Sometimes I get tired of the process. That’s my epiphany of the week but I’m pretty sure I’ve confronted the thought before. I just forget it as I get un-tired of the process or discover a new one. I also switch between a few different artistic mediums to keep from getting tired of one process or another but that doesn’t always work. Specifically I’m writing about my painting process today.

My usual painting process it make small ink drawings in my sketchbook, pick out one of these drawing, turn the small drawing into a more finished working drawing, make a color sketch of the drawing, transfer the drawing to canvas, and follow the color sketch to make the painting. I’ve made lots and lots of painting that way. I’ve got it down. But I haven’t made many in the last half a year or so. I’ve been working on other things.

About a month ago I even bought some new 18×24 in canvases. I only had one blank one left so I bought another half dozen to give myself something to jump start my process. I started a new painting and made it all the way through my process to the part where I transfer the drawing onto the canvas. Then I stopped. And the painting has sat there unfinished ever since then. I lost interest in it and didn’t know why.

Another size that I paint at is 8×10 inches. I started doing that about ten years ago just so I could work with a wider variety of images. Though they are smaller I can get more paintings done in the same amount of time as a large one. The process is the same for the small ones except for one thing. I usually do four small ones at the same time. It’s faster that way. I can se aside the one I was just working on to let it dry as I work on another. And of course I have to do four times the sketches and four times the color drawings.

I think it was the beginning of 2014 that I bought about two dozen 8×10 blank canvases. I’ve probably only used about four of them since then. I was never in the mood to work on any paintings of that type. I wanted to do some this week or work on the 18×24 one that I had in process but I couldn’t. I even made six new drawings for some new 8×10 canvases and though I liked the drawings I had no interest in making paintings out of them. Why? I’m not sure except that I think I’ve grown tired of the process.

This week I got an 8×10 painting done. All because I changed the process. I skipped most of it. I decided to not work from any previous sketches or drawings and draw something new right on the canvas. I used to draw straight on the canvas back in my student days. They were larger canvases back then. About four feet by three feet. I would usually have a figure in the painting that was drawn from either a live model or me in the mirror and then I would add in a whole bunch of other strange little elements. After the drawing was done the painting would begin.

Drawing on canvas isn’t an easy thing. Canvas is a rough surface. It’s actually canvas with gesso on it. Gesso is a white paint that seals the surface of the canvas. You can put layer after layer of gesso on canvas and then sand it down until it’s smooth but usually that’s only done by artists looking for a smooth portrait technique. For the rest of us the roughness of the canvas makes for a good surface for holding the paint. But that also makes for a tough surface to draw on.

Most of the time I draw with a soft pencil. I have a light touch and a hard pencil will make me bear down too much and gouge the paper. A soft pencil leaves a darker line that is also harder to erase. On canvas that line is really tough to erase. So I use my soft pencil and try not to get the lines too dark but that’s not easy. The rough canvas eats at the pencil like sandpaper. The graphite can really build up. Using an eraser can just spread the graphite around rather than erasing it.

I can remember one fellow classmate back in my college days particularly admiring my drawings on canvas because it’s a type of drawing that you never get to see. Because I was figuring out the drawing as I was going alone there was a lot of erasing to be done (students us the eraser a lot) and since nothing was erased very well it left a lot of ghosts in the drawing. It was like a little time machine. You could see the way I changed an arm or a leg three different times. You could track the way I moved one element or another around until I found the right spot. And then a couple of things might be in the correct place on the first try. I hadn’t thought about that before my fellow student pointed it out to me. He even suggested making a series of drawings on canvas but I never got around to it. I was learning to finish things after all.

So that’s what I did with the new 8×10 inch painting. I said to heck with my process, pulled a blank canvas off my shelf, and just drew straight on it. About an hour later I had the image of a half masked face that I could work with. I broke out my acrylics, some of which were in bad shape from neglect, and painted. No color sketches either. I played it by eye. It took me all day to finish the painting which isn’t so bad since I usually get four paintings done in three to four days. This morning as I was stumbling around trying to figure out what to do with an hour of free time I pulled another 8×10 canvas out and drew on it. I’ve got a drawing ready to go on it now and can’t wait to get back to it. That’s a much better process.

One final odd thing about process. The canvases I buy come shrink wrapped in plastic. The first one I grabbed was already unwrapped and there was some yellow paint or ink that I had put on it sometime before. I have no memory of it. I’m guessing that sometime this year I was trying to change my process and see how a thin layer of yellow in a gradient would look. Obviously I didn’t like it and put it back on the shelf. I’m glad this latest change in process worked better for me.