Here is something I have done yet in writing about my art. I’m going to write about a painting that I finished just a few hours ago. My freshest one. It’s an 18×24 inch painting that is done in acrylic paint on stretched canvas. It’s the last canvas in a set of six blank canvases of that size that I bought last year. I haven’t made a painting this size in a few months (they’ve been small ones lately) and I decided to just dive in and paint before I lost the habit entirely. That’s what happens sometimes when I lose the ambition to make larger paintings. I have to decide one day to put everything else aside and do one otherwise I fear I’ll never do one again.

For this one I picked an image that I had already worked up a drawing for. I made the drawing a while ago, on 12/28/2011 to be exact, and it’s been sitting near the top of my pile of drawings because it’s one I like. It’s called “The Left Rotor”. I’ve seen the drawing so many times as I’ve flipped through the pile that it’s really familiar to me. I may have even done another small piece with it but I cant remember. It could be that it’s so familiar that I think I did something else with it. It’s a drawing of a masked face. Or half a face, if you will, because we don’t get to see the whole thing. Half of the face/mask is covered with hair or is cut of by the end of the canvas. There is a big eye on the mask/face so this is one of my paintings that is looking back at the viewer. The eye might be on the mask of might be looking through the mask. It’s unclear.

Since I had the drawing all worked out already I just had to make a color sketch of it. I do that on the computer these days so it’s easy to try different colors. Since this painting had mostly large shapes in it the color sketch went quickly. A blue mask, green hair, pink skin, a purple shirt, and brown eyes. And let’s not forget those red lips. Nothing too complicated there. After that I transferred the drawing to the canvas by use of a grid. I draw a grid on the drawing and draw a grid on the canvas. Then I use all those little boxes as a guide map for drawing the same thing only bigger.

The painting process starts easily enough. First I take a brush and dark purple paint and paint over the lines of the drawing on the canvas. After that dries I fill in the various shades of different colors from my color sketch. It’s sort of the same as coloring in a coloring book at this point. I even type on top of my digital color sketch what paints I used for what color. That helps me if I have to go back and fix something. I have about six different shades of green paint mixed and I can’t always tell exactly what shade I used the day before on any given area. Paint is a slightly different color in its wet and dry states and more than once I’ve put a brush stroke of the wrong shade in the wrong area before I started always keeping track.

I’ve heard it said before that a painting should look finished at every stages it passes through. I think that’s total crap since why would anyone ever finish a painting then? If it looks just as finished after three hours as thirty then why ever paint for thirty? That and at this stage in the process my painting looks its absolute worst. I’ve been worrying about getting the basic color down and right and not in making it look finished. If I were to try and make it look finished at this stage it would take three times the time and all that work would be covered up as I actually finished it.

Now is when the the middle part comes. I’m not quite finishing things yet but I’m getting there. First I build up the base layers of paint a little more to get the opaqueness that I want and then I work on the lines. I stared with a purple line but I don’t want to end with one. I lay down orange, blue, red, and whatever other color lines I like down next to the purple ones. They cease being lines that just hold a shape and become a bit of a shape themselves. It’s almost becomes a blurring of the edges technique not because anything is blurry but because which edge is “The” edge becomes a question. At one point the pink edge seems to be “The” edge and at another point it’s the purple one. I’m also working and reworking the areas of color at this time where they interact with the edges of the line. Sometimes I get overzealous with those lines and they have to be knocked back.

The final part of the painting is all those little brush strokes of color that sit on top. I think I developed those because acrylic paint doesn’t have the same texture as oil paint. When I paint in oil I use the texture of the paint a lot as part of the painting but acrylic doesn’t hold a brush stroke in the same way. So instead I somehow ended up using these tiny brush strokes of color to be the texture of the painting. Figuring out where they all go can be a bit tiring because it takes a while.

I really don’t have a describable technique for figuring out where they go because it’s mostly me looking. I look at the painting and see where it needs some brush strokes of color. Oddly enough the process is usually linear. I see a place to put down a series of green brush strokes so that’s what I do and then I look again and the place to put down a series of blue brush strokes jumps out at me. This goes on for a couple of days. When I’m in the middle of it I always wonder if I’ll know when to stop but I always do. I stop when no more places to put color jump out at me. It’s an odd thing but this is the improvisational part of the painting.

So that’s the painting I finished this afternoon. Not much to say about the image since it’s similar to many of mine except that in a painting like this I have to pay special attention to the eye. I used a bit of a different technique on it than usual and I like the way it came out. If the eyes and lips don’t work on a face like this it all falls apart. I kept the lips simple and the eye complex. I think that worked out okay.