The Birth of a Painting

Have you ever wondered how a painting is born? The best way to describe the process is by showing a live example. So I’ve included some pictures of different stages of the process of my latest work to show how I create a new oil painting.

I start by picturing the subject I want to pain and envisioning what size board I need to start with. Then, I cut the board; in this case I cut it to 11 inches by 30. Then I covered the board with several coats of gesso with both a brush and pallet knife for a texture and effect. 

I then considered what mood I wanted to work into this painting. Knowing it was flowers it would need to be light and fluffy, so I chose a violet background to give it the over-all warmth it needed to match the mood I was looking to create.

I added turpentine to thin the paint as it ran to the bottom which created a more textured look. I might leave it like that, and I might not. That’s the fun of creating a new painting, I can make it whatever I want as the mood evolves.

By adding turpentine to a cloth I wiped interesting effects into the thinned violet paint. I could make a pattern, an organized grouping of my flowers.

Now with my pallet knife I mixed the warm colors in one pile of paint and a mixture of cool colors into another pile and also a mixture of grays. I was ready to go. I work with cool and warm together and keep the values consistent.

I applied the lightest color to the middle flower with a large brush. This was my center of attention. With less white I applied more brush strokes to create the other flowers. 

I then applied the darkest color to the area on the left. Now I had the two extremes of my painting.

Next came the cool colors to the peddles and stood back often to view how it was holding together.

I step back more often than just standing at the easel, often after every brush stroke. I want the painting to be viewed no closer than 10 ft.

I feel it has a pleasant overall look but after letting it sit for a day or two I could see the flower on the left was too warm and totally out of harmony with the other flowers, so I scraped it off. 

The part I did like the best was the flow of movement and angles each flower had. But the softness wasn't there. So with my fingers or cloth or soft brush I soften some of the edges; not all. In order to see what I need to soften I stand back and change my perspective on the painting. 

Still not satisfied with the overall feeling...I wanted more of a glow to the whole atmosphere, perhaps coming from the bottom. I discover what the piece needs by sitting with the painting peacefully for over an hour just looking at what was missing, what should be done to capture the effect I was after. I call it "Letting the painting speak to me!" I've learned to let many paintings do this and it has never failed.

Applying a soft peach color to make the flowers glow on the bottom did the trick. The final touch was the intense dark and touches of pure paint right out of the tube, pure red, violet and cold greens.

 And that is how a painting is born.


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