I was posting some progress images of a wedding portrait I am currently working on to my Facebook page, One Life Fine Art (if you are on Facebook, make sure to like and follow me there), and it occurred to me suddenly that the person for whom I am making the painting could actually be terrified by what they were seeing!
The first phase was the line drawing, the second, a grisaille in chromium oxide green, and the third was the layer where I work out my major colour story (in this case a series of full strength washes of pthalo green, green gold and Quinacridone red/violet mix).
On top of that I will start to refine the forms and paint in details, balancing lights, darks and colour as I go along. To me this seems natural, but to someone who has never seen a painting grow from sketch to finish, they might have assumed the process was something like paint by numbers or colouring books, where each clearly delineated area has its individual colour mixed and applied from left to right, in one go.
I suppose some artists work like that, but my paintings are more like a living thing, layers upon layers built up from the back to the front of the painting (or canvas to picture plane), with each layer growing from the layer beneath.
The major difference is in how preplanned the painting is. Am I merely executing something which already exists fully realized in my head, or am I working with the idea to create something unique to itself?
Working left to right, filling in areas in a planned and orderly fashion is certainly efficient, but doesn’t allow me to take advantage of coincidence or discovery. Knowing that I can’t possibly anticipate every eventuality in the painting, I would rather give myself the opportunity to stop earlier than planned or change things to capitalize on coincidences as they appear. I couldn’t see these coincidences and happy accidents if I were focussing on the orderly filling of areas of colour instead of an organic approach to the image.
So, should you be out there watching my paintings take shape and feel you are on a bit of a rollercoaster ride in terms of progress, never fear, we will arrive safely. You will just have to have a little faith in the process and trust your pilot. In the mean time, sit back and enjoy the ride!