Lately I’ve been experimenting with some different techniques. Tiring of the bright, snappy colors resulting from my earlier process (see below), I’ve started using dark earth-toned underpaintings, and successive glazes (mixed colors thinned to semi-transparency with oil/resin medium) on top, for the midtones of an image, ending with more opaque paint applications for the lightest lights and the darkest darks — a VERY different process from the one outlined below! The final paintings are more subtle in coloration, and, I think, have more depth of hue than my previous work. More to come as this technique evolves!
Click on the first photo — the earth-toned underpainting — for a slideshow of the evolution of Kwan Yin and Chrysanthemums (20×16 in., oils on canvas)
My previous process:
I start with two, three, even four or five photos – most or all of which I’ve shot myself or was present for, otherwise the sense of place doesn’t feel right. Then I take them into Photoshop, and work them together – silhouetting figures and objects, changing backgrounds, changing lighting levels, color balances and hues, adding, deleting, and flopping various elements, simplifying forms, balancing and knocking around the composition until I have two or three different compositions I’m happy with. Then I print those out, and start the thumbnail sketches – small pencil drawings exploring the darks, lights, and forms, to get a hand/eye feel for what’s happening in the picture plane. From those I choose a final composition, or I go back to Photoshop to produce more variations — printing the images both with an overlaid grid and without. I lightly mark a corresponding grid on the substrate – canvas, paper, or board – and paint the whole thing in a monochromatic cadmium red under-painting. The cad red informs the colors laid on top of it, with bits of show-through and subtle influence, and results in a lively color “snap” in the painting.
Once that’s done, I work loosely from the un-gridded printout/s — often two or three of them, printed in different states of saturation — using the printed pieces for reference only, as a guide rather than a goal. Gradually I shift attention from the reference pieces to the work itself, and let what’s happening there guide me, in form, color, and composition. The most difficult part is knowing when the piece is finished!