I’m impatient about doing value studies and thumbnails sketches to get my visions organized, but on this large triptych, taking the time made a difference. My final color decisions are still a process of layering color after color until it looks right, but the underlying composition was successful (in my humble opinion) because I took the time to work it out before ever getting to the easel.
The sketch on the computer
Starting in Photoshop Elements, I sketched a general plan for a large floral composition. I had Georgia on my mind. O’Keeffe’s large florals have an abstract, sensual quality that won much much acclaim and are exciting to behold. I wanted something of that nature in my work.
First, a line drawing to create the composition, making sure that no two flower shapes were on the same level and no two looked the same. These were fantasy flowers, so that was easy.
- Value study
Trying some colors on the computer
Next, still on the computer, I began dropping monochromatic color into the shapes to develop a value study of lights, mediums and darks. Later, there was refinement in the process, but the basic values are pretty close to the finished work. When satisfied, I moved on to try actual color combinations, using PSE’s paint bucket function to fill in the areas.
On to the easel at the Morean Arts Center
And then, the exciting step, setting up the canvases and putting those first shapes, lines and colors onto that big white surface. My heart skips a beat every time. For this painting, much of the time was spent at the Morean Arts Center where I could get continuous feedback from the very talented class group there.
Layering colors in my studio
Back in my studio, I layered color over color, as is my style, preserving some edges of each previous color in places, losing them in others. At some point, everything comes together and you feel it. I also had the advantage of informal critiques from various artists who visited my studio during the creative process. The “cold eye” of a professional artist friend can see possible problem areas quickly that I have overlooked in my reach for the big vision.
A little too much Georgia O’Keeffe.
As the painting progressed, my partner Ed came in to have a look and simply said, “There’s a little too much Georgia on your mind.” I reconsidered and agreed.
The finished painting involved some dramatic color shifts and a periwinkle blue that may never be duplicated, but the original value study remained fairly true.
Midnight in the Garden triptych
And then it happens. You go through your mental checklist of all the things that make a good painting and you’re there. The painting now hangs over my bed.