my own little studio when I returned back to campus. Sure enough, that’s exactly what I did. With my roommate away for the semester, I took over our dining table in pursuit of a couple new projects I hope to submit to a local art show. One of them in particular I am finding very fulfilling, because I’m painting one of my collages! In the summer of 2019, before I moved to Tulsa and started college, I taped four pieces of posterboard together and covered them head to toe in pictures, patterns and words of every color. I kept this collage on the wall of my dorm for two years, and now it hangs in the living room of my apartment. I love when people go up close to it, reading the quotes I picked out and studying the various figures I’ve included.

I decided to paint this collage because it is so inherently me, and I wanted to re-explore it in a different medium and see if that would change my experience with it. In a very modernist fashion I wanted to break it down to its most basic forms and color, and focus on those relationships rather than the content within the words or the people that I had chosen. It’s still a work in progress, but one that I hope to complete soon. I have greatly enjoyed this project, watching something so familiar to me become something different. I think that oil paint is the perfect medium for this, as its fluidity and ability to blend so well really captures the cohesive nature of a collage.

Although I could have picked a less messy medium as my latest hobby, I’m really grateful for something that keeps me off my phone, keeps me calm and helps me express myself and the things around me.

Post Author: Margaret Laprarie