Saturday, August 22, 2009

How to Paint

How to paint? Wow, that's a tall order for a single blog post! But while I was teaching this past week in St Andrews, NB, I spent one evening (no TV, no wi-fi) thinking how I might condense my procedure into just a few bullet points. Here's what I came up with, and it really does describe what I do:
  1. Loosely sketch in large, simple shapes
  2. Loosely block in average color and value of each shape
  3. Compare and adjust relationships between shapes: value, hue, chroma, shape outline
  4. Note major dark accents and major light highlights
  5. Add color variations (not value, but hue and chroma only) within each shape
  6. Refine shape edges as needed (e.g. sky holes, value shifts at edge to soften, negative space adjustments).
  7. Finish with working in the third dimension and adding surface texture with thicker paint or pastel
When I paint this way, detail just "seems to happen" because the hand is not a machine, and not all strokes are as precise and unerring as we would like. The stroke slides left, slides right, sometimes crossing the centerline - sort of how I drive!

Here are two painting demonstrations, both 9x12 oils, that I did on Minister's Island. For each of these, I consciously thought of the process I outlined during the evening.

"Covenhoven Servant Quarters" 9x12, oil/panel

"Minister's Cottage" 9x12, oil/panel


Adriana Meiss said...

Nice pieces you have here.
I'm getting better results with my recent plein air work and it's because I've been following similar steps to the ones you posted. Next time I'll follow yours step by step to see what happens! Thank you!

Ed Terpening said...

Your approach is completely intuitive. Close to what I do, although I tend to decide exactly what approach to take once I've chosen the subject and decided the feeling I want to convey. There are no formulas, right?

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, Adriana and Ed. You're right, Ed - no formulas. Some artists paint from the center of interest and outward, which is an approach I personally find difficult.