LATITUDE Show & Series My Paintings Process

Steps. Process of a Painting.

When I look at a painting, I always wonder how the artist arrived at its eventual conclusion.  How did they begin?  How did the painting evolve and what choices did the artist make along the way?

So I thought you guys might be interested in seeing the journey that one of my LATITUDE paintings took.  I always begin with covering the canvas in a medium-toned ground.  My favorite way to begin is with a creamy salmon pink tone in which I will often work out the basic composition by adding lights and darks.

Then I’ll start mapping in the bigger spaces in the painting.. In this painting, the sky was the first thing I started working.  I knew the sky would end up being very light and foggy feeling but I always start with fairly saturated color and just keep pushing it back by painting on light layer after light layer.

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I actually posted a photo at the stage above on Instagram & Facebook and lots of folks assumed it was a finished painting!  I guess it could have been, there was definitely something about this stage that I really liked.

The next stages involve refining and shaping.  The original flatness of the land shape wasn’t working for me, so I extended it up the side of the canvas to create more depth and draw the eye farther up the canvas.  More depth and texture was added to the landforms so that they felt less like a marsh and more like the Pacific cliffs I’d intended.

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In addition to adding depth in the form of darks and lines, the next stages involved adding light color and expressive marks to the landform shapes while continuing to lighten up and push back the sky.

Process collage

Looking back, I am really drawn to those expressive marks in the right photo above.  Some of that expression was retained, but I do wonder what would have been if I’d been able to retain that feeling but it wasn’t to be this time..

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This ^ was the point in which I was really wrestling with this one.  I was happy with where that sky section was and I loved the feeling of depth I was getting in the upper section, but the lower 2/3 was a whole other story.  Somewhere along the way, I’d lost the expressiveness and definition and while I love misty-softness, it was feeling way too blah.  Plus that wandering water shape coming down the middle was losing it’s jagged edges so it looked less like a tributary and more like a sock.  Womp womp!!

I kept plugging away and got to this point before needing to leave the studio for dinner with Mr. F.

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I try to get as much done as possible in the studio during the day so that we can have our evenings together.  But there are nights that I just can’t call it a day, I feel so driven to come to a stopping point I’m happy with for the day, whether that is a finished painting or not.  So I went back over to the studio after our dinner.  Sometimes those evenings at the easel are just what I need– I crank the music ( something I can’t do during the day in my shared Ashland studio ) and just work until I get to that happy point.  Luckily for this painting, the happy point for the night was a finished painting.

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tenderness & time (48.53.53 N), acrylic on canvas, 36×36; ScanSource collection

While the music wafted through the studio, I upped the contrast, added more color and texture through transparent washes in rich greens, turquoises and purples.  I took back the jagged shape of the water coming through the cliffs and what resulted was a painting that was one of my favorites in the LATITUDE show.

See the step by step progress in the .gif below!  Hey ya’ll, I created a gif!  I’m so proud.

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The process of this painting is pretty typical for me.  I wrestled a bit more than usual with this one, but there is always a bit of tussling involved to get to the vision in my head.  One day perhaps the process will move a bit more swiftly and easily, but I’m not sure I would get the same amount of satisfaction if it were too easy to accomplish.  If it were easy everyone would do it, right?

All images by me.

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  • Lauren M

    Great post! It shows how really difficult it is to be a painter, making all those choices and subtle adjustments along the way. And I do like the way you resolved the painting in the end with less saturated color and a nice moodiness.

    • Artsy Forager

      Thanks, Lauren! I’m trying to document the progress of each painting– I learn so much by looking back and seeing what was/wasn’t working in each stage.