Article for Artists on Art
The Process –
I would like to talk about the process of painting. The process needs to be exciting, compelling and engaging. During my college years and a few years after, my painting process was very mechanical and formulaic. It was enough for me then, more than enough, it was challenging and I loved it. But after I had it down; the monochromatic drawing, the color matching and rendering, I became bored. Boredom can be used as a very powerful tool when creating because it can encourage you to take risks. I decided that if I was going to keep painting for me and no one else, I needed to change something. So, I placed my usual paint brushes and medium to the side. I went to a painting store and bought all kinds of tools usually used to putty and paint walls. I tried acrylics, house paints, tempera, rabbit skin glue, and many other unconventional supplies. It quickly propelled me out of my comfort zone. At first it was frustrating, but it soon became liberating and I loved my new freedom. I was creating for me and no one else. What I found was that people responded best to the work that I was creating for myself. How ironic and joyous it was!
So, now I am going to discuss step by step my process. First, I begin with a loose, color patched system. I am not too concerned with the exact color or value, this is just a rehearsal. Once I have the colors thinly laid out (thinned with turpentine), I take a long brush and I begin to draw by mapping out proportions. I do this by using relationships in the landscape or still life’s , triangulation is also used. This is where the fun begins. I now make unintentional marks to break up the space and make some mistakes that help me from becoming tedious. These mistakes later became opportunities to enrich the painting. I redraw, become a little more specific with my values and colors and then I mess it up again, and so on. Try to think of your process as unconventional as possible. For example, if you want to draw a bush on the horizon, or a hundred bushes, think first… How do I want to create it? Personally, I don’t want to tediously paint each individual bush. What if I splat some paint on the horizon or use a string dipped in paint to create a straight line? Or what if I flick my brush to make little dots that give the illusion of receding space? You get the idea. Be creative. You are an inventor. And make it fun, especially if you plan on painting everyday in the studio! My space is a total mess, my clothes get paint on them, my hands are covered, but I don’t care, I’m having fun. With my landscapes, I am using a combination of on site studies, photos, drawings, and imagination. I let the colors emerge organically without starting with a set color map.
Using this process has breathed life into my paintings. Give it a shot and see where it takes you. Working from life is always best, but if its not possible, then use a photo but do this only if you have the knowledge beforehand of working from life.
It is also best to have a good knowledge of the basic foundations– color, value, drawing. This will give you freedom to do as you please. Something else that helped me was limiting the size of brush I was using. The smallest brush I use is a 2” art brush, even with my small paintings. This forces me to be decisive and to keep the image abstract for as long as possible.
Take risks and don’t be afraid to lose what you have. Once the painting becomes precious, that is a very dangerous thing. You become afraid to destroy your precious little painting and then it becomes tedious and overworked. If this happens to you, destroy it by making some unintentional marks and then have the confidence to redraw and find what was lost. It will be better the second time around. I strive to paint with a tight eye and a loose hand. Wouldn’t that be ideal?
So, if I were to give any advice to another artist, it would be to enjoy the process and paint to please no one but yourself. And one more thing… make sure to squint and step back.