How I Start a Painting
HOW I START A PAINTING
When people talk to me about my artwork, I'm invariably
asked the following questions;
What are you painting now? How long does it
take to paint one of your paintings? How
do you do, what you do? What materials
do you use? Which paints, which brushes?
And the list goes on.....
Personally, when I create a painting, it
has to start with some inspiration, some idea,
some image that prompts me to
start thinking in terms of an image in a frame, As well
as devoting the type of
time that I will have to commit in order to complete a full
inspiration will have to be great enough to carry me through the potential
weeks of painting..... through the highs and lows of process, that will inevitably happen.
A famous artist once said that the most important thing an
artist can learn was when to
off of a bad idea and this holds
true with any inspiration and how well it actually
translate into a painting.....
In obtaining my art inspirations, ideas, I spend a great
deal researching, traveling and
photographing what I find to be unique items
and scenes. To this end, as much as
possible, I use my own photographic reference, combining anywhere from three or
four images, to as many as ten, to
complete the majority of the reference required for
a painting. Knowing full
well that at times, looking for inspiration can be as unfulfilling
for gold, and that in most instances inspiration will occur spontaneously,
opposed to being the result if a conscious search.
Painting and Supplies
I only transfer and paint one element of the composition
at a time, this allows me to
remain fully concentrated on the intricacies of
that single piece. When finished to my
satisfaction, I'll go onto the next
element. Without question, as I add elements, I ll have
to go back and adjust
the lighting, color and or contrast on an earlier section, to insure
components read properly against each other. I normally start with a smaller
item, this allows me to get a feel for the painting, so to speak a rhythm.....For this
process, I want to
start smaller than larger, in case I have a change of heart about
Insofar as doing the materials and doing the actual painting, I have a ritual and set
grouping of supplies and elements in and
around where I paint. For a palette I use a
10 coated paper plate (not Styrofoam) you can buy them at the supermarket in bulk.....
once I've I selected my palette of colors, I have the
tubes set in order on a nearby
window ledge and I always place them in the same
order on the palette. I use
Liquitex Basic Acrylics, although less expensive
than the top of the line Liquitex and
although they purportedly don t have the
same pigment content, I've found that the
basic pigments still do just fine. I
always keep a wide range of
good brushes on hand,
means a sable brush that points well. I keep the plastic tubes over the
when they were purchased) I want them retain their shapes as long as
with anything from a 00 to size 10 brushes. I sometimes work on a wooden articulated
easel, that I can adjust to if need be, place a painting
surface in a flat position. I also
have a large painting light (with both warm,
cool bulbs to simulate daylight).
Although it appears that my painting area
can become messy at times, I always
know where things
are and can find them without too much of a hassle.....one of the
important aspects of my creative process is to be comfortable in my work
space.....which is something that only I can ascertain.....I just want to be
because I ll be spending a lot of time in this area.
My Painting Surface
If I work on masonite, it will be 1/8 thick. that I cover
with Golden's Gesso. On a
larger piece (for example, approximately 19" X 30" ) I ll use a standard 2 paint brush
that one might use painting
the trim on a house to apply the Gesso. I paint the Gesso
on the surface using
strokes in random directions, always keeping the surface wet and
fluid. If you
try and paint the Gesso after it s started to dry, it will gather and leave
objectionable surface. I generally will lay down a minimum of three coats. I
leave the surface natural, allowing the brush strokes to remain (some people
these down, I choose not to), personally I feel that they add personality to the final
piece. From time to time, I ll also use a heavier build up gesso, using
a smaller brush
(1/2", 3/4" ) I'[ll make smaller, more dabbing types of strokes
that will leave a heavier
build-up. I generally do this on smaller paintings where I m not going to try and
obtain a high degree of detail.....trying to
paint detail on an irregular surface can be
detrimental to yourmental health.
Transferring The Image(s)
On my computer, I'll combine all of the photographic
elements, and then print the
composite out full size. I then measure out a grid (anywhere from 1/2” to 1” squares)
and rule, with pen, over the composite photograph. I do a duplicate grid in pencil on
a piece of frosted acetate,
matching the grid that s been ruled on the photograph.
Along the top, bottom
and each side of the grid I number the rows, so that they
correspond with the
number at the other end of the row, allowing me to easily find
an area on the grid......
To that end, I usually grid this for final size, proportion
and transfer of elements onto
the gesso. One of the more important reasons for
my using this process.....Opposed to
some artists, I never draw the fullpainting onto my painting surface, I choose to do
small elements, or small
paintings within the full painting. This allows me to
concentrate on a specific area without getting lost in the totality of the painting.....
and if I want to
start an area that‘s free from the area that I've been working on, the
grid allows me to do that and still stay consistent with the proportions and
within the composition. This is a technique that was used by the old
transferring their sketches and rough art to larger canvases and walls (in the case of
murals), although generally they were enlarging their images.
Once I've selected an element, I'll draw it out first on sketch paper, then onto tracing
paper and transfer it to the substrate on which I have chosen to paint on. I will usually
buy pre-prepped canvas or board to save time. If I want more texture, I can always
add it with more gesso, but because I do work using a lot of detail, I like a smooth
as possible surface.
With the painting finished and thoroughly dry. I will put a transparent finish over
the entire painting, either varnish or acrylic.
I hope you find this process helpful when you start your next painting.