My Painting Process – an example of start-to-finish progression

Session 0:  Underwash/Start!


Session 1:  “Drawing”/Block-In

I very rarely draw on the canvas first (and when I do it is almost always done with a light wash of ultramarine blue, as seen in the top image directly below), but for this beautiful bird/water scene I felt it necessary, so I guess this is really Session 0.5 and Session 1 in one image. Amazing to see the rocks, leaves, and bird really take on their shapes and begin to look like themselves once I start adding the color in over the outlined image. Doing the initial outline/drawing as a wash allows me to continue to massage and push around the objects as I go. For example, the water and leaf/rock area under the birds tail feathers had to be adjusted a bit from where it started.


Session 2: 

Darkened all the cracks and crevasses in between/underneath the rocks and leaves, in particular directly around the bird to make it stand out more; added in the blue to the bird’s feathers, pushing down the wing-feather line on the body a bit; enunciated the eye and beak area; added more dimension to the big rocks in the background by adding shadows and highlights; ran lightly-tinted Liquin across all the watery areas. Happy how this one is coming along!! Next session will bring the light back in!


Session 3:

Using mostly glazing techniques, I focused exclusively on the the water and the rocks, in particular the small rocks in the foreground and the large rock under the leaf behind the bird. I added back in yellow and orange tones to the rocks in the front and right sides and to the leaf in the background. I blurred the top right green background area a bit to push it back/make it less of a focal point. I added in some more blue tones to a few select spots in the water. And finally, I popped in highlights to the leaf stem and the watery areas around and on top of the rocks. Next, and hopefully last, session will be to finish the bird and any other little touch-ups! Almost done!

Session 4:

Softened and orangened (sorry about the made-up word, gonna use it a lot – in this case it’s a mixture of Indian yellow, Naples yellow, burnt umber and/or brilliant yellow) the back leaf, darkened the shadows under the leaf; lengthened the light reflection area circling the front of the green rock, worked on deepening the mossiness of the green rock and the top back green corner, softened/liquined top corner to push it even further into the background; added marks and orange spots to the big rock; smoothed on orange/yellow liquin tones to the underwater rocks to make them glisten; popped in black spots and shadow areas to the front, underwater, folded leaf and foreground detritus, and orangened and darkened the watery areas and foreground rocks; added the white feather portions into the birds wings and tail feathers, widened the tail feathers, pushed in yellow and blue to the back/sides/breast area, yellowed the crown, added highlights to beak, added yellow highlights to the white underbelly feathers, worked on eye area a bit. It’s getting there (really close!), but I left it to dry a few hours and then came back and flipped it upside down and now I know exactly what I need to do to finish it all up in the next session (there’s a lot more still to be done than you’d think !!)!


Session 5:  “Signed it!”

And in case you want to know, flipping the painting upside down helps me see the piece in just shapes and spaces, rather than actual known objects that I *think* I know what they “should” look like. Flipping the painting upside down improves my ability to smooth an edge, round a curve, or redraw a line, and sharpens my spatial awareness beyond what my mind says a particular object ought to be. It becomes less about the image and more about the brush strokes. I flip my paintings upside down and work on them upside down for brief periods of time on a fairly regular basis.

I went back in and added more dark blue into the tail and wing feathers and layered colors of yellow, blue, white, and orange/brown onto the chest, back, and side body areas; lengthened the tail feathers and the white underbelly feather area, lightened the underbelly; focused in a bit more on the eye area; softened the leaf edges in the back; added Indian red into the background around leaf and bird; added Prussian blue liquin strokes to the water; added white, watery highlights into the painting; orangened up all the front rocks; lightened the big rock base and softened the darkest areas on both larger rocks; focused in on shadowy areas between underwater rocks; added spots to the front leafs/rocks. Signed it!