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 it comes to a piece of art or design work. They were a delight to work with - giving me almost total creative freedom. I normally like to meet with someone a once or twice to get a general idea of what they're picturing or envisioning with a commission. With 5 color swatches to choose from, after a few weeks, I was excited when they directed their interest towards the blue, black and grey card where the words:
"Add gold flecks..."
...were scribbled on the bottom corner of the swatch in Re Ann's handwriting. Their final decision had been made, 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, should always be used to accentuate a painting. With that being said I enjoy trying to work a commission into its designated room/environment. This isn't always the case, of course, especially in the event of selling a piece at a show or gallery. Some of my fastest selling pre-made paintings were also the zaniest where teal oceans and purple whales take over (whiskey is also partial to the blame):
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, naturally it'd mean something to me too. I knew they would like something science-fictionary, stormy, and 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:
Gold wires stretched across a dark blue storm, pockets of swirling light dance along the 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, and everything else. Don't work out on the living room carpet, you're going to be more concerned about not getting paint on the wall and less about accessing your flow state. 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 comfortable space to focus and again 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: Solidify
I feel like I could try and sell this painting as is! 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 figuring out where to spend the most time. Showing canvas 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 dark colors 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 a 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!