Tumultuous: A study of blue and gold
Tumultuous: A study of blue and gold
A while back I ran into an old friend of mine at a baby shower and, after a brief conversation, he mentioned his wife Re Ann was looking to hire a local artist for a painting. It was a nice re-connection, and after a week or I was able to convince them to let me do a painting for them.
I think, for the most part, it can be difficult for someone to really know what they want when they're put on the spot. For this project I was pretty much given total artistic freedom, and I normally like to meet with someone once or twice to get a general idea of what they're picturing or envisioning when doing a commission. I'd given them a few sample color swatches to choose from and after a few weeks they directed their interest towards the blue, black and grey card. The words:
"Add gold flecks..."
...were scribbled on the bottom corner of the swatch in Re Ann's handwriting. A 60" x 48" canvas was handed over to me while I looked over the area they were going to hang it up.
An environment, in my opinion, can really accentuate and round out a painting. If possible, I try my best to create a piece that goes with its environment it's going to be hung up in. This isn't always the case, of course. Some of my fastest selling pre-made paintings were also the zaniest; my favorite themes being teal oceans and purple whales, smoldering hillsides or red planets:
So - I wanted to make a page that documents how a big painting like this begins (and ends). Blake and Re Ann wanted a piece that meant something to them, I wanted to making something that would intrigue them. With dark blue and gold, it was fate that it'd be: science-fictionary, stormy, and highly contrasted. I apologize about the lack of photo quality on this page (some are fairly dark), my camera at the time wasn't that great. The painting I guesstimate took me around 80 hours total to finish, it's a 4' x 5' x 1.5" canvas:
Gold wires stretched across a dark blue storm, pockets of swirling light dance along an angled center horizon. I wanted an asymmetric alien world, filled with details of deep churning vortexes and star-like spheres with an abstract gold-railway cutting along the background.
Step 1: Null
There are two things I found were huge in boosting creativity. First, work in a space you can feel free to be messy in: drip, drop, splatter, splash. Don't work in a space that distracts you because you have to be careful. If you're going to be more concerned about not getting paint on something and less on the composition of your peace, that will always be limiting. Second, have a space you can leave all of your art supplies out in, this can be anything from a studio or extra room to a backyard shed. The first half-hour of a painting session I think is very important, how can you access with a fresh brain your next steps on a big piece if you're busy getting all your stuff out of the closet? You need a non-conflicting space to focus and find that flow state.
Step 2: Preliminary directions
It isn't always the case with paintings when you know exactly what you want to do, but sometimes if you're lucky you can align yourself almost immediately in only a single session. Paintings aren't always immediately rewarding for the artist. Sometimes you have to "it" in your brain for a long time before it comes to life (this is why my first points are important, be comfortable in your space); take your time.
Step 3: Move towards covering
Covering a big canvas can be cumbersome, get this part done quickly. A good technique is to do a wash before covering to set a background color or tone/lighting. This isn't something I always do, but I like to finish a thick layer before stepping back and figuring out where to focus. A white canvas showing underneath always bothers me too. Painting is a game of both prediction and endurance, sometimes it takes a while for your picture to make itself known to you.
Step 4: Spheres and Lines
A darker photo, it is actually much more blue and less black. In this instance it feels like a "blurry structure," and this is usually when the fun begins. Also don't be afraid to paint shade first, it's always easy to come back and put white gouache or acrylic down to start over again. Throw away that fear of messing something up, always be willing to paint something over again. This was probably the best advice I retained when I took my one studio-art class in college.
Step 5: Gold and Details
Again - another darker photo, but at this point the details have begun to come out. Use a nice wide throw-away filbert to blur spots that have too much detail. You can blur by packing the brush with a small amount of paint, then wiping most of it off and lightly moving over the area repeatedly. At this point for me, when I've covered and switching around to different sections, it's more just pulling and pushing the light and dark. Every once and a while, it's always nice to take a step back and macroscopically try and see where you need to balance your piece (if you're going for that, of course).
If you're gonna do it thick, buy cheap paint, then cover nicer paint on top. I am pretty neurotic about wasting paint. Sometimes scrap-paint paintings are the best, since you're just throwing stuff around trying to use up whatever is left.
Step 6: Completion
I was very happy with how it turned out, as were my commissioners! I hope my advice and pictures were in any way helpful. Creating a large painting can be a little slow to start, but they are without a doubt the most rewarding when finished.
If you're interested in commissioning me or have questions about my creative process on any other pieces - please don't hesitate to contact me at:
Thanks for reading!