Saturday, June 7, 2014

How To Paint To Paint A Painting? Step Four: Decide On The Background

Some artists really struggle with creating a background for their piece if they are doing any kind of portrait. 

An artist needs to know before or at the start of their painting what the background is. If they don’t, the rest of the painting can look very imbalanced. Art needs to be created simultaneously.  Often an artist will struggle with one piece of their canvas.  And be frustrated that this one section is not perfect. But when an artist makes sure to pay attention to all parts of the canvas, equally, a lot of that frustration will vanish.  As each piece ads to the other parts of the image.  And the entire piece begins to flow.

I have been painting long enough that I have a general idea of the types of backgrounds that work well with my subject matter.  And so I now tend to stick to background choices that have worked for me in other pieces.  There are two reasons for this. 1) Once something is working there is no need to stop using it.  2) This way people can put more than one piece of my art together in a consistent way on their walls.

That said, there are invariably pieces which are new, or where I am trying a new color palette or subject matter, and I need to figure out the background.  This can be a trial and error process. And can be one of the most frustrating parts to creating a new painting.

And even once a background is determined, there can still be issues with where to put the color transition, or how much of a color value you wish to create in the background.  Changing where a color variation occurs by even an inch can at times make a big difference in the overall composition of the painting.  The other key piece to background creation is bringing color through the painting. This is another reason for painting all pieces of the painting in sync with one another.  You may not know it, but often an artist will bring some of the foreground color into the background, and vice versa in very subtle ways.  This helps the eye take in the entire piece and feel it flow.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

How To Paint A Painting? Step Three: Set the Intention

Setting the intention for a piece of art is something that makes a big difference to not just the ease of creation but the essence of a piece. If I forget to set an intention, or I’m unclear about my intention or forget what the intention is half way through the piece, this is where I will find myself struggling with a painting.

And invariable, I just must simply ask myself, what was the intention? What are you trying to convey? WHY did you decide to paint this painting?  Once I remind myself of these answers, the painting always begins to work itself out and convey that emotion to the viewer.

And to help myself remember what my focus is for each piece, I also write a word or phrase on the back of each piece to remind myself of the intention. 

Below if a interview from the RAW Artist show, where I discuss intention in the creation process. Towards the end of the interview, we were discussing my intention when creating this male figurative piece titled Mmmmmm.

For you artists out there – do you set an intention to your piece before you begin? Why or why not?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How To Paint a Painting? Step Two: Prepping The Canvas

I used a blue color wash on this painting, which gives it a blue feel even after layers of paint have been added.
The second step in painting is preparing the surface to be painted. Normally for me this means deciding on the size and shape of a gallery-wrapped canvas. And then preparing the canvas for paint. 

The first step is determining how big and what size the painting should be. Over the years I have come up with a standard set of canvas sizes that I like to use, for example 24 x 24 and 18 x 36. But at times an image will strike me as needing to be painted and it will take a while to determine what size the image will scale to. This requires math and a ruler to determine the scale of the current image and then translating that into the size of the canvas to use. Yes! Artists use math! For example, a 4 x 6 picture could work well on a 24 x 36 (scale of 6), or 16 x 24 (scale of 4). 

Once I have the correct size of canvas to paint on, I then add a layer of gesso, which is very white, heavy paint to the canvas. While the canvas I buy has a layer of paint, it helps to add additional lays prior to painting. It also helps me feel that I own every inch of the canvas at the start of the process. Some artists create many layers of gesso on their canvas and sand down each layer so that the canvas is like glass. I like to work with a slightly textured surface, so I do not sand anything down. But that is a personal preference. 

Gessoing the canvas is probably the messiest part of the creation process. It is messy because I am covering every inch of the painting, including all the sides of the canvas. I always end up with white gesso all over myself and my studio floor. (Which is why I always do this process on a drop cloth.) 

After the gesso dries I may or may not add a light wash of color to the entire canvas as well. The advantage to adding a wash of color, is if the color is the same as your subject matter you have now saved yourself some time with establishing the middle shade for your art. The possible downside to creating a wash of color, is the entire painting now has that color as an undertone. Which will give your painting a different look than starting from white. Lately I have been forgoing a color wash on my more realistic figurative works, but I continue to use color wash in my abstract figurative paintings. 

