Evolution of a Painting

Drifting

Have you ever “finished” a painting, than weeks later , saw that you missed the original idea? That’s what happened with Drifting, the painting below.

 

I was really excited about this image, my thoughts exploded in all directions.

  • I liked the vantage point from above, wanted a – floating, drifting, sleeping feeling.
  • I liked the intense warmth, wanted to manipulate this from warm at the top to cool at the bottom.
  • Wanted her to exist in two worlds, one of reality and one of graphic design.

Any one of these would have been interesting, but all of them at once was too much. There were parts of the painting that I really liked; her face, hair, warm light, the composition. However I got lost along the way, the relaxed flowing atmosphere I had originally pictured was not there. So how did I go about bringing it back?

First deciding what needed to change.

This is a breakdown of the areas that needed the most changes.

  • #1, shows where the color transition from warm to cool needs to be fixed. Because of the way cool colors recede, she almost looks like she is bent forward at the waist. The change is too stark, some cool would be good in the lower half, but this is too much.
  • #2, the hands- the most important area after the face that will show the mood of the painting. The gesture of these hands is too tense. Don’t always accept what you are given, change anything for the good of the painting.
  • #3, the folds are too angular, they do not fit with the idea of flowing.
  • #4, the leaves are clustered in a stiff pattern, again, not the flow I had in mind.

The final version. I haven’t touched her face yet her expression looks more relaxed. You can see how I tweeted the background color and movement. Now she appears to be floating above the ground, I see the view like something out of an airplane window.

Stretched Canvas vs Wood Panels

One thing I’ve learned in my many years of painting is that “the best way” to do something is a hard term to use. There are so many ways to express yourself in paint, that only you can decide what’s “best” for you.

What I can say however, is what’s best for the way I work, and my “best surface” to paint on is definitely wood panels.

Why do I prefer them over the traditional stretched canvas?

The surface texture; you are the master of your texture from eggshell smooth to gritty rough, depending on how you prime it. I like a random brushstroke finish, which I achieve with a large brush. I’ve illustrated this process in the video below. Yes, you can purchase canvas in varying degrees of roughness, but I can decide on the fly how I want the surface for a painting to be and create it without leaving the studio.

Support structure; a panel is a very solid surface, it will stand up to techniques like heavy palette knife scrapping and sanding, which I like to do to diffuse dry areas or take down a heavy buildup. A panel stores safely and unfazed while stretched canvases can get dented and even wavy while being stored. The type of wood I use is 1/4″ MDF, which is a medium density fiber board. It has no grain like plywood, it is wood fibers fused together with adhesive to form a very sturdy sheet.

You can purchase panels from art supply stores of buy sheets from home improvement centers, but you will need a saw to cut it because the sheets are large. Most places will cut it for a price. It would be worth buying a saw to do it yourself if you like the surface.

Check out my video on priming wood panels here.