This week I want to share with you the story about a special painting I completed last year. I invite you to step into a glimpse of a different world from the one you might usually walk in.
Creating a painting is like going on a journey – one of those mystery flights where you know the general destination is Europe but aren’t quite sure where you will end up. As my dad used to say ‘The map is not the territory’.
The painting journey for me often begins long before I even know that I’m on it. Part of my creative process is to gather images and I tend towards, landscapes, old and weathered artifacts, reflections, shadows and close up views of things. So even as I take a photograph I will often have no clue where it will end up in a painting, whether it will be a small portion of it or the whole thing.
In this painting there are elements from Sommersby falls and adjacent bush walks, a farm in Tumbi Road , the lagoon at Wamberal and a clock in Sydney. These elements are uploaded to the computer and then layered, blended, chopped, stretched, faded and transformed in a photo editing program .
Some of this editing is first done on the individual images and then they are gradually layered, blended and added together to form something that looked like this:
This process is lengthy in and in the case of some paintings may take 2-3 days work, and involve as many as 20 to 30 layers in the image.
This is where intuition kicks in. I generally keep working until the piece feels right. It’s a ‘knowing’ on some other level that pulls together all the elements of the design and meaning that need to be in there.
And this is only the preliminary step. Next comes :
Preparing The Canvas:
I am currently using a complex method of canvas preparation which I have spoken of in this blog post – The first stage of preparing it involves burning the edges which you can see in this video. If your are interested some of the next steps can be seen in the video at the top of the blog.
After the canvas has been prepared and dried, The frame must be put together and then the canvas stretched and attached to it
Beginning The Painting:
The next step of course is drawing up the painting from the printed image. The Guardians was relatively simple and took around 4 hours to draw, unlike the painting I’m currently working on which is only one third of the size and took me 10 hours to draw. Below is the final image that the painting was painted from.
After drawing begins the paint application. I have been experimenting with a different way of working using transparent glazes of paint. This means putting very small amounts of paint into a medium like liquin and then applying thinly to the canvas. Did you know this method was used by renaissance painters to render flesh tones. Sometimes they might have used up to 100 glazes. That is why these works look so luminous when you see the originals.
In the Guardians I have used both this glazing technique to render subtle variations in colour and a scumbling technique for thick paint application.
Scumbling is done sometimes with the flat of a brush held parallel to the surface of the canvas and at other times using a palette knife, as I did here. It was a bit tricky in this painting because there was no room for error. It would not have been easy to remove the paint if I had made a mistake and with fragile glazed layers underneath – it would have been very difficult to re do them.
So that was the process for the work ‘The Guardians’ and here is an image of the completed work.
- There is one other thing that I would like to share about this work – something very special that happened while I was painting it and it didn’t happen until I was nearly at the end of the painting process. I was sitting looking at it – I often do this when I work, just go into a meditative like state to allow the painting to ‘speak ‘ to me. As I was doing this I suddenly noticed that there was a very large water creature like a dolphin taking up 2/3rds of the water! Once I began looking there were more creatures, a kookaburra, a lion and even a fireman. I have enhanced them a little but not a lot. I invite you to see how many guardians of the land you might find. If you would like to share what you see please comment – I would love to know how this painting speaks to others.