I recently gave a presentation to the Seabrook Artist Guild. My subject was my painting process with a limited palette. Each artist has their own process, yet there are time tested approaches that yield better results than others. At some of the finest art academies, one is only permitted to draw the first years to develop good drawing skills. Composition and values build upon drawing skills.
When I find a subject that moves me, I work from life or from my photo as reference and my visual memory of being there. I choose my subject, visualize what emotion and composition I wish to convey and then select a harmonious color palette. Often, I create a color matrix of the selected hues to gain insight into what they produce. The photos to the right show the results of using a limited palette of Indian Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Venetian Red, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxizane Violet and Titanium White. [photo]
The next step is simplifying value structure into a pleasing composition. “Notan” is a Japanese term referring to the pattern in art as seen in flat areas of dark and light values. In these two images, I have drawn notan sketches with a mid-value grey, the second reducing the value of the waves. This is a critical providing a foundation to unify the composition. [photo]
The next step is an underpainting on a gesso primed canvas using transparent red oxide. The goal is to layout the composition adhering to the notan values. Though this layout is loose, when doing a portrait or still life, the value range goes beyond a notan and becomes a nine-value underpainting. [photo]
Once the underpainting is dry, block in of color areas begins, focusing on large areas with value ranges addressed in the notan. [photo]
Each subsequent step sculpts the forms, constantly preserving the direction and temperature of the light as it plays on the shapes. Large brush strokes for large areas. Mid-size for shaping and small for details as one refines the image. As I paint, I keep forefront where I am leading the viewer and save the dark/light adjacency to the focal point where details reside. The image to the left is the finished work, entitled “California Pink Ice”. [photo]