Saturday, May 3, 2014

Finding My Way Painting "ALONG THE PATH"

Painting is a highly personal process. It is an attempt to create what you feel about something as well as the world in general. We are influenced and bombarded by messages constantly, most of which we are unaware of. It doesn't mean they aren't there but by now most adults have created filters. Many healthcare professionals feel that it is the lack of filters that cause mental illness.

In a way, maybe art reflects that lack as well. There has been a deep correlation between mentally ill patients and their art. All you have to do it consider Van Gogh and you will see what I mean.

I started and finished my latest painting, ALONG THE PATH after studying some recent photos I had taken and decided to focus on little things rather than the grandiose. I'm not good at that but tighter subjects with a single source of focus seem to be my strength. Here is a step by step recording of that process. This painting is a perfect example of how and why you need to paint from back to front!

Step 1
Using only a 12" x 9" archival polyester canvas, a product i have really learned to love, I randomly used a warm black and raw umber scattering and blending it across the canvas. I did pay attention to the background lights and darks captured in the photo.

You see white circles that are used to indicate the placement of the flowers. The first group was much too small so I washed these off and started again. With a white erasable pencil (or black if a light canvas) its a great way to get your objects where they need to be.

Step 2 with photo

Once satisfied with the flower centers, I began to put in the succulent stems that are behind the flowers. Full well knowing most these would be hidden, but then so would the background, you put them in because, well, you never know. They peek through petals, gaps in flower coverage so put them in. You will be glad you did. With rare exceptions I wasn't going to let myself get involved with the details. I wanted some green, green that looked like stems and only did details on areas I knew would show later on.

You can also see the original photo and it is filled with color. Wait, there's more!!!

Step 3 - flower background
Because I already had a dark background I knew that the yellows, oranges and magentas I would be using would NOT cover well. Most of those colors are transparent and don't cover much. Every flower, no matter what color was first painted with a warm white.

I added a bit of red creating pink to the flowers that would be magenta. You can see that the background stems are peeking through and give a degree of depth already. A flower or two were added to fill in areas that were "empty." We are artists and can do whatever we want to create a pleasing composition. Rarely is a painting a true capturing of reality!

Step 4 - adding color
Now its time for the flower colors. Again ... think back to front. Darker flowers tended to be behind the brighter flowers. Put those in first!

Step 5 - basic flower color in place
I tried to show how the magenta flowers, generally covered with other flowers and how the deeper orange flowers were behind the brighter yellows. Does it have to be that way? No. However, even if the image was more flat, a good artist would create layers to make the image stronger with greater depth.

As you can see below, with the flowers all painted in place, it is a pretty dreary image. The yellows are all too much the same as are the other colors. There is nothing to create a greater depth of field. It is at this point that many artists fail because they:

1: fail to find shadows or
2: fail to realize there is a pecking order. Some flowers are behind and below others.

I found myself looking at this and wondering, what was next? What do I do now?

Step 6 - adding depth
In previous paintings I realized that I had not done what I was trying to do and explain here. My painting THE WHITE FENCE came together when I added the shadows the flowers created on the white fence. The colors were there, the stark white fence was there but when I studied that old photo, you know the ones, taken for some in the future project, I realized it was those shadows that made the image so enticing. It is still my best and favorite painting. Here I went to work.

I started shading with washes of each color. I didn't want to change the color I merely wanted to make it richer without degrading it. Since oranges and yellows are usually transparent a dab of raw umber deepened the colors without changing them. The yellows were washed with other colors but not so much they didn't retain their original color. A bit of off white was added to the left because these petals had a subtle reflection of light that I felt make them stand out. They became the focus of the painting.

As you can see, already the painting has changed. The flatness of step 5 has been greatly altered in step 6. There is now a hierarchy, flowers on top, the middle and near the ground are creating a three dimensional quality that until now has never been there. This was how I left it.

Looking at the painting again in the evening, I still felt there was something missing. And while a photo doesn't capture it well, I went back to the background and scrubbed in washes of green and brown. I also added a bit of those colors again to all the flowers creating an even richer hierarchy. I really wanted only a few flowers to dominate and used the rest of the scene to highlight them!

Painting, writing, music composition, movie making are all journeys. Every practitioner will tell you that often what they started with and what was finished are often very different. Its not a bad thing. You need to seize those opportunities and you will be surprised, as I was, by what you get!

Please visit for my new fine art store. This and other paintings are there for you to view and purchase if you wish. For crafts and birdhouses please visit for a wonderful selection of items ready to ship and just in time for Mother's Day. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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