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From Art Geek:

Studies

Saturday, Feb. 28 2009 UTC

The classic use for the preliminary drawing is to lay out a complete composition before starting in on the final painting. In the past I’ve found it hard to work that way, preferring to get started with an actual painting and then trying to see my way out of the weeds.

For a long time this process consisted of figuring out content, value, hue, texture, etc. all at the same time through a slow process of trial and error with paint. This process can be frustrating and time consuming, since it’s hard to think about all these things simultaneously, through the brush or otherwise.

Drawing to the rescue: maybe it is simpler or quicker, or maybe drawing just comes more naturally to me, but I have been finding drawing to be a much better 'process space’ than painting is for figuring out issues of content and composition. When painting, I like to think of painterly things like color and texture. When drawing, the imagination roams free and new ideas spring to life more quickly. I guess a lot of artists have known this for a long time, though there are plenty who don’t use drawing at all.

While traveling back from New Zealand last weekend, I thought, jeez, I’m having so much fun drawing lately, I should leverage that in my paintings more. More specifically:

  • photograph the painting with a digital camera on a tripod; download photos
  • convert images to greyscale; lighten and adjust levels/contrast as needed
  • print image
  • draw on printout with pen/pencil/gouache (see posting on conquering the world, below)
  • dive back in to painting, drawing with brush, pen or pencil, using grid to copy drawing if precision is called for

I have been trying this procedure this week on some old paintings and feel like it’s a bit of a breakthrough, like I now have a better idea how to get 'unstuck’ when I’m in the middle of a piece (which is pretty much allways, since I have about 10 or so in-progress and back-burner paintings up at any given time).

Here are the two paintings: before, sketch, and after for each.

State 1

Study

State 2: Working title “COS-B Man.” Acrylic, oil and toner transfer on canvas.

State 1

Study

State 2: Working title, “Burning Cow.” Acrylic and oil on panel.

I’m curious to see how this process develops. I hope it will open the door for much more content-rich paintings. Or at least get me to the point of finishing some old ones to get them out the door….