Genesis of a Painting

Some of my friends have asked me how long it takes me to complete a painting. When I tell them months and months, some wonder why. One reason is that I only paint once a week when I go to art class. The other is that there are many steps to an oil painting. (A possible third reason is that I’m not very speedy when it comes to painting; so be it. I paint for enjoyment. Art should not be rushed.) So, for weeks I’ve had this idea of blogging about my painting as it develops week by week. Each Saturday I go to the studio and do a fair bit of talking and a little bit of painting. Then I take a picture with my phone, pack up, and rush headlong into the fray of “regular life.” ┬áNow it’s been a month (or so) of Saturdays and no post. Let me catch up. I am working on a painting of the main entryway to the school where I teach–the entryway used for special occasions. In a month and a half, we will be hosting Opera and Art Night–a fundraiser for the school at which Broadway and Metropolitan Opera singers will perform and art will be auctioned in a silent auction format. I plan to donate this painting to the auction.

I started by journey by taking a few photographs of the entryway and choosing the best one. Then I began the sketch. My painting actually begins in charcoal. This sketch took me about four hours–a little over one Saturday session. The sketch, after it has been sprayed with fixative, is the first picture below.

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The second picture is the wash. Here I mixed a little bit of paint with a lot of turpentine and painted in bold strokes across the canvas. I guess this is a primer. It’s how I’ve been taught to begin. The wash also color blocks the canvas. This doesn’t take long at all. The sketch and the wash took two sessions total. I could have begun the next step during that second session, but I did not. I socialized with other artists while the wash dried. I do not live up to the anguished artist alone in a garret image.

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The third picture below is the first cover. Now I’m using the paint without the turpentine. I’m just trying to cover the canvas in the right shades–or at least close to right. The great thing about oil painting is what my teachers always tell me: You can’t mess up an oil painting. If you do something and don’t like it, you can change it. It’s not set in stone the way it is with watercolors or acrylic. This first cover would seem to be quick and easy, but it wasn’t. It took me two Saturdays to finish: maybe because I was tired; maybe because I’m a chatterbox at times. I’ll say that’s just how long it took.

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The fourth picture is where I am now. Now I’m painting. The whole canvas has been covered once. Now I go back and start again with the background playing with the color and the lines, focusing on darks and lights to give the painting some depth. I’m beginning to “see” the painting come to life. I’m getting into the groove. But there are many more Saturdays to go before this is finished. Stay tuned. I’ll update you as I go along. Wish me luck!

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