I spoke to the amazingly talented Dave Correia at NYCC about doing a work in progress thing and he got back to me very fast with this cool write-up. It was originally put together for the creative collective he is a part of, known as Zero Friends but it was never used…enjoy.
For this particular painting, I used no reference and a very limited palette. I don’t typically do that, but for this piece, it just seemed necessary. I’d like to share with you my creative process; what I’m thinking while I work, and the technical steps I use to complete a piece.
I always start off with a series of very small thumbnail sketches. These are usually made very quickly with a regular number 2 pencil, and are usually just an inch or two tall. As you can see, with the first sketch on the right, I’m just playing with a few basic loose shapes. At this point, I’m just laying down the basic composition, and the only idea I have in my head is – I want to paint some kind of oval monster. As I’m sketching, I’m trying to make sense of the shapes as I’m putting them down. I’m basically just scribbling over my drawing, letting rough shapes form features and character. Once I start to see a loose idea, I re-draw it a little larger with more defined objects.
When I’m happy with the loose thumbnail, I’ll re-draw it again a little larger and with tighter detail. I take this opportunity to figure out the actual drawing and anatomy of my monster. I also write out a lot of technical notes and ideas I want to try out; like color palette or textures. Sometimes I stick to my notes, and sometimes I deviate, but regardless it’s important for me to put them down while I’m thinking about it.
Once the sketch is figured out, I scan it, print it out to fit my substrate, and transfer it to the panel – in this case an 18”x24” triple primed MDF panel. I cover the back of the transfer paper with charcoal, and transfer the drawing onto the panel. Much like how a tattoo transfer works, I’m only really concerned with getting the primary lines on the panel. All the detail and blending will be figured out later when I start painting.
I spray a light coat of Workable Fixative over the panel so when I start painting, the charcoal doesn’t smear in with my paints. Make sure it’s a light coat, or else your paints will bead up if you use water! Then I’ll tone the panel with some sort of mid-tone. For this painting I used some viridian and raw umber with lots of water so the drawing still shows though.
I start laying down darks to establish the values, and since I’m painting from my imagination and not reference material; it also helps me make up anatomy and texture on a monster that doesn’t really exist!
For this particular painting, I’m only using a few colors. I paint pretty thin, using a lot of water with my acrylics. I start by laying down a mid tone blue while mixing in some white for highlights. I glaze over the dark areas established in the previous step to get my darker blues.
From here on out I pretty much move across the panel, laying down thin colors; dark, mid, light. It’s still pretty rough. I just want to get some color over everything, knowing I’ll go back over it again with some light glazes and brighter highlights.
Using only a few colors, I go a little darker and a little lighter. I introduce more red and glaze over areas with very thin coats of paint to get some nice depth and texture. I’m also mixing in white to hit the top of the folds in the monsters skin.
Still painting very thin, I start blocking in the background. I want the background darker so the monster “pops” against it.
I add some color to the the creatures on top of the monster, and play with the background a little more. I actually take out the smaller creature on the right because I feel it’s getting too distracting. The colors on the creatures are still a little flat, but I’m ok with that since it’s the first pass and I know I’ll darken and lighten them up.
I make a final pass over everything with oil paints. Working very very thin with oils, I glaze over the entire painting with thin blues, reds and purples. This helps to bring color consistency to the overall painting and it helps deepen the darks and make all the colors more rich. I’ll also use thicker oil paint for highlights.