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Monday, October 9, 2017

Making a Studio Painting

My Studio Process – From composition to painting

Below are the basic steps I take when creating a studio painting.  I also do plein air painting, which is a different animal altogether, and I don't describe here.

    Subject: Decide on subject matter and acquire reference images.  Here, I had the awful task (ha ha) of visiting some puppies in a pet store, having my daughter hold them for me while I took some reference photos.

Compose/design : This is the most crucial stage of the whole thing.  It includes cutting and pasting (the digital way) cropping, combining images, adjusting values/colors, and moving things around on the ‘picture frame’ to achieve a harmonious, dynamic design.  I will often section off the picture plane into thirds, as well as use diagonal lines and the concepts of ‘sacred geometry’ to help with composing.

Original Image of a Jack Russell Puppy I met in a pet store with a cupcake that I Photoshopped on her head.

Gridded Panel with sketch of design
·         Grid: I usually digitally overlay a 5x5 grid on my final image then transfer the design to my gridded panel.
·         Transfer design : I use Prismacolor colored pencils to sketch the design onto my panel. They write nicely on gesso and erase pretty well too. My favorite colors to use are white, light gray, burnt sienna and indigo.  Without fail, an excellent composition and drawing will always make for an easier painting to paint. 
·         Mix colors:  I almost always premix all of my colors before laying a brush to my panel.  I will carefully study my design on my tablet, to accurately mix and match the colors.  I sometimes “posterize” my image with one of my editing apps,  This simplifies the colors in my image so I can better see what is going on.
·         Coat panel with medium:  I mix my own medium and use a big brush to apply it to the entire panel, if I will be painting the whole thing in one day.  I then lightly wipe with a paper towel so it’s not drippy.

Panel has been coated with medium and I am painting!  Adding darks first.

·         Paint!:  Finally, I get to paint.  I have always said that the actual painting of a studio painting is about 35% of the process and it generally holds true.
·         Alla Prima:  If I am painting a painting that is 11”x14” or smaller, I will strive to get it done in one sitting.  I prefer to paint Alla Prima, or wet into wet, as I like the spontaneity and brushwork I can achieve with this method.  Anything much bigger than this usually requires more painting time.  If I know this is the case, I will only coat the segment of the image with my medium that I know I will be able to finish at that time and leave the rest untouched until I am ready to paint on it.
Still painting wet into wet - Alla Prima

·         Dry: Once I am done, my paintings take about 2 weeks until they are dry enough to frame and be moving around safely.

Finished Painting!  After all of the colors are added I do some blending with my fan brush

·         To varnish or not to varnish:  I prefer to not varnish my paintings as my method of painting usually has an even sheen, so I don’t need to do it for that reason.  Also, varnishing should be done only after the painting has had at least 4-6 months to dry. I include info on the back of my painting as to whether or not it is varnished, so the person who purchases it knows. I will gladly varnish any painting someone has purchased from me, later down the road, should they desire.

·         Frame:  I make all of my own frames from wood I purchase or from reclaimed barn wood and other reclaimed wood.  This is a process and art form in and of itself, which is too detailed to go into here.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Karen,
    Thank you for sharing your process. I love your paintings. The brush strokes have a spontaneous quality. And the cupcake on this one is very fun. :)


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