I work in a manner I’ve developed over the years which may be best described as somewhat similar to a Venetian manner of painting. That is I glaze a LOT. I also use impasto and scumble. I am a solvent free painter and use just walnut oil and M. Graham walnut alkyd medium. I often mix it with Williamsburg impasto medium. I use mostly earth colors but I always sign my name in cadmium red.
The more I paint, the more humbled I become. There are times when I paint and all the elements fit in perfectly and it seems as if I’ve finally gained mastery. I go through the day feeling victorious, thinking, “haha…am genius after all….” Only to come crashing down like Icarus on the very next painting. To tell the truth, more paintings than I care to admit have been borne out of violence in the studio. So much frustration and seemingly endless adjustments ensue to create a vision of beauty and calmness. So today I decided to show the process for “O Brave New World.” Artists are always loathe to reveal all the work that goes on in the studio. There is a fear of ruining the magic. But I get asked by other artists about my process, so I am going to share this bit of studio madness. I took a detour in the background landscape for this painting, going from immense panorama illustrating a vast ‘new world’ to an intimate island sheltered under the umbrella of an enormous tree. There is a struggle, but the reward is a painting that is closer to what I want to say.
This is the final painting. I released it and then took it back after awhile because there was something missing I thought. So in 2009 I revised it.
My creative process: from drawing to finished painting.
I love the little piggy in the foreground, scratching his side, completely unimpressed by the wondrous coronation next to him. I’ve documented the creative process below.
graphite drawing on lenox paper to scale. Note the diagonal lines of the compositional grid or the “armature of the rectangle” used to compose the picture’s elements (although it’s barely visible now).
The drawing is transferred to an Ampersand Hardbord panel primed with three layers of Gamblin Oil Ground. I use a grid for an accurate transfer. For underdrawings, I prefer to use a white charcoal pencil which shows up well on the transparent earth orange imprimatura.
Underpainting layer is laid in with white and Gamblin asphaltum and van dyck brown (excellent alternatives to umbers and the van dyck brown is a good warm brown-black). The background foliage is also roughly scumbled in with earth greens and yellows.
More of the background and foliage are painted in. I often scumble a rough couch of Williamsburg impasto medium with/or M.Graham walnut oil/alkyd medium. Also, I sometimes mix some white into this scumble, making a thin veil of transparent white over the entire painting. I like to work on a tinted couch – sort of a “make everything look wrong to get it right” eccentricity.
Blocking in the main colors. For the deep blue of the dress, I use a lighter layer to be later glazed with ultramarine blue. I use Michael Harding, Williamsburg, Old Holland and Gamblin oil colors.
More color is blocked in and some of the details are painted in as well. The rest of the painting will be finished in additional layers of refining details and glazing. Sometimes more layers are needed to pay for my pentimenti “repentances” – a nicer way of saying “oh, I changed my mind” or “ooohh…that was not a good idea.” I haven’t taken photographs of the following stages as I worked on the painting on and off in the course of three to four weeks from the drawing to finished work.
Below is the version I first released in 2008. It took me some months before I took it back and added what I thought were missing elements.
This is my usual painting process involving a detailed preparatory drawing transferred onto a panel. I also enjoy working directly on the panel with only a cursory sketch, preferring to see greater surprises in the process.