Monday, November 7, 2011

Stages of a Painting

Since I just started this painting and it has a deadline of November 11th, I figure it's a good opportunity to share the entire process. I utilize many approaches to creating a painting, so this is just one of them. I will keep updating this same blog post with pics and descriptions as the stages progress. Feel free to engage in conversation with me through Twitter @useeverycolor

This painting has been commissioned to celebrate an engagement of marriage. The client gave me a few elements she wanted in the piece: Mountains in the distance, trees around the engaged couple holding hands, with a faint rainbow to symbolize eternal promise. I began with a very rough sketch to map out the elements requested by the client. At this point I already know of a few things I will change for the painting, but this is enough to get started.

The next step for me is just to get some paint on the canvas. A blank one is exhilarating, but can be intimidating as well, so getting some color down gets me started in the right direction. I painted the whole canvas black and then blended some dark browns, chromium oxide green, and transparent sienna to get my mind focused on outdoorsy colors. Some or none of this may be seen in the finished piece but that's okay. The point isn't to begin the images, but to begin the painting.

I now have most of the base colors in for the sky, mountains, and grassy areas. It's all still pretty rough at this point, but I will start forming out shapes next, starting with the mountains and then some signature Colorado aspen trees. (The clients live in Denver.)

Now we have some aspen tree trunks and about half of the rainbow. I am doing the rainbow in a bunch of highly diluted layers so it will have some transparency to it, like a real rainbow would. I've also defined some of the mountains on the right side. Next I will finish the mountains on the left and add some snow all the way across. Leaves will be on the trees next, too.

Leaves are on the trees now and more will probably be added later. I've also added more detail and tones to the bark of the trees. The rest of the details will come at the end. The focus now is on the couple, who are obviously the center of this painting. I have penciled them both in with a white (and purple over the light blue sky) Prismacolor pencil. The waxy colored pencil erases from the acrylic paint better than graphite so I am able to play around with the arm positions and such. The next step of course is to fill in the people with paint!

So here you can see the couple looking a little like Jim Henson's Muppets. The hands/arms are in different positions that on the original pencil sketch, since in the original it looked too much like they were giving a high-five. The man's shirt and woman's skirt will be plaid, but these base tones give me a bit of a map for shadows, highlights, and textures.

The man is now starting to have some detail and little-by-little I am getting things shaped out and shaded how I like them. Once all the plaid lines in his shirt are in, I can highlight areas of the stripes to give the shirt a more flowing look. His jeans will be given some wrinkles, too. The "blockyness" of the people will begin to relax as these features are completed.

Now come the most tedious part of the painting: Getting all the little details in and polishing up the loose places that need more contrast and definition. The man's plaid shirt still needs a lighter blue strip pattern added, and the female's skirt has a lot more plaid work to do as well. The progress made since the last photo is the highlights in the man's jeans, the base skin tones in the female, as well has her glasses. I've also added highlights to the man's hair and started making the female's hair to look wavy. Small grassy details are now in the area between the couple and more will come in around them. The next photo will be of the finished piece.

Here we have the final painting.
8"x10" acrylic on canvas

Comments welcomed.

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