Sunday, October 25, 2009

Before the drawing...

Quite a bit of planning occurs before I begin the drawing for a painting. I have found that I am much more successful with a painting when I have organized and done a little prep-work first. Thumbnail sketching is often a part of my initial planning. Small sketches can be great tools to help you simplify the abstract areas in your design, determine a structure for your composition (if desired), better understand the value and shape relationships, and explore possibilities in design before committing to it in your final painting.
A few tips for thumbnail sketching: Keep your sketches small and simple. They should only take about 5 min each to complete. Don't worry about details, just focus on a pleasing arrangement of shapes and values. Above, I am generalizing mass areas and identifying the areas of lights and darks. I ask myself...Do I want to follow a design structure (or armature) for my painting? Where are the areas of lightest lights and darkest darks? How can I use these shapes to enhance the design of my painting? How will I use these lights and darks (and line direction) to create movement in the painting? How will the viewer's eyes travel around the painting (passage)? Do I have (and want) a focal point?
One of the most exciting aspects of painting for me is finding order in apparent randomness, especially in life and snapshots of everyday moments. For this reason, I don't "stage" my still-life paintings. I find order in what is already there. For example, the garlic above was a photo from the farmer's market near my studio in Fredericksburg. Armatures serve as the backbone structure of a painting, will help create a coherent flow, and are a starting point to determine placement of shapes, values, and color. The disclaimer here... not all paintings need to have a structure to be successful and not all compositions lend themselves to structure (i.e. single-object still life, continuous field compositions, portraits, etc), but many do. Above are a few common compositional structures. Again, these structures are simply guides, not rules, and for beginning painters, will provide a direction in helping you organize and be more successful with your paintings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thank you for helping me understand your creative process. Your way seems to be the way of many.

To me, creativity seems to come "from nothing at all". There is no premeditation or real planning involved but I do know the end result in sort of a mystical way. The ancient spirit guides me to it each day.

I rather feel comfortable in "chaos" because I know the ancient spirit will guide me through it. In the end, I don't take the credit but know that it is the divine spirit making love work for me.

Good luck,