I’ve been thinking about my own technical processes ever since I began interviewing artists from around my town, and quite honestly, I haven’t put much thought into it until now. I find it to be incredibly fascinating to see how other artists work, what makes them tick, and how they go about creating their work, but in the end, I never really look at how I create work, or what makes me tick.
I took the time to make a couple of lists and was able to document how I create my work. My processes for my artwork is similar in fashion to my processes for my design work, so this essentially flows both ways. The only difference is in the type of media that I use for my work – i.e. digital for my design work and traditional media for my art though sometimes I delve into digital for that too.
The follow process is for my paintings and how I go about creating them.
I believe that every painting, drawing, or piece of art begins through inspiration, whether it is from a song on the radio, the feeling you get when you are at a certain place at a certain time; it can come to life through an experience, a word, or even a simple thought. Inspiration comes from a lot of different places. Many of my inspirations come through other artists, certain colors, my likes and dislikes, and through my fiance, who serves as my muse. When creating a piece, I tend to become inspired by a multitude of things and will begin looking up images or doing general research at my local library. I tend to also purchase artbooks from other artists, designers, or companies, and keep them within arms reach to thumb through them. I find that looking at other people’s work will ignite the idea further, and pushes me to crank out many ideas at once.
Regardless of how I may become inspired or how I will nurture that inspiration, I will then begin a series of sketches to capture the essence of what I want to convey through my work. However, these sketches will coincide with my research, which brings me to my next point.
I believe that with most of my work, a good base begins with thorough research. Once I create a few quick sketches, I will start with Google and look for reference photos that I can study. I will usually use keywords to look for reference photos, and sometimes will utilize the great stock photo artists found on DeviantART if I need a reference photo for a specific pose. However, nothing beats going out and making the reference photos yourself! You can always use the environment around you to take pictures of it for use in your work; props are also a great way to create the specific look that you need for your art as well.
I feel that this part of my art-making process is the most important. I want to keep the way that things look in my work as realistic as possible and I want a solid base to work off of. Most of the time? This part of my process requires a LOT of coffee!
The Design Process
Next begins the design process, where I will flesh out the details of the environment, figures, creatures, and the colors that I will use, if the piece calls for it. The most extensive part of the design process is the environment. Sometimes it can be simple, other times it can be incredibly difficult. I tend to utilize the Golden Ratio, also known as the Golden Proportion that allows for the cohesiveness of a piece through a geometric system of dividing space.
Once I have completed a linear design, or a design that I feel flows the right way, I will then create an 8.5″ x 11″ sketch that encompasses the entire piece. Once I have a finalized sketch that I am happy with, I will scan it into Adobe Photoshop and begin overlaying colors to finalize the color sketch in order to get a sense of how the tonal and chromatic feel of the finished piece will be. I will also try a lot of different color palettes to see what looks best. After I have finished this part of the design process, I will print the final colored image out and hang it next to my canvas for reference. This roughly takes a few hours to finalize, but can sometimes take up to a few days depending on the complexity of the piece.
After I have finalized the sketch, composition, and colors, I will then print out the entire sketch on one large piece of paper or on multiple pieces of paper and tape them together. This is so that I can transfer the sketch to the canvas, panel, or wood for the painting process. After I transfer the sketch to the canvas, I seal it with a couple of coats of fixative and top it with a primer-coat of Liquitex Matte Medium (found here on Amazon). The final preparation step in this process is the underpainting, often done in acrylics, to set the tonal value of the painting and to prepare the rest of the painting for completion.
At this point of the process, I should be ready to move on to finalizing the painting, meaning that I have been working on this part of the process for a couple of hours to a couple of days depending on the size of the piece. Now comes the fun part!
The Painting Process
I tend to set up my palette with light colors to dark colors and group them in terms of where they rest in the composition. One thing to note with my process, I always mix my own colors. I will rarely purchase multiple colors other than titanium white, mars black, alizarin crimson, medium yellow, and ultramarine blue, though sometimes I will work with burnt sienna and burnt umbre.
During the final painting process, I will leave the entire painting to dry for a couple of hours to a couple of days – this ensures that I don’t overwork some parts of the piece, and if I am painting wet-on-wet, that I don’t over-blend the colors. The finished painting is allowed to dry for a week, after which I apply finishing varnish in order to bring unity to the canvas. I can also make my touch-ups at this point after not looking at the piece for a couple of days. At this point, I will sign the piece.
Obviously the larger the piece is, the more time that is required in order to paint it. It can take anywhere from a week to 4 weeks from start to finish, depending on how much time I have to dedicate to the painting. With my final year of classes at the University of Cincinnati coming up, I will have a decent amount of time to dedicate to my work when I am not freelancing or am not working. At any rate, a painting can take more than 100 hours to complete depending on the complexity of the piece.
When I have finally completed a painting, I need to have it professionally photographed so that I can archive it and prepare it for production (prints, postcards, etc.). I love photographing my work, but often times I don’t have the patience or the time to do so – thankfully I have a loving husband-to-be who can do it for me! ;)
When photographing my work, sometimes I take many photos of it before I find an acceptable reproduction. I have access to the photography lab at the University of Cincinnati for my photography needs, but I tend to create a lab of my own in my house. Once a few things are squared away, I will have permanent studio space that I can dedicate to all of my art needs, including space to archive my work. If by chance I am unable to photograph my work, the amazing people at Staples will scan my work for me by using their industrial scanner. I have also had large sketches printed there for less than $1.
So, there you have it! That’s essentially my process in terms of my paintings, and it applies to my drawings as well. My design work can vary from that process, but the same general concept is used in that I always created sketches, I research a lot for my ideas and do research on current design trends, and I always archive my design work for my portfolio.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask! If you have a different process for your own work, feel free to comment below and tell me how you create! I’m always up for learning new processes. Thanks for looking! XOXO