The Process

I'm often asked about how I've made a painting, or how long it took.  There's never an easy answer for either question.  There are - at least for me - twists and turns in the process.  I change my mind.  I refine or re-do an area.  I make mistakes.  All that gets calculated into the "how long did it take?" equation.  I suppose, with more practice, I will paint more deliberately, more confidently.  The paintings start with surface preparation and go on to drawing (either in ink or nero pencil), then to imprimatura (usually in terre verte or a red ochre).   The underpainting begins with whites and umbers which yield optical grays and establish the range of values.  Finally, the color is applied.  I've documented these works in progress:







Two Cherries, oil on panel, May 2013

I started a portrait of my father on Father's Day of 2009.  I wanted to portray him as Renaissance landowners were depicted - in clothing of that period, in a room that overlooks his land.  I combined several documents, trying to come up with a composite that conveyed what I had in mind.  Despite my initial goal of making all decisions before the painting began, I have changed directions a number of times.  It's all a part of the learning.  I have to let it sit without being touched for a few weeks before I begin again.  I am in no hurry to finish.  I usually work on more than one piece at a time.  Sometimes I'll execute several small drawings or acrylic paintings before returning to an oil painting.
Arthur Coan

I wasn't satisfied with the color...people said he looked like clergy.  So I started over, and also have attempted to change the gaze of his eyes...probably four times.  It gets pretty frustrating when I can't seem to get it just right. 

This graphite drawing measures 2.25" x 3.25".  Drawings this size typically take about 20 hours to complete.

I started a painting on panel in January 2012.  Here are various stages of the underdrawing, and below, the imprimatura with the addition of some whites.  The imprimatura is the initial color put over the underdrawing (in this case, red ochre with transparent red oxide).  It serves to unify the painting and will express itself even in the final painting.  The whites are applied by mixing dry white pigment in an emulsion.  After the whites are fully painted, I will work on the darks.  After this underpainting stage is complete, I will begin the process of adding color.

February 10

February 12

February 19

March 1

The whites are built up using dry pigment - a mix of zinc and titanium white - in an emulsion medium. Once the whites are built up, the darks are worked in.

Working in the darks: This is a transition from the drawing to the painting stage.  I continue to use emulsion as the medium with dry pigment.  This keeps the underpainting very "lean" and is in keeping with the "fat over lean" addage.  The underpainting is considered lean because there is very little oil in the emulsion and none at all in the dry pigments. 

March 22

March 27

March 28

April 5

April 6

detail from April 13
April 15
April 20

April 22

April 29
June 2


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