The process of creating a painting–at least for me–is akin to writing: You start with an outline, you do a rough first draft, you refine and correct things in the second draft, and in the third draft you add the final touches. It’s a simple but labor-intensive process.
I posted a photo of a painting in progress a few weeks ago on Facebook, and a couple of people responded with comments along the lines of, “It looks finished–what more needs to be done?” So I thought I’d post a set of before/after photos, and take this opportunity to illustrate a bit of this process.
In the photo below, I’ve taken the final, finished piece (on the right) and put it up next to what I’d consider the “second draft” (on the left):
Clearly you can see that the painting on the left is very rough. The colors need to be smoothed out, and blended together properly:
Colors need to be corrected, and details (like the shadows) added:
Each step of this process has its own unique characteristics:
–The first draft is always fun because you get to see your painting emerge. On the other hand, you have to mix your paints and determine accurate colors for the piece at this stage. That process usually requires a lot of trial-and-error to get the colors just right; after all, these are the colors you are going to be using for the long-haul, and it would be difficult to change them halfway through the piece.
I also paint the background during the first draft; if the background has a gradient (like this piece does), then it requires quite a few coats of paint to get it blended just right. You don’t want to do this later because that blending can get messy and knock out some of the detail around the edges of the main subject.
–The second draft is the longest part of the process. This is the real meat of the work, where all the details get added or refined. It’s important to stay focused and work methodically at this stage; if I find myself jumping all over the place, I’ll begin to feel lost, and wonder how the hell I’m going to pull this thing off.
–The third draft can often last for weeks. This is not because I am working on it constantly, but because it requires a lot of time for my eyes and brain to rest. Keep in mind, at this point I have usually spent upwards of 50-60 hours (more, for a bigger piece) staring at this painting, so I need to walk away from it a lot so I can see it again. Inconsistencies in color, rough spots, missing white highlights–all of these things reveal themselves during this period, and I am so accustomed to staring at this canvas that I sometimes just don’t see them. It’s at this point that I am most interested in what I like to think of as painting with grace. I not only want to reproduce the image as accurately as possible, but I want to create a beautiful painting, where every stroke is rendered as gracefully as possible.
So, anyway, here’s the final, finished piece:
24″ x 36″
Acrylic on canvas