Some Skill Required


This past Saturday I had nothing to do, so I decided to become a famous painter.

From tying a tie to speaking Mandarin to gutting a trout, Youtube hosts a “how to” video for practically everything. This may be hyperbole, but Youtube evidences some of the last bits of decency remaining in our society. Where else do millions of people across the globe gather to teach one another skills, for no compensation other than the general betterment of humanity, the satisfaction that you have contributed a drop to the universal pool of knowledge? Youtube is a digital expertise swap. It’s a virtual learning commune. It’s video-sharing philanthropy. Of course this notion of goodwill excludes sharers who post videos the likes of, “How to keep people I have trapped in my basement quiet.” I don’t know if this is an actual video– I was too afraid to check. But if Luke Skywalker has a dark side, so must Youtube.

In the past, Youtube has taught me to make a rose out of duct tape, to swing dance, and to roll homemade sushi. As we speak, Phil is using Youtube to learn a guitar riff from Wayne’s World. So why shouldn’t it teach me to be an artist?

I google imaged “beautiful paintings” and was immediately struck by a series of vibrant works, all by the talented Russian painter, Leonid Afremov. It was settled; I definitely wanted to reproduce one of his. Only thirty seconds had gone by, and I already decided who to imitate. This “being a famous painter” thing wasn’t so hard! I spent the next hour scrolling through his collection until settling on a depiction of a couple walking beneath an umbrella through a city park. It was going to look great hanging in our hallway.

With my painting chosen, I turned to Youtube to find a tutorial on how to paint in Leonid Afremov’s style. Lo and behold, a quick search yielded a handful of videos posted by…. the artist! The master himself! I was about to learn how to paint like Leonid Afremov, FROM Leonid Afremov. Back in the 16th century, artists traveled for days, even weeks, to request an audience with greats like Michelangelo. Yeah, I made that up, but Wikipedia just confirmed I at least had the correct century.

I watched a couple videos, including a 50 minute one where Afremov painted from blank canvas to finished work. It was captivating. I mean, I skipped ahead a bit once I got the gist, because who has the attention span to watch a 50 minute Youtube video, but it was really a gift to witness his genius at work. Then off I went to Michael’s to purchase the tools of my new trade. Maybe one day aspiring artists would Youtube me!

I returned with acrylics, palette knives, an easel, canvases, and confidence. The last acquisition, however, dissolved with the first swipe of paint.

I’ve been told that, in my blog, I give myself a hard time, making myself sound incompetent, lazy, and an overall inferior specimen. In this case, I am all of those things, and words alone won’t do it justice. At least I am modest because, if I had any pride at all, I would not be about to share the images I am about to share.

Here’s the Afremov painting I attempted to model.


And here’s mine.


I’m 26 years old, and this took me 70 minutes. My paper plate palette with its dried paint stains had more artistic integrity than this nursery schooler’s blue mustached monster. (I originally wrote “1st grader’s” in the previous joke, but when google imaging “1st grader art,” realized I had to take it down two notches.)

I guess I should have watched the entirety of Afremov’s 50 minute Youtube video. And then some.

In retrospect, the hour dedicated to selecting the perfect painting to imitate seems a touch silly, as does the $40 spent on paint supplies. I am, however, relieved I downsized to the 4-pack of canvases from the 7-pack I originally grabbed, driven by the false sense of my potential.

Phil tried to help, suggesting perhaps it was the type of painting you needed to step back to appreciate, and I think he was right. Trouble is, there wasn’t enough space in our apartment to get the distance necessary to make this painting look its best.

Then we tried rotating the canvas, thinking maybe it was meant to be portrait rather than landscape.


Then I hoped it would mature overnight, like a photo developing or a steak marinating. But the next morning, sadly, it looked just as “special” as it had the night before. No magic art elves had come and gone to reinvent my ego. I still sucked.

As with everything, there is a lesson here. While Youtube may teach– how to kiss with passion, solve a Rubik’s cube, cheat on any test, or paint like Afremov– there are limits to what you can learn. Or at least to what I can learn.

Although, I just read on Afremov’s Wikipedia page that he uses oil. I had acrylics. A classic blunder. Yes, yes. That explains everything.


8 thoughts on “Some Skill Required

  1. Love it. I loved your opening line too.

    YouTube taught me how to fix a potentially expensive car problem for $0 in about 3 minutes. Fot that I am eternally grateful.

  2. i go through this about once a year. And for some reason all the art supplies I bought the last year are always gone, so it gets expensive.

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