 The last step in preparing the canvas for paint is sketching out the image onto the canvas. Normally this process goes smoothly. But occasionally, once an image is sketched out I decide that I don’t like how it is centered, or I think that a different shape or size of canvas would look better. Sometimes this means erasing my sketch and starting over, and sometimes I find it faster to simply re-gesso the canvas. After I am done grumbling to myself about waiting till I finished the process to figure this out, the end result and changes do make a difference to the overall presentation and the image I’m wishing to evoke. 

Because this process works well for an assembly line process, I tend to gesso and sketch multiple paintings at once. Taking me approximately 1/2 a day complete this process.
For Step one see How To Paint A Painting? Step One: Deciding What To Paint

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How To Paint A Painting? Step One: Deciding What To Paint

Finished Painting Titled: Classic 
Often people wonder how long it takes to take a painting and what the step are involved in the process. And the answer to how long it takes to paint any painting is a lifetime. In that every painting we have completed follows on the learnings we have learned in our past paintings. No painting would be possible without the skill and knowledge learned through the previous years of painting. And while the actual physical time it takes to create a work of art varies, and is in some ways unpredictable. I hope in this series of articles to show the steps involved in the creative process.A few of which I think most people are unaware of. 

Before an artist puts paint to canvas, there is an important first step that occurs, and that is deciding what to paint. This might seem easy, but in reality it is often one of the most time consuming parts of creating. 

For me, because I paint a painting over a series of weeks and months, and my best creative time is at night, I work off photographs. When I get the urge to paint a new group of paintings, I will look at my existing photographs taken in my studio. If nothing is speaking to me, I will then setup a photo shoot. I do this in my studio so that I can control the light and the environment. My work intentionally has a side that is more well lit, and one that is not. And during the photo shoot we will play with how close and how far away the model is to the light source, and the angle of the camera, to change the intensity and the variety of shadows on the human body. Using a tri-pod, a digital camera and a model, I take up to 500 shots before I am done. 

The next day I comb through the 500 shots and delete any that don’t work for me, that I don’t like, that are blurry because the model moved in the low light setting, or that are under lit. I also delete anything that is very similar to another shot that is a slightly better angle or better shadow play on the subject. This process generally nets me about 200 photos to continue combing through. 

Original Unaltered Model Photo
Sometimes because of the angle of the camera when I took the shot, the shot will look better when cropped. So this is where I being to digitally crop photos and possibly play with the lighting of the image. Once I’m done with this process, I have approximately 50-80 pictures that feel interesting enough for me to print. 

I then print these photos so that I have a visual, tangible image to work with. These are the group of images I will then work off of whenever I am looking for inspiration, or decide to paint from. 

In terms of looking through my now set of prints to determine what inspires me, often there is a feeling I am wishing to evoke. Or I have been told by clients I wish you would do this or this. Or this type of pose would finish the story of these three other paintings, etc. So my selection of what to paint is often a combination of the story and emotions I wish to tell with the new group of paintings, combined with the feedback I hear from those viewing my art about the story they would wish to see completed. 

 When I do a commission of someone, the process is the same but on a slightly smaller scale, as we generally have more of a focus for the photo shoot. I take pictures in a variety of settings if the client isn’t entirely sure what type of pose they are looking for, and then initially comb through 100-200 pictures together (to delete any immediately that the client might not be comfortable with). And then discuss which images they might like. I will then do the fine tuning of images, and return with anywhere from 2-5 images for the client to look through and then decide on a final image to sign off on. 

All in all this process can take anywhere between 20 and 40 hours. And isn’t something most people think about when they ask about painting. 

