My Process to Start a New Painting

Other than starting out with a serious dose of procrastination - there are many stages to the painting process. Mine typically goes like this:

Inspiration is always first.  It may take on many forms. Whether it is the softness of a petal or the play of light and shadow or an intriguing detail that just speaks to you.  Something has caught your eye.  Made you stop and look at it a little deeper. Then you make a decision.  I must paint that.  In whatever way you perceive it to be.  You make so many decisions at this point, size, orientation, medium to technique.  I seldom have to look for something to paint – I am always three paintings or more ahead in my mind.  So much to do!

Getting started.  The dreaded white canvas or paper.  Where to put the first mark.  To be honest, the subject generally provides me with most of these answers including where to put the first mark.  And it is seldom upper left hand corner.  Often I like to start with the focal point and build out.  If I have any reservation at all, I start with some very rough thumbnail composition sketches. 

Into the deep end.  This stage is so exciting.  Applying the paint.  Yumm!  Intriguing.  Exciting.  Maybe I need to research more.  No no no – back to work! Focus Helen focus!  And sometimes the commitment is overwhelming.  I like detail remember?

The ugly duckling.  Somewhere as I near the halfway point, I start to overanalyze the work and second guess myself. And wonder what the heck I was thinking.  I call this the ugly duckling stage.  I decide to take a break and let it rest.  How long is anyone’s guess. I certainly never know. And I have accepted this stage as part of my process.

Fresh start.  At this point I start another painting.  Decide what colours I would like to work with, peruse all my reference materials and make a decision as what to start next.  If I am working in a series as I often do,  I can skip this stage as I would have made the decision eons ago what would be included in the series.  Anyway, this is where I start the next piece. I will take this painting to the ugly duckling stage and then let it rest.  This is the perfect time to pick the first painting back up – or another one.

Picking it back up.  I check out the work I have “let rest” at the halfway point.  Decide which work I feel re-inspired by and visualize completing. With renewed energy and excitement I dive in once again.  I can see it – I can almost taste it.  

Over the finish line.  Once I bring a painting to completion or near completion I sign it. Then I spend a fair bit of time assessing the overall work.  Do I need to balance the colours anywhere?  Have I captured the right level contrast? Have I accomplished what I set out to do?  Does the ……  

Photograph it and post and blog about it and be done with it!