My Process

I’m working on a series of paintings, on one “topic,” in oil, on canvas, as a prelude to a new body of work. I don’t expect the colors will be redundant, but it will be landscape based. I have prized the ability to use different kinds of mediums/media with which to paint and draw and mixing them together to get custom effects. In the “old days” it was usually a combination of turpentine, stand oil and damar varnish, yet I don’t love them equally. I stopped using linseed oil, because I found it took too long to dry, and yellowed my colors. I know some artists use only Liquin, some only walnut oil. I like Copal Medium #2, for some gloss and the ability to layer that I think brings detail and light into a painting. I have been using Galkyd Slow Drying, the Galkyd that hastens drying, and Liquin to speed drying.  I use turpenoid, Mineral Spirits, Oil of Spike of Lavender, and walnut oil.  

Some people think oil painting has a hassle factor to it, and they may be right. I seem to get it all over everything, and it takes time for paintings to dry, no matter what medium you use, if you compare it to acrylics or water color, yet I am most comfortable with it, and love the richness of the texture, results and colors. Pastels, graphite, charcoal, conte crayon, acrylics, water color, gouache, amd pen and ink I used quite often, but since I have been told, if I want to show, there has to be some coherence in the materials used, subject matter, meaning, I will concentrate on this next endeavor; a body of work in oil.

I learned first to draw before I was a painter, and to some extent that still informs my painting and the way I look at the world. After learning to draw accurately what I saw, I realized that the way I wanted to paint, would involve simplifying what I saw into the parts that I thought most relevant, or I’d be working on the same painting for years, were I to include every detail. So I look carefully, and ask myself what I am really seeing, and ask myself, if I should paint it at all. And add to that, a dash of laziness and a sense of time thrift, so I did a short hand version of what I see. That seemed to have the greatest impact; and to some extent, I think many artists must do that.

So, when I am asked what my process is, I hardly know where to start. 

  • A good eye for composition. I’ve been told I have one and I think that’s accurate. Why I have a good eye is probably due to my being drawn to things I personally find interesting, beautiful, or arresting in some way. 
  • The use of devices, short cuts, and illusions. Either we are taught, or discover in the process of painting itself, a way to do it well and make it easier. 
  • Where the paint meets the canvas (like where the rubber meets the road) I might do a brief charcoal or pencil sketch as a trial, in a sketch book, or take a photo, that helps me step back from 3 D into 2D. I will photoshop things to change saturate colors, turn the photo into black and white and manipulate the contrast, to teach myself to see light and darks when bedazzled by color. 
  • Sometimes I draw on my canvas to get things in the right places, or I’ll take a mild intensity color, thinned with turpenoid or oil of mineral spirits and use it to make a few outlines, and then get painting.I have had that mocked as paint by numbers or a painting like using a coloring book. That’s okay. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. 
  • Underpainting; whether you do it faintly, fuzzily, or washes in sepia of the major objects, say in a landscape, and then go on to paint the shapes and fill in details later, it’s a good way to start. I’ve made the mistake of getting into too much detail in a corner of a painting, too quickly and never got the rest of the canvas to match up.  
  • Here's an underpainting I did working from a macro of some merlot grapes I took a picture of on a photo safari with a group of photographers up on the Santa Margarita Ranch. 

I’ve been told, “Paint the color of the shape, and add details later,” by John Farnsworth. There are people that spend a whole lot of time laying out their palette, and analyzing. Probably I’d save my self some heartache, and I’d get more done if I organized my space better; however, it limits my time to actually PAINT.

This is a detail of a painting I did at a personal workshop with John, using a limited palette.  Pthalo Blue, Pthalo Red, Pthalo yellow, and white.    

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I can paint with a limited palette, but don’t like to. I find the more I paint, the larger I want my palette to be; not smaller. Literally, and in speaking of using more colors. Something I’ve enjoyed doing since I took a personal workshop with John, was the use of 6x6 gessoed masonite “tiles.” I am not part of the “painting a day” movement, but I find doing a very small painting of a larger image, or on site, I’m forced to make a simple rendition of a scene, and it helps me get the light and colors accurately, with very little paint or time committed. That’s all the more important when painting Plein Air, as the weather and light change quickly. It trains me to figure out composition faster, each time I do it.

Here are a few more photos that I am working from. I find that reducing the color helps me work on the form; I think you can see this from the sepia grapes. 

Here's a vivid cluster, grape leaves are harder to draw or paint than I had thought.   

Here's a vivid cluster, grape leaves are harder to draw or paint than I had thought. 

 

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Here's some fresh paint from today; an under painting called Down the Row, Merlot growing on the Santa Margarita Ranch, San Luis Obispo. Unfinished. 

This one would best be called Down the Row, because that's what you're doing when you look at it. I was captivated by the patterns under the vines. This is a small finished oil of one of the Edna Valley Vineyard's chardonnay. 

This one would best be called Down the Row, because that's what you're doing when you look at it. I was captivated by the patterns under the vines. This is a small finished oil of one of the Edna Valley Vineyard's chardonnay. 

This one above is another underpainting with a slightly different palette. 

This one above is another underpainting with a slightly different palette. 

For those from my presentation at the Atascadero Art Association meeting, that I'm teaching Monday, October 14th evening at the Atascadero Library, feel welcome to leave comments. 

I haven't been blogging on the art site, much lately but will do some catching up. There's plein air and the pochade box adventures, and finishing up on some small detailed paintings. If this does not contain the commented on paintings, come back in a few days, I will have added the illustrations. I will also post another one on process again soon, with a step, by step look at how I paint, and the finished product. They do include those painful "ugly duck" incarnations, I feel like throwing out during the process. Even if I don't like a painting 100%, I learn something from each one. Sometimes they'll hang around for years, and I'll come back to it to finish, and wind up with something I fall in love with. Go figure.  The one below is one that hung around in my studio for seven years before I changed my palette and just kept going. It's currently for sale at Outpost Trading in Santa Ynez. 

 

 

 

This is a 38x48 oil painting, that I set aside for several years after I got stuck in how much detail I wanted to add. 

 

Looking east from Minden, Nevada

Looking east from Minden, Nevada