This week color makes an appearance. Way back in the olden days of the late 1980s and the early 1990s I, and many others, used to make color sketches with watercolors or markers. Markers could be easier but they also could be more expensive. The point of a color sketch is to figure out exactly what colors you want everything to be. That can save a lot of time compared to trying to figure all the colors out when working on the final painting. Especially if you make a mistake in color choice on the final. It’s easier to figure it out before hand rather than fix a mistake. And mistakes will be made.

These days all my color sketches are done on the computer. It makes things so much easier. I used to have to make a drawing with each color sketch and that can be time consuming but with the drawing scanned into the computer I can change colors easily. The drawing is on a separate layer than the color so trying new colors or fixing mistakes is a snap. I can try out ten color schemes in the time it used to take me to try out one. The computer really is a beautiful tool for me at this stage.

This first color sketch is an oddity in that it even exists. When looking for the color sketch for this painting I ran across this file. Usually I only have one color sketch file since since I can try as many color schemes out as I need in just one file. This color sketch was also done over the penciled version of the drawing. This is not unusual since I don’t normally have an inked version of a drawing for my painting but in this case I do. I must have gotten part way through this color sketch and said, “Forget it. Things aren’t going right so ma

Now here is the finished color sketch. You can see that the line quality is totally different than the pencilled version. It’s drawn in ink now. I also notice that I got rid of those triangular shapes that were at the top of the painting. They were obviously causing too much visual clutter for me so I eliminated them and went with just a bar of color up top. I bet that’s why I was having so much trouble with the first color sketch. I couldn’t make all those little shapes up top work with the rest of the color. I can see now that I was going with a simple analogous green and blue color scheme for my base color with all the bright strips of color to be added later. Normally my color isn’t this sedate but I knew I was going to liven things up later.

The next step is to transfer the drawing to canvas. I do that by “Gridding Up” the drawing. You can just make out the grid in this photo. The grid is made up of a bunch of two inch squares. I also make a proportional grid over top of the color sketch on the computer. I then print out the drawing (minus the color as there’s no need to waste the ink) with the grid on top of it. Now I use the gridded drawing as a guide to make the big drawing on the canvas. Just draw what’s in each little box. It’s easy. This is how artists have been making small drawings into big drawings for a long, long, time and it works well.

After I transfer the drawing, in pencil, onto the canvas I get out my brushes and black paint. The black paint in an acrylic because I don’t need it to have any surface and I do need it to dry fast. If the black was an oil paint it would take a week to dry and it still might make a mess. I know this because back in my student days I used black oil paint and a cobalt dryer to do this part. Things went much smoother after I switched to black acrylic paint.

The line quality of the black doesn’t matter as much as it would in an ink drawing because of the way I put on the color paint. The color is an oil paint and it’s thick. I drop it on in the middle of a shape and work the brush stroke in the direction I want them to go in. I bring the paint as close as I can to the black line and then change how I how the brush and push the paint up to the black line. I shape the black line from the outside in. Sometimes I make a mistake and have to scrape some paint off, paint the black line back in, and re-push the paint up to it but do to the oil paint’s opaque nature it’s pretty forgiving for this type of correction.

In this next photo you can see how I put the paint on. Usually from top to bottom and from left to right so that I don’t make a mess. I like to finish off enclosed areas but you can see that I didn’t do that with the sky because if I was to paint underneath the face at this point the wet paint would be in my way. Better to finish the face first. You can also see my brush strokes and how I push the paint up and around the ear. I’ll then pull back in the direction I want the brush stroke to go in.

I really should have taken a photo after all of the initial color was painted on and before I put all of the brush strokes on top but alas I didn’t. It pretty much looked like the color sketch anyway. Still it would have been nice. I can’t put all of those brush strokes on top of the paint for a couple of weeks. The surface of the paint has to dry a bit first and since it’s oil paint that takes a while. This gives me timer to contemplate what I’m going to do with the top strokes. I’m not saying I think about it 24/7 but at any given moment I can contemplate it. It make a nice chance of pace from the relentless sort of “Get it done” mentality that it takes to put the paint on the canvas as I do.

Here is the finished piece. Since I analyzed it a couple of weeks ago I’ll be quiet now.