Let me share with you the various stages I go through with an image using ‘traditional techniques’, along with some insights into my tools and methods.
1: Initial “Thought Scribble” in my Sketchbook
Every painting starts with a simple idea that I quickly sketch in my trusty sketchbook. It’s a rough outline of what I envision for the artwork, capturing the basic composition and key elements.
2: Conceptualization and Gouache Paint Set
After the initial sketch, I refine my ideas and think about the colors I want to use. To bring my vision to life, I rely on the MIYA HIMI Gouache Paint Set 56 Colors. It’s a relatively inexpensive and versatile set that offers a wide range of vibrant colors and pigments, giving me the flexibility to express my creativity. With this set, I can experiment with different arrangements and color combinations and not worry about the cost.
When I start working, I set up my painting space on a simple desk. It’s not fancy, but it provides a stable surface where I can focus on my artwork. Eventually the table gets covered in art supplies and the drawing board gets elevated at a 45-60 degree angle, which is much easier to work at. I paint in as natural a light as I can and I’m not a tidy person so things get a little crazy. BUT, that’s the way I’ve always worked and I enjoy it.
3: Building Layers
Once I have a clear idea of the composition and colors, I start applying layers of gouache paint to the paper. In this case I didn’t prewet the paper or tape it down – the paper was of a good thickness (300gsm) and though it warped with the water, it was within an acceptable range. (Eventually I did flatten it down before giving it to the intended recipient). At this initial stage I carefully build up the textures, depth, and dimension of the painting. It’s a gradual process where I pay a loose attention to brushstrokes, color blending, and the overall balance of the artwork – I tend not to ‘draw within the lines’ at this stage – I just let the work run free.
4: Changes to the image
After stepping back and assessing the painting during Stage 3, I sometimes realize that the composition needs further adjustments to achieve the desired structural and emotional impact. At this stage, I carefully analyze the painting’s overall balance, focal points, and visual flow. If necessary, I make changes to strengthen the composition, ensuring that it effectively communicates the intended message and evokes the desired emotional response.
Whether it involves rearranging elements, altering shapes, or redefining focal points, these refinements are crucial in creating a visually pleasing and emotionally resonant artwork.
In fact, it’s very rare that I complete the image as I imagine it – and for this particular image I found the background wasn’t working and so I staged it within an environment by adding a background wall and alcove, plus foliage.
5: Plein Air “Field Trips”
To keep my creative juices flowing and gain inspiration, I occasionally take a beak from the image to go on a field trip to paint “plein air” in local parks and natural surroundings. During these trips, I take watercolour paints, or as in many cases, bring along my Gouache Paint Set and set up my box easel, which is a portable and convenient setup for outdoor painting. The idea is to look at the colours and shapes of what is in front of me – to get out of my own head for a while. Landscape is difficult to paint because things in the real world are so active and detailed, but I can’t get too caught up in details that are there. Besides, gouache is not the best thing for this process, yet it is flexible enough for me to just have a ball.
6: Fine Details, Refinement, and the Finishing Touches
As I near the completion of the painting, I focus on adding fine details and refining the artwork. This is where I pay attention to small elements, textures, and any adjustments needed to make the painting stand out. It’s a delicate process that requires patience and a keen eye for detail.
7: Embracing the Final Artwork
As the creative process comes to an end, I embrace the final artwork, acknowledging that it now stands on its own, separate from the initial concept that sparked its creation.
In this final stage, I acknowledge that the artwork has reached a point where it aligns closely with my initial vision. However, I also appreciate that it has grown and evolved throughout the creative process, developing its own character, depth, and meaning. It is a realization that the artwork has become an entity in itself, and it is capable of eliciting unique interpretations and emotions from viewers that I might not have considered with my initial drawings.
I do have gratitude and a sense of accomplishment when I share the final artwork – that’s what I do it for, really. But then the next image is building in my mind’s eye.