Today’s Painting

LOL! It looks like my daughter (girl in the painting) is afraid of my fan brush in this still photo I lifted from the video!

This is what I did today (2 minute time lapse video at top of the page), session 2 of the new painting in progress. I posted session 1 earlier on the blog, if you missed it: Session 1 of “Walking in a Rain Puddle”. I’ll explain a bit more about how I’m doing this project, and how I typically work in general.

Session 1: I did what I call “blocking”. That’s when I paint all the basic shapes in large blocks of color. I usually cover the entire canvas during the first session, and this means my painting is planned- all mapped out. I often start with the main subject of the painting, which is usually near the center (this breaks art school rules, but it’s what I like), and then work around it, since the main feature is what I most want to make sure fits on the canvas without running out of space, painting too small, etc.

Session 2: I added the next layer, which allows me to shape things up. This is really important when creating a likeness of an animal or a person that you’d want the viewer to be able to identify. In this painting, since my daughter’s face doesn’t show, it’s all about her body language and even the slightest departure from the angles and shapes can throw things off. I was pleased that my family (I didn’t tell them what I was painting) recognized this is my firstborn daughter when she was little, from yesterday’s session when there was only blocking (few details). That means I got her unique posture, shape of hair as it fell forward, body language, etc. close enough to be recognizable to people who know this person. But after today, it’s now very obvious who it is because there are details that give it away completely as I fine-tuned the shapes and her clothing. At this point they’d know it from the appearance of her dress alone (since this was a favorite dress and they’d remember it), which is somewhat cheating, so I’m happy that they knew her from the first day, before there were “giveaway” details.

Session 3 (and possibly 4 or 5; some paintings have many more): Bringing the painting to a close means adding a detail layer(s) with more highlights, shadows, and crisp fine lines, dots, dashes, fan brush, texture. I try to move through my projects quickly, especially when falling behind the painting count for the year, but if a painting deserves more time, I will add multiple finishing detail sessions until it reaches a level that I’m ok with stopping. Some artists struggle with knowing when to stop, and I was like that too until I developed a formula that helps me decide. If I’m meant to crank the painting out quickly, I give myself a 3-session limit. If I can, I finish it in 2, but it usually takes three, given the way that I paint, as I’ve outlined above. With oil paintings it’s often necessary to let the layers rest between sessions. If I see the project as something special that may become a signature painting (one of the pieces that I become best known for), or if I’m working on a painting for a show (live or taped event), then I’ll spent weeks or months on the painting, especially if the canvas is large. Generally if I have a big project in the works I will do it on my freestanding easel and also work on a smaller project on my regular art desk/table. I don’t take weeks off from my regular work, so when there’s something big to do I have two or more projects going on at once. The point is, I plan ahead of time if I’m going to let myself spend more than 3 sessions and what my hard deadline is. That helps me let go of it rather than just paint endlessly and fret over it until I finally decide it’s done, or never finish it at all. “Finish” is not about when it’s perfect, but when it’s hit the project goals that I’ve determined before I start. Because painting is my vocation, I keep a balance between quality and productivity. It means I have to accept that I won’t always like what I’ve done and I may have to simply move on to stay on track, always growing, and hoping the next project will be a masterpiece. We don’t all have the same tastes. Some of the paintings I’ve done that I truly hate and see as unfinished are favorites by others, which is why I share all of my projects instead of only the ones I like, feel proud of, and see as (mostly) finished. There’s always something more that could be added, tweaked, or built up, but life itself is like that too. WE are “unfinished”, and we are happiest when we accept ourselves as we are right now, yet work to the best of our abilities (according to our individual talents and purpose), knowing that with more time we may become the masterpiece God created us to be.

By the way, if you enjoyed this little chat about the way that I work, I offer free painting lessons on this website. There’s no registration, ads, or obligation to donate/tip- I won’t even know you’re taking my online class unless you tell me. The class is archived now (no active discussion board), and you can take it at your own pace, feel free to ignore the suggestion to do this class weekly. All ages and skill levels welcome, but geared toward adults. Even if you are a professional oil painter, you might like seeing my crazy ways of doing things. Also, if you are a teacher, please feel free to use this for your classroom. Note: Preview the class first and tailor it to your needs. Much of my discussion wouldn’t hold the attention of young students, so you’d probably just want to summarize in your own words and show parts of the videos, or just the short time lapse ones. The first couple of projects would be fine for younger students, and perhaps all of them could work with some modifications. I’d suggest acrylics or watercolors for the younger ones. The oil-specific tips are easy to ignore.

Stay tuned for more sessions of this painting. Have a great weekend everyone!

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