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From blank canvas to finished painting

February 23, 2016

Bars and blocks2I’m always interested in how other artists tackle the problem of the blank canvas. I know some artists like to do thumbnails before they start a painting, or, I assume, in the case of artists who work more representationally, they know what they want the composition to look like before they start. Then it becomes a matter of plugging in colors, etc. to create the image they are aiming for.

As an abstract artist, I like to say that I work intuitively. I create possibilities on the canvas that suggest a direction, whether it is the color, the shapes, the transparency, etc. that invite me to add or develop different areas.

Awhile back my son helped me shoot a time lapse of me painting an abstract. I wanted the challenge of a time limitation to create something on canvas without a “plan” in hand. Believe me, this is a lot of fun! …and enlightening about how we create our own obstacles when we paint sometimes. With a block of time defined for making a painting, I made a lot of quick decisions.

Here’s a movie of the time lapse he created:

Here’s the painting after two hours:

Sentinels after time lapse

So…I didn’t really like or dislike the painting. It sat for several months. Hmmm. I thought, “I should do something with that. It is a lot of canvas to just be sitting around” (it’s 36×48 inches). I don’t know about you, but I like letting things percolate for awhile until I get an idea of what I might want to add or change on a particular piece. First I turned it upside down:

Sentinels rotated

Then I began adding some little points of interest. I am particularly drawn to stripes and checks, or any odd little shapes that introduce some different colors. Also, I am in the midst of a series of “mark-making” pieces in which I create spontaneous scribbles that look like they should be readable. My idea is that we each have a “mark language”—making marks that are unique to us as individuals. So I have been adding those to my recent paintings.

Here’s where I ended up: some marks, some new shapes, and a few things retained from the original painting.

Sentinels finished

In case you didn’t spot them right away, here are the things I kept from the original piece:

Sentinels with marked places
I like to snap pictures of paintings as I work on them. When I look back, I sometimes wish I had stopped at a particular point—I liked that stage better than the finished product. But mostly I find it’s helpful to remind me that nothing is fixed in stone…I can always paint more, cover up more, or start over!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2016 8:09 pm

    Thank you for a peek into your process, that was enlightening. New canvases scare the crap out of me..

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2016 1:06 pm

      Hi Deb,

      Thanks for your comment! …and for the laugh you gave me. I seem to be more intimidated AFTER I get something on the canvas, when I have to figure out the direction I want to go without losing the parts I like. Artists are brave, aren’t they?

      Liked by 1 person

      • February 26, 2016 1:57 pm

        Absolutely, it does take a certain ‘something’ to express yourself freely doesn’t it? Nevermind letting your own judgments get in the way. I applaud you for making the video and giving us a peek! You rock!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mikki Aronoff permalink
    February 24, 2016 8:48 am

    This is sooooooooooooo interesting! Very generous of you, too, to take us all through the process. Did you mean to attach a slow-motion film, or are the stills extracts from that? mixxx

    Sent from my iPad


    Liked by 1 person

    • February 24, 2016 2:31 pm

      Hi Mikki,
      I only included a link to the original time lapse movie that my son did for me–the other pictures are stills at different points. How artists create is so fascinating to me…and I think is not often shared. Thanks for your comments!


  3. February 23, 2016 6:05 pm

    A painter friend of mine and I take pictures in progress. Especially when he thinks I am done and then realizes I am going to :ruin: by going to far. Sometimes he is right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 24, 2016 2:34 pm

      Hi Joe,
      I have done the same many times! …taken pictures at different points and then, looking back, realizing that I liked the piece better about a third of the way through and that I have to “fix” what I’ve got at the current stage. But I never feel like I’ve ruined it–just that I don’t have that version. It keeps me plugging away to get to a point where I like the ending just as much (most of the time). Thanks for your comment!


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