I have a system in the way I generally work on a painting from start to finish that I would like to share. My process may also give others ideas as to the methods they employ. There are of course many different practical ways to create a painting, some are tried and tested by artists throughout history, other methods, especially material techniques have evolved with technological advancement.The surface I prefer to work on is hardboard, this is exterior grade wood which is basically a sandwich of thin layers of wood glued together in the factory and compressed to make one piece. There are a number of thicknesses, from 9mm to 24 +. Through experience I found a size that was thick enough to maintain its rigidity when at a larger size, that is manageable when moving around and ultimately practical when and if the work is eventually hung on a wall. I always use 18mm thickness. The size of the panels is slightly restrictive in that they are only available in 8'x 4' sheets. When I order my wood from a timber merchant. I ask them to cut each panel down to my required size, I usually like to work at 5'x4', they also supply the off cut which can be used for another smaller painting. Using a wooden panel as a painting support is a personal choice of mine, canvas is the traditional medium although wooden panels have been used by artists as supports throughout history . I have used both wood and canvas, although I prefer wood over canvas because I prefer the rigidity of wood, when painting on canvas even when its stretched rigorously it tends to still move when painted upon. I generally paint 3-5 paintings a month usually 3 large panelled works. I work for 9 hours a day, excluding breaks for meals. I prefer to work late morning and often work until 9 pm or longer when the lighter nights arrive. I do also have a daylight simulation light when in the dark winter months. I work everyday including weekends. My studio is actually my flat (rented), it is a large victorian building and so it has high ceilings and large windows, I chose this particular flat because it had a large south facing bay window, perfect for the even light source necessary to produce a painting. The flat has plenty of room for working and storage. Ideally I would of course like a a large separate studio, saying that I do like to have my work on view even when I am engaged in other things. My bed is in the same room, and I have a small separate kitchen and bathroom. It is pretty ideal, although eventually of course I will have to look for alternative storage space. I rolled up the supplied carpets and moved them to under my bed and sofa. this gives me a wide floor space area that I don't have to worry about spilling paint on. Firstly, I lay the panel down flat upon the floor. I then coat the panel in 2 coats of white gesso primer. The primer I use is high quality but is economical as I use quite a lot of it on a monthly basis. I use Windsor and Newton acrylic Galeria medium. It comes in 1 ltr and 2ltr.
tubs. I use a household 3" wide brush to apply the gesso. I work across the panel form side to side in one direction, I then wait until it dries (in a round 4 hrs) and then I work in the opposite direction onto of the first dry layer with a slightly thicker layer, always trying to keep a unity of depth and minimal brush marks, and minimise the inevitable bits of material that seem to appear from nowhere. You really only need 2 coats (recommended) however you may apply as many as you like, There is no need to size the wood before applying the primer. I paint the edges also sealing it all in. When both layers are thoroughly dry its time to lay down the planning drawing. Of course some artists don't start with a drawing, prefering to draw directly with the paint some preferring to let chance and action dictate how the work happens. I prefer to map out where I want things to go , however the painting always evolves, sometimes drastically from the original drawing. I tend to formulate my ideas with small sketches, before I work on the panel. The small ideas drawings are very loose, and often achieved quickly as I usually have the image in my minds eye and its just a case of formulating what the composition and perspective will generally be along with the sizing of objects I want to include. The image below is the rough drawing I completed with a view to it being the final work on the panel above.
When I am happy with the concept the final drawing upon the panel can begin. I generally start with an area and expand out, I am upscaling the drawing on paper which is just under A3 to the full size of the panel 5'x4' I don't use any measurement techniques, I tend to just go by eye. This is of course when things can alter from the original drawing idea, however it doesn't matter as it adds to the spontaneity and enjoyment of composing the small idea on a large scale. Happy accidents are a wonderful thing, from this stage on the painting is produced with a final image in mind, but the colouring, tone, line and forms evolve and may end up far different that the initial concept drawing. I the upscaled drawing is drawn with a weak Burnt sienna oil colour, mixed with a fast drying medium (liquin) and a small amount of turpentine. I prefer this colour I have tried others in my career to lay out the drawing but I have found this colour works best for me, I like it as the base colour, and it lends itself to being used in itself when areas are left within the final work. It can take up to a day to draw it all out, to the way I want it. I use a lot of turps and rags to put on and rub off to adjust line and order as I go, often stepping right back about 3 meters away (at the other end of my kitchen) to view intermittently to make sure all is going well. Because the work is quite large it is helpful to see how the work may eventually work on a prospective wall. Below is the finished drawing on the panel. (day 2-3) I tend to work between 3-5 paintings at the same time depending upon the size, they are all at different stages of development (interspersed with new drawings and idea formulation) although I usually carry one through to full realisation, so that when i've finished one i'm ahead with the rest in the production line. Some of course never make it, this can happen at any stage, this is why the initial concept drawing idea has to work, but there are lots of reasons for me to disregard and start again. occasionally it can even be finished and I just cant live with it and it has to go (either overpainted or put out of site to be looked at again with fresh eyes later). mostly, however, the initial concept is enough to see it through to completion. But I generally don't like what I paint and at pains to show it to the world, but then I think well thats what ive done good and or bad so there it is. Below is the scaled up drawing completed for this painting.(TRSC8) As you can see the work has developed somewhat from the initial concept sketch.
Next is the painting stage. in which the work will change dramatically with the advent of colour, at the painting stage new changes to the overall concept will develop. I see the whole colouration in my minds eye, I tend to work quickly, mixing oils and acrylics, not necessarily together, but each in places where they may be best suited, oils dry slowly even when using Liquin the fast drying medium they dry slower than acrylics, and so I use oils where i know they wont be touched for a while they dry. I use many techniques to apply the paint, nowadays my work is mainly fairly abstract so there are lots of flat areas of colour, I may splash, drip, scumble, or use wet in wet, I may place colours on top of others without mixing ( or straight from the tube) I mix as I progress, deciding quite quickly where they will go and how they will work best when next to each other. Balance of colour is very important for the composition to work as a whole. Primaries and secondaries are observed and either used to accentuate or diminish effects. Its not unlike a game of chess, in that it all has to sing as one, something is either right or not so right. learned experience comes into play a lot, however, rules are constantly broken, in an effort to push the work in a certain direction, and overall aesthetic. The complexities of my style are of themselves, and have generally been born of a desire to accomplish a certain vision, and mostly concocted through creative abilities which I cannot fully explain, I do tend to use a majority of white, some areas are painted white others are left with the underground surface showing through. In my current work I am aiming to imbue an ephemeral light into the work, to keep things fresh and to retain dynamism, paint is thick and thin a light wash or thick impasto. (I occasionally put the dried up paint from the top of the tubes, into a wet piece of paint to stick it) I mostly use the original colour I have thought of on the hoof so to speak, and put that down, I don't overpaint most areas. my brushwork is loose, with a loaded brush I will draw a long stroke, I will paint a colour in short dabs in areas to accent the under colour (usually discordant colours) to disrupt, or complement colours to reinforce an area big or small. Painting is an immersive almost spiritual experience, I loose myself in the process, often coming round after a few hours, my feet aching. Those are the periods when creativity takes over and you get lost in the exhilaration of it all, I will often come around and say to myself did I do that, its like being on autopilot. funny.. I haven't yet found a more pleasurable experience, one that involves all the senses, I don't care to do anything else in life.