How I Paint

I sit at my computer, the screen is blank. The urge to paint is on me, but I have no particular project in mind. I begin going through files of uncompleted pieces, none seem to fit my need for creation. So I begin going through photographs that I’ve taken or friends have sent me. At last one captures my attention. Ah, it is a photograph a friend sent me a year ago. It is a little blurry but that doesn’t matter. As I stare at it I begin to see possibilities. If I added this and left out that, used colors a little warmer, yeah, that could work.

So I launch Photoshop, my favorite when it comes to painting. It isn’t the best for painting, but I’m so familiar with it. I know what to expect, I know what I can do with it. I decide that 16×20 inches is right for this piece so I create a file that size at 300dpi. I’m in a hurry to get into this piece so I cheat a little. I import that 3×5 inch photograph and put it on its own layer, stretch it out until it fills the piece. Then I grab my tablet and pen, create a new layer and begin to draw. I could do this freehand but I’m impatient, so I use the photograph as a template. A half hour or maybe an hour later the drawing is finished. It is rough but that is okay, I have the basis there. I know as the piece progresses I’ll add and subtract elements.

Done with the photograph I delete that layer and create a new layer that will be under painting. I start blocking in color, using a very big brush. This is under painting, details are not important at this point. It takes me maybe another twenty minutes or so and the under painting is done. I sit back and study what I have so far. It doesn’t look like much without the drawing but I’ve been through this before. I want to dive into the piece, start working the details but if the foundation isn’t there the piece will be crap.

Satisfied that the foundation is there I create another new layer and start working the individual elements from the drawing. I’m still really defining shapes but now with a little more attention to light and shadow. As I work on each element I zoom in and out, at times working on an element at 300 percent magnification. I tell myself often it is silly to get that detailed but I do it anyway. It is just how I work.

I look at the clock and several hours have passed. I zoom out and look at what I’ve done so far. Not much really. It doesn’t matter. I know that in the days ahead the piece will fill out and I when I finally say enough, this piece is as finished as it is going to get that two to four weeks will have passed. Additional layers will be added and deleted. I’ll get an idea and try it. Some will work, some will not. The great advantage to digital is that I can explore those ideas without jeopardizing the piece.

I often wish that I could work faster, that I wouldn’t let myself get so drawn into the details. It is a vain wish. I won’t be able to stop myself. When I finally do decide to stop there will probably be fifteen to twenty layers to the piece not counting the ones I’ve deleted or merged. It doesn’t matter; the time has come to print it for the first time.

There are anxious moments as the printer produces line after line of what I hope will be a good piece. It looks good on the screen but I know that can be deceptive. Finally the printer is done and for the first time I see my painting in physical form. Not bad I think, yeah this bit needs a little tweaking and I need to intensify the light here, darken it there but overall I’m pleased.

Journal Comments

  • StacyLee
  • photogenique
  • Tim Stringer
  • aaeiinnn
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