My Process – Art from Start to Finish

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I’m not very good at remembering to take photos of my work in progress. However I’m pleased to say that I made a special effort with this painting to capture some of the stages of development. This isn’t a formula on how I paint all my pictures, but it does show you my thought process and a few techniques. I hope you enjoy.


Creating Bedruthan Steps Sunset Sky

Although I work in a mix of acrylic, oil and enamels I would say that my base or go-to medium is acrylic; it’s flexible, quick drying and less expensive than the other two mediums.

I used to work around a painting, filling in the bits that I’m working on leaving a white space until I’m ready for that section of the painting. However I found that I ended up with lots of little good bits of painting that didn’t really fit together. So now, I like to fill the canvas with a colour in the first 5 minutes!

This painting is going to be one of my iconic colourful sunsets. So starting with my favourite yellow; Naples Yellow, I begin with a strong layer at the horizon.
Still working on the first layer I started to blend in some more colour.
Next I began to sketch out some rough cloud areas, at this stage I’m just trying to get a feel for the overall piece and how it flows.
The first full canvas work in progress photo.
Next I like to hand over a bit of control to the paint and introduce a watery wash across the painting. This part of the process isn’t just about making marks but allowing things to happen on the canvas that gives me inspiration on how to develop the piece.
Next I start to add in some more colour around the sky and build a basic structure.
Two very important stages happen next which form the foundation of the painting.
1) Draw in the horizon line
2) Block out the cliffs.
You’ll notice that I’m not using black to block out the cliffs. I’m not against using black, but by using a mix of blue, red and brown, I can sketch out the cliffs and still get a feel for the shapes. Sometimes black is just too flat for this.
The cliffs look a bit basic at this stage but I can step back and see if I have the structure right.
Now it’s time to add some texture and when it comes to cliffs I quite like using oil paints and a palette knife for this process. You can block in the direction of the rock formations as well as blending the colours.
The painting is now wet and oils take a while to dry, depending on the thickness. In this case I wanted my painting to dry before working on it, I wanted the texture of the cliffs to harden. So I left my painting for a week to dry.
Now we’re starting to get a bit of texture on the cliffs.
Now it’s time to work on the sky to start building up some shapes and start working on a richer colour, I’m back to using acrylic at this stage.
At the same time I need to remember that the sea will reflect the sky, so I work on both at the same time.
I added in some initial waves in order to get a feel for how I want the sea and sand to sweep into the painting.
Now I’m getting a better feel of the structure, so now I’m ready to get back to the cliffs and add in some detail, using the contours of the oils to help create natural crevices.
At this point I’m still not happy with it, but I can get a sense of how the structure of the painting will work and what I need to do next.
It’s also around this time where I start using my reducing mirror. Its a quick way to get some distance from your painting, without having to try and get some actual distance from your painting.
At the moment I quite like the lines in the sky. I’m not sure the sea sweeps quite enough at the moment, so make a mental note to come back to that. I’m also not happy with the obvious difference between the colours of the cliffs and the rest of the painting. It’s not a concern at this stage, I still have a way to go, but needs to be addressed.
The sand is looking a little flat, so I’m using some oils with a palette knife and my finger to bring out some amazing colours in the sand.

At this stage I start doing a lot of pushing and pulling with the painting, adding in layers

This is the final stage of the sky for me, I’m using very small amounts of paint with a dry brush and a technique called ‘scumbling’ – where you essentially rub the bit of paint from the brush onto the painting, leaving behind fragments of color. It’s even better if some of the paint is slightly wet underneath because the rubbing action will blend in those colours.

Here is the final piece – with a lot of back and forth I’m finally happy with how it sits together. I like the orange highlights in the sky – it’s very much a sky scape with a bit of horizon to anchor the piece.

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