In thinking about my process as an artist and the techniques I use – I realized one of the perks of getting older is I have the wisdom of hind-sight to learn what’s worked best for me to achieve a successful painting. I now have a process where my current painting reaches a halfway mark when I start thinking about the next subject that I’ll work on. I’ll often go from painting a landscape to a still-life, and still wanting the challenge of a brand new focus I’ll move to painting a figure or perhaps a floral. And depending on which medium I’m using, I’ll enjoy the variety of having change there as well – moving from oil paints to watercolour paints or more occasionally to pastels.
I’ve kept a series of photographs that I’ve kept on hand to use as a reference, and at times it’s a combination of several photographs that will offer me some interesting options for a composition. I’ll consider how to include figures to create a story to make the scene interesting. If I’m preparing a still life, I’ve found looking at objects through the lens of a camera while appreciating different views of my still-life can be useful. And there have been occasions where my personal photos aren’t sufficient, where I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with other amateur photographers to develop an image I’ll find inspiring to paint.
The amazing artists I’ve met over the last few years have studied and know their mediums so well. I’ve learned the importance of taking in that learning for myself although it’s been without formal education. As someone mostly self-taught with the exception of having some excellent workshops, I appreciate some art work I’ve done has been a process of finding my way. However the good news is I’ve still learned through the process of painting. And in the past few years I’ve explored mediums such as watercolour in greater depth. I’ve gained insights through creating colour charts, understanding the paint features of transparency, staining, or granulating paints and I’ve also taken the time to form a reference of techniques that helps build upon my technical understanding.
While my painting is underway I’ll also make a habit of photographing my work in process, this is beneficial for several reasons. First, it helps me see the painting in a format that can guide me in the areas that need further attention. Secondly, I find it helps me create a record of the process, and in the case of watercolour I can refer back to the layering effects of glazes to help refine and achieve the look I’m after.
Finally when I’m ready to sign my painting – after it’s completely dry I’ll apply several coats of varnish. In addition, while most watercolour paintings are protected under glass, I’ve now learned about a process to preserve the finished watercolour painting without needing to use glass. Once the varnish is applied I can affix the watercolour paper to a board or panel and apply a final coat of wax to the painting to help it glow!