Steps to a single painting

What are the steps to painting? Draw. A lot. Draw for months and months in my sketchbook. That is always where the work begins—in a sketch (or a collage). Then, there is so much more that goes into a single painting.

Suzanne Gibbs, ©2019, Work In Progress, April.
  • Plan. Plan. Plan.
  • Size—it matters!
  • Colors—and the reasons for the colors I choose.
  • Support surface (paper or cradled wood panel, I rarely use stretched canvas)
  • Mix paint colors, plan with a color chart (but not always).
  • Prepare the surface, I tape all the edges and back to keep the panel clean and free of stray paint. Ultimately this is better for the walls of my collectors!
  • Take the sketches to larger scale. There are several different ways that I do this using technology + low tech methods and/or my drawing skills.
  • Decide on what patterns to use and why (always the why, nothing is arbitrary).
  • Practice patterns on a separate sheet of paper in the appropriate colors until I know it will work.
  • Begin the base layer of paint, make changes to colors if something does not work according to plan.
  • Work on one color at a time. This is due to the type of paint I use and the properties of the paint.
  • Photograph frequently and check values using iPhone mono/black and white mode. Adjust colors as needed.
  • I sometimes wonder if I ought to be testing colors in Photoshop or illustrator first, but so far I use my years of color knowledge, but mostly my gut to make the choices.
  • The patterns come last, working on one shape and color at a time. Mindful to leave areas with no patterns.
  • Photograph frequently to check of the effect I am looking for is working. In the days before digital photography we used to squint to check work, use a mirror, view the work upside-down and other hilarious methods—to blur the edges and take the work in through a different visual lens. I still do much of this “testing.” Digital photography is a game changer adding yet another way to test what I am sharing visually.
  • I leave areas of flat paint, these are important to the message and the viewer eye fatigue. Flat areas also help compositionally.
  • Occasionally use Posca markers for very fine details in the patterned areas.
  • Photograph and look to see if any areas need additional pattern detail. Fix as needed.
  • Photograph again and check for completeness or worse, the over-worked art! Fix.
  • Complete the work only after a minimum of a 2 day “rest” — I literally turn the art around in my studio and start a new painting.
  • Finish the back—name, year, title, materials used, size, and any other details.
  • Finