Recently I finished my painting, “The Doll Maker from Cabo“. It’s an oil painting on Belgian Linen Canvas, 30×24. I posted progress shots on my Facebook page but I thought you may be interested in my thought processes as an artist along the way.
It began with a photo that I took back in 2008 when I went on a cruise to Mexico. One of our stops was in Cabo San Lucas. As always, I had my camera and took shots of local people and the surrounding area. I try to take photos of people that are unaware that I am taking the photo so that I have a more natural pose rather than something that looks staged. This photo turned out to be absolutely perfect! I couldn’t have asked for a better picture with all the colors and the proper lighting and most of all composition. I knew immediately that this would become a wonderful painting one day.
It did become a painting later that same year. I did a palette knife painting portrait in oil on 20×16 canvas board. This was a study in using not only color but also using the palette knife instead of a paint brush. Although I knew I would one day paint the complete composition, it took another 7 years before I tackled it. I had to be confident in my skills that I could give justice to the picture I took years before.
So the process begins with a blank canvas! For whatever reason, this is one of the most terrifying aspects of painting. It is the fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of being unworthy as an artist, fear of disaster. Although I know my paintings always turn out close to what I would expect, it is always a dreadful prospect of failure at the beginning of any painting.
An artist always bears all to the public eye and public scrutiny and no one wants to feel rejection. I trudge on and push through these emotions (vodka in hand) and the first thing is to get the image down on canvas. Using the grid method, I take my photo and transfer that image onto the canvas. Before doing this I have already taken the photo using Photoshop and manipulated the composition hoping I hit the golden ratio. Once I’m happy that it would make a great painting, I print out the image to transfer as my reference.
Now the painting begins! The first brush of color is another horrifying prospect. It’s another part of the process where I feel that it could all go wrong. I paint an underpainting using the same hues that will eventually be built upon in successive layers. No matter the subject, I always run into the unexpected. The stone wall and blinds in the background were the first obstacles. I lost a few brain cells on this one. I had to make the stone convincing with the lighting and the blinds disappear with just a glimmer of the light to define the shape. It took a few layers using paper towels, sponges and brushes to get the aeffectI wanted to achieve.
I had to mottle the stone and let it dry overnight before I could go back over it again to keep building up the layers over the next successive days. It’s an involved process with oil paint since I didn’t want to blend the colors together or create a smooth gradient. It was stone, and I wanted to create the same look and feel with the light filtering down through cracks and crevices. This lighting affects the complete painting from the stone to the individual and the dolls with all the ribbons. It had to be right from the beginning. Thus, more brain cells were lost!
Next week, I will continue with my thoughts on painting the individual, the dolls and all the ribbons and how I felt each step in this process until it was completed. So stay tuned while I bring you into the mind of an artist and the painting that became “The Doll Maker from Cabo”.