Since I wrote last week about the subject of motivation this week I decided to motivate myself to make a painting. I haven’t painted in quite a while due to lack of motivation so that was an obstacle I would have to overcome. I did that by setting myself a goal of being able to paint it over the weekend. I’d start it on Saturday and finish it (for the most part) on Sunday. I could motive myself for a weekend I thought.

The first thing I did was pick a size for the painting. I have some stretched 18×24 inch canvases lying around so that was a pretty easy choice. I have a few bigger canvases but those sizes were too ambitious for a weekend. 18×24 is a solid size. It’s big enough to be considered on the small size of large. My only other choice was 8×10 inches and that is way too small. I didn’t want to make a small painting. That’s a different type of motivation.

The second choice I made was not to make a detailed drawing or color sketch. Usually how I work is to find a small thumbnail drawing from my ink book that I like, blow it up, and redraw it into a finished drawing. Then I take that finished drawing, digitize it, and make a color sketch on the computer. This can take anywhere from a few hours to a day. I also have a bunch of finished drawings around that I could have chosen but that would mean I would have to transfer that drawing onto the canvas. That could take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours and kill my motivation.

What I decided to do was to get started on the painting by drawing right on the canvas. Preliminary drawing be damned. Well, maybe not quite damned. Instead of flying blind I picked out one of my recent Positive Affirmation art cards and used the drawing on that as a guide. It was the drawing of a face. I decided on a face because that seemed like the least complicated drawing I could start with. I draw a lot of faces so I had a good idea I could stay motivated with one one of them.

I kept the drawing fairly simple. A face, some A-frame hair, and a neck. I didn’t even go with a picture background. I kept the background simple. Most of it is hair with a peek of orange showing through. That and purple bars on top and bottom. As I was drawing the face I didn’t like the composition. There was a little bit too much hair on top of the painting. That’s when I decided to go with the color bars. I’ve used shapes of color in my paintings since I was college so it’s nothing new to me. I know how to handle a color shape as an element of a painting so it was an easy decision.

The one thing about the drawing that I didn’t get right was the eyes. They came out fine in the end but that’s because I knew they weren’t right and I’d have to fix them. I also know I could fix them in the painting stage. I struggled to get them just how I wanted in the drawing stage, saw frustration was setting, in and abandoned trying to get them right then and there. That’s because I knew that all the subtlety of the drawing would be blown out and obliterated in the next stage.

After I finished the pencil drawing I grabbed my paint brush and some dark purple paint. I then proceeded to redraw the face in purple paint. But it was redrawn in a blunt way. This painting was really an underpainting. That means there was still a lot of painting to be done and it would be done on top of this paint.

Once the purple line was down I blocked in the color. Once again it was done in a blunt way. I hadn’t’ made a color sketch so I took my time with this part and thought about every color before I put it on the canvas. Then I simply covered up the white with color. This is also underpainting so it’s not about getting the painting to look good. As a matter of fact this is when the painting looks its worst. It’s a sloppy mess but that’s okay. This is when the real painting starts.

For this real painting part the thing I do is to reapply my purple line and color. I move between the two of them woking on the shapes of color and the interaction of line to shape. Here is where I also start to fix the eyes. Since the paint is opaque I can change the shape of the eyes easily. So I do. This part is just the start of the finished painting. Instead of being the underpainting it’s the base. It’s what the rest of the painting is built on. I have to get the drawing correct at this stage or the base will be flawed.

At this point I gave the painting a name just so I could write it down in my calendar. I name most of my stuff randomly by whatever pops into my head and that’s how this one got the name “Sable Cult.” I have no idea what the name means or how it relates to this painting but that’s what I came up with.

The rest of the painting is painting. Putting on all those blocks and brush strokes of color. Lots of pattern. It’s almost like an abstract painting in that the color and brush strokes don’t have to be literal. Most of them are not describing anything. They just are. The line starts to disappear as I eat into it with brush strokes of paint and the marks start to take over. It’s a slow process that took most of Sunday.

It’s a weird thing to decide when I’m finished with a painting like this. I can only describe it as I look at the painting, contemplate where I want to put a series of marks, and after I put the marks on they suggest another series of marks. This goes on for hours as more layers of paint and brush strokes are added on. And then it stops. A mark doesn’t suggest another mark and I think I’m done.

I’m usually not done at this point but I know it’s when to stop and leave the painting for a day. I finished Sunday night, left it overnight, and looked at it Monday morning. A few more marks suggested themselves but then that was it. I put in about fifteen minutes and that was that. I knew I was done.

One more thing with this painting. I made a few videos on Instagram as I was painting this one showing my progress. So if you want to see them hop on over there.
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