The Painting Process

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  • IPFW Master Gardeners' Garden

    I thought I would share my process for creating a painting. I think it is fun to see how others paint, and am often amazed at how differently others approach painting. Working from one of my own photos for reference, I created this piece in the studio. My husband swears that by sharing my “secrets” the entire world will paint like me. I have no such fear. For one thing, every body sees differently and approaches art differently. Furthermore, everything I know I learned from reading books or publications. The biggest factor that has made a difference in my work has been finding the right surface to work on. In fact, if I hadn’t found the right surface, I would have given up pastels! For this piece I worked on an artist sand paper. It is my favorite surface because the paper really grabs hold of the pigment – the pastel.

    I first applied 2 colors of pastel to the paper, and then dipped a brush into Turpenoid to block in my composition. I really had the composition worked out in my head prior to putting any marks on the paper. I unfortunately didn’t take a photo of those first marks, but here it is after brushing in the pigment.

    Turpenoid Wash

    While still wet, I used a rubber-tipped color shaper tool to draw into the wet pastel to redefine my shapes and to clarify my composition.

    Color Shaper Tool

    after using Color Shaper Tool

    At this point, I let the piece dry. I might take a break, go throw in a load of laundry, or grab my hair dryer and speed up the drying process. Whatever I do, I leave the room to come back and look at it with fresh eyes, asking myself, “Is this going to work?” Because at this point, I can still make changes. I decided this would work because the piece had a sense of space, different areas of texture, it was readable, and nothing of interest was dead-center.

    After the piece dried, I redefined my darks with pastel, and in this case, started working on the background. When working with pastel, the process is to work from dark to light and from hard to soft. Working from dark to light simply means that we start with our darker colors first, like oil painters do. Watercolorists work from light to dark. Working hard to soft means that we work with the harder pastels first. The harder pastels have more glue in the mixture that holds the pigment together. If you apply a hard pastel over a soft pastel, you could scrape off the previous color.

    Redefining the darks and Working on the Background

    I don’t always begin with the background. I just happened to do so in this case. I knew that I was going to be scumbling over areas in the background which led me to work from background to foreground. Scumbling is laying a pastel stick on its side and dragging it over the previous layer of color while allowing the previous layer to show through. I continued defining the trees and the building.

    More background work

    I began working on the middle ground. On the left side, you can see some of that scumbling effect, especially where the yellow flowers are in front of the building.

    Scumbling Effect

    From this point I became so involved in painting that I forgot to take more photos, but basically I continued working the different areas, being sure to vary the marks that I made to give an illusion, to create an impression, of the different flowers that I was painting.

    Notice how I blocked in the areas in the beginning without laboring over the details. I avoid detail work in the beginning because I would end up covering up those details. If you’ll notice the two areas in front where the white and red flowers are, you will see that in the beginning, they were two circular shapes that, if this had been someone else’s paintings, I would have guessed that they were rocks. And I could have made them into rocks if I wanted to. I did remove a building from the composition. Don’t feel that you have to be a slave to your photo reference. My point is that I didn’t draw in every flower in the beginning. A pastel should not, unless that is the intended effect, feel like a coloring book page where one is just coloring inside the lines. I wanted this to feel like a painting, which for me means layering color over color, and placing color next to color to create those details as I progress.

    Now for the hard part, coming up with a title.

    The Finished Piece

    Workshop Information:

    If you are in the Fort Wayne area, I am leading a 2 day workshop, September 8 & 9 at Artlink Fort Wayne. For more information, contact Auer Center for Arts and Culture, 300 East Main Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802, (260) 424-7195.

    http://www.artlinkfw.com/

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  • 2 thoughts on “The Painting Process

    1. Thank you for sharing your process. I find that for me, art is all about the process and my personal aesthetic gravitates me toward works in which the hands of the artist are prevalent. For instance, I would gladly display your piece at the scumbling stage with the foreground unfinished and the background developing its sense of spacial depth and color. This coming from a guy who feels a distinct attachment to his own work while it’s in progress and much less so when it’s deemed finished.

    2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. There have been times when I have been excited about the underpainting, in my work or in others, and then somewhat disappointed as the artist covered up their underpainting. I did a series several years ago where I left much more undone. I found them to be interesting and liked the feeling of looking past the opaque layers of pastel to the transparent layers. I thought that the public would have been more interested in them, but I was wrong. I still leave areas mostly uncovered. In this demo, I did very little to the background in order to let that underpainting show through.

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