 If an artist is working off a still painting, or a live model, the process is a little different. In that there is setup time for the still. Or setup time for the model, followed by many breaks the model needs to take. But in general, there is always going to be time and thought put into what someone is painting and why. And the story they are wishing to convey through their art.
For Step 1 see How To Paint a Painting? Step Two: Prepping The Canvas

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One Of The Perks Of Being An Artist:

One of the funny things about being an artist is that it seems at times to be extremes of two worlds - one social and one very solitary. When creating in our studios, are is very solitary. But when we have an art show, or are meeting with clients it is then also very social. I find that the social aspect brings an unexpected twist to almost any outing I have. Which is a great perk of being an artist. For example, I was out on a date with my man this past week, and we ran into two wonderful clients of mine. One of the great things about my clients and fans of my art are really wonderful, supportive, warm and loving people. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because in order to “get” my art, we have to think a like. So running into two of my favorite clients was a great and added surprise to my evening out. Then a few days later, my family and I were checking out a new spot during the weekend. And I ran into a fellow artist who has been in two galleries with me. His name is Dano and he is incredibly talented. And as is the case with most people I bond with over art, he and his manager Bill are “good people.” I was able to introduce the family to Dano and Bill. ( As well as catch up and exchange some great art talk. When we left, our son had a new personally autographed singed print of a surf painting Dano did. It was a great addition to our day out. These are some of the things that add to the warmth and depth of the fabric of my life, because I’m an artist. And I feel very blessed to know and connect with so many people around my area, and the world. All because of my art. What about you? What are you blessed to have in your life because of your work or your passion? For additional art show fun, see Funny Things I Hear at My Art Shows

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My “Other” Creative Life:

Most artist, being creative people, tend to create in more than one way. Many of us create in multiple mediums, and/or in multiple styles. Some artists do this all under one name. Most however, have additional names under which they create. For example, I share my photography under my ArtFullWorld shop on Etsy. And I also have a children’s line of paintings under the name Billie TK. I thought today I’d share one of those paintings with you. If you come into my home, on the wall of my living room is a series of 3 giraffe paintings. Guest have often commented that they feel they are being watched because somehow (I really have no idea how) the eyes of some of my subjects seem to follow you around the room as you moved. I personally love giraffes. When people ask why I started painting them I always ask if they have met a giraffe. Because for me, to meet a giraffe is to love giraffes. They are such amazing creatures. They are tall, really big animals that are at the same time quite gentle to humans. And also impressively can be quite strong when encountering by some of the fieriest animals on the African plains. I find when I take pictures of them that they rarely stay in frame – the most uncooperative of subjects! Giraffes are very curious of us, and the younger ones especially have some of the most comical yet cute expressions when looking at you. So this is what I try convey when I paint them. I know starting out with giraffes as subjects is somewhere of an odd/ off-beat topic. But after painting one of the pictures I had taken of a giraffe, I was amazed at the response of toddlers and young children coming into the group studio I was working from. And so I knew I had a hit. Of course a lot of my paintings actually end up on the walls of adult rooms. Because I am not the only one who loves things that make people smile like happy giraffess. If you’d like to see more of this style of my work, it’s available online at or on Etsy at for another side of creativity see: Behind the scenes look at my Abstract Landscapes

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Behind the Scenes Look at More Passion:

This was one of my first couple paintings. I actually created couple themed paintings before I started creating torso paintings. But because these paintings are considered risque by some viewers, any works with subtle nudity have never been shown at art shows. My goal as an artist is to show the beauty of the human body. But as we know, not everyone holds that belief, and many people would have the vapors should I bring one of these to a gallery or art fair. So to avoid drama, they remain for the most part unseen by the public accept online. I had actually created this same piece, but with a very different color palette (of blues and reds) first. Because of it’s almost angry color scheme, it had a very different feel than this one. I decided after the original sold, to try painting the painting again, but with a new color palette that I had recently started using. And this was the result. I chose this image because I felt that making love outside, near a waterfall would be quite sexy. I imagined that being in Hawaii in a deserted part of one of the islands, could lead to a very romantic tryst. So that was my intent when creating this piece - to portray that on canvas. I get this question a lot, so I will just try to put it to rest - no, that is not me in the painting! She has blonde hair only because I liked the contrast of his dark hair, and her light hair. Which is also why I made their skin contrasting as well. It was an artist choice, nothing else. I am often asked how long a painting such as this takes me. Every piece of art work is different. And of course, each piece contains the culmination of everything I have learned up until that point. So the most correct answer would be “a lifetime.” But for those who can’t see in the abstract like that - figurative works generally take me about a year to complete. Sometimes less, sometimes more. Partly because I am always painting multiple works at once. And partly because good things take time. And if I don’t have a specific show deadline, I let the paintings dictate their completion, rather than me. For another look at creation of art see Lack of Intention