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The Beginning, The Middle…Almost The End….

September 10, 2011

I am sitting here listening to Three Dog Night of all things….they reminded me of “The Middle”, so I thought it was time to start to write again.

TDN is a relatively cheesy group from the 60s that wrote tunes to remind us about living, about life.  For some strange reason, sometimes I need to listen to their tunes just to remind me of the process of life….go figure.

I have been thinking about this blog post for some time now.  I have been realising that the process of building a painting is frightfully similar to the process involved in building a life.  As I write about one of the many methods for building a painting, I invite you to relate the process to the building of a life….perhaps your own life.


Infinite Possibilities - the blank slate so to speak

“Easy To Be Hard” TDN.

Yep, a blank slate can be formidable.  For some, it is down right intimidating.  Some have coined the phrase “White Paper/Canvas Fright” just to describe their trepidation.  Others however, look at this blank space and their thoughts begin to whirl with all of the possibilities.  This can be equally intimidating I do believe.

For myself, each painting starts with an inclination…an inspiration…a desire.  Depending on this inclination or desire, I will either go outside to “discover” a painting or will look through photographs until something hits the ‘right’ chord.  I rarely ‘wing’ it.   Once I have found the subject I wish to paint, I will consider the best medium for the job and the best support for that medium. The support is chosen for suitability.

Now, the fun begins!

“Sure As I’m Sittin Here” TDN

There, in front of you, sits a support on which you will make your mark…sometimes brilliantly, sometimes with mediocrity and sometimes with downright blundering.  No matter, it can always be fixed!

This support has been prepared…primed and is now ready for the ground/under painting.  The under painting is suitable for all media and can be either cool or warm in nature, can be either subtle or bold…..your choice.  An under painting adds to the harmony of your work.

“Never Been To Spain” TDN

There are an infinite number of ways to approach this primed support.  Some artists are very calculated in their approach while others are ruled by their intuition.  Most working artists believe in having a plan but there are some that take their plan seriously while others are willing to go with the flow.  A thumbnail sketch is almost always part of this initial plan.  The thumbnail helps to set the composition and values in the artist’s mind.  Some artists paint directly from their desired thumbnail, never looking at a reference – ie. photograph.

“The Family Of Man”  TDN

If I had to divide artists into two categories (glad I don’t have to), I would say half are shy and reserved and the other half are bold and determined.  Luckily no artist is ‘married’ to their category and can change any time they see fit.

Because of these different approaches the first brush strokes the artist makes can be quite unique.  Some paintings are started by drawing in the subject, others by painting in the dark shapes and developing the painting by creating positive and negative shapes.

The beginning of 'Donald's Apples' - in oil

The painting to the right shows what I mean.  This is the beginning of a painting of apples in a tree.  The photograph was taken by a friend of mine and is therefore emotionally more detached from me but I love the photo so decided to paint it.  My under painting is mostly cool in nature and low key.

Donald's Apples - a couple of layers in

Here, I am trying to set the composition and deciding if I like the composition of the photograph.  As it turns out, I did change a few things which you will see in my next post.  Sometimes even the perfection of Nature can have perceived flaws….this comes from not being able to look at the ‘whole’, as in the whole tree.  Time to adjust to fit circumstance.

That is it for “The Beginning”.  Stay tuned for “The Middle”….

2 Comments leave one →
  1. karin permalink
    September 11, 2011 7:35 pm

    am loving this pic in each of its phases !!!
    perhaps you should run prints as you go along 🙂

  2. September 14, 2011 5:09 pm

    Good to hear from you again. Love your ideas about building a painting and building a life. I always tell my students, “Art is like Life. It is all about the journey, not the destination.”

    I took a really good workshop on composition from Mike E Bailey a few weeks ago and it really changed how I begin a painting. I used to begin using small value sketches but somewhere along the line lost the habit. Mike insisted on it and I find my work is better designed now. If you ever have the opportunity to study with Mike, I highly recommend taking his “Watercolor Beyond the Obviouis” workshop. Most of what he teaches you and I have learned before and practise already, but he helped “organize” it in my mind better.

    I look forward to seeing your painting of apples progress, Happy Painting, Sandy

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