My six “not so easy” steps to making a painting

thumbnail sketch
Thumbnail sketch

I thought it would be fun to show you a step-by-step process of how I created one of my new artworks that will be hanging in my upcoming the show.

Step 1:  I usually start with an idea. In this case, it was illustrating the 3 R’s – reading, writing, and arithmetic.  Next, I start by drawing some little thumbnails (small, loose pencil sketches around 3″ x 3″ each), and picked one to use as a compositional reference. 

I liked this sketch because I wanted to make a painting with lots of open space. I’m working on adding more neutral areas in my work to give the viewers’ eyes places to rest among the chaos!

Step 1: Thumbnail sketch

Step 2:  Beginning with three R’s,  I added grids of rectangles, collaged in papers from my old textbook “Applied Mechanics for Engineers”, and scribbled on some formulas to the canvas for the math part.  The reading and writing parts were represented by font alphabets.

The concept was to place most of the activity at the top third of the canvas, leaving the bottom two-thirds much calmer.  As I started blocking in the major areas of color, I already knew that I wasn’t comfortable with all that open space. I felt the whole thing looked too simplistic. 

It was time to rethink my design.

Step 2: Block in shapes

Step 3:  First, I turned the painting 90˚ counter-clockwise and divided the large empty space into thirds.  I gave the top and bottom sections a light background and the middle section a darker background. 

Step 3: Fill in the empty space

Step 4:  I added organic shapes to soften the hard geometric lines gridding the painting and fill all that empty space.  I reversed the values of the “blobs” every time they crossed from one gridded section to another.  I accidentally created a shape that spelled “Hi” in the upper right corner. It was distracting, so I revamped it.

I gave up on the whole three R’s concept and just let the painting guide me to what it needed. 

Step 4: Paint the “blobs”

Step 5: And then I stopped.  It wasn’t done but I was unsure what else it needed.  So I just stared at it and stared at it. For three weeks!

Step 6: Finally, I got the idea to add some dots to give the painting some interesting movement and the focal point it was missing.  I turned the painting 90˚ again, painted a zillion dots, and finally, the painting was finished.  

I usually have a name in mind before I start a painting, but this one has eluded me.  Does anyone have a good idea for a title for this 3′ x 3′ painting?

 

Step 5: Stare! Step 6: Add dots and finish

 

 
 
 

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