Covering the Canvas

While I wrap up some of my projects this week, I wanted to talk a little about how I go about starting my paintings. If I’m working on an idea that is not from life or a photograph, I need to at least have a sketch or a clear image in my mind before I start. For me, a giant white canvas is a little daunting. So I try to get paint down to cover the white as quickly as possible. I start by using the palette knife and just find lines within the painting. Here I really focus on the composition of the painting. For me, composition is the most important part. With an interesting composition, you can draw the viewer into your painting. Without a solid composition, a painting, no matter how complete or detailed, can fall a part.    

I continue adding lines until I believe I have enough markings set to get started. It usually ends up looking like this. 

canvas with different lines making up the composition

From there I take mineral spirits and paint and apply thin layers onto the canvas, sometimes blending the lines I’ve made. Here I focus on making the shapes and relationships between them that I see. This step lasts as long as it takes me to cover all of the white on my canvas. I don’t go into any type of detail until this step is finished. In this picture, there are still some white spots, but this is generally what it looks like during this phase.

Still life created from composition lines. Mainly generalized shapes.

After that, I work on finishing the painting, while still keeping in mind composition and relationships. I use my paintbrushes, but more often then not, rely on my palette knife. It allows me to really focus on shapes and not the physical object. There’s a certain point where I feel done with the painting and I’ll stop, whether I think it’s actually finished or not. The next day I’ll come back to it and maybe add a few details. Sometimes, it doesn’t need anything at all. It differs with each painting. At times, I will go back to a painting I haven’t worked on in a long time with a fresh perspective. I may see things that don’t work that I didn’t notice before, or I may finally have an answer to a problem I had with the painting. It really helps to put the painting down for a while and then come back to it. 

I hope you enjoyed a look into my painting process this week!

Until next time!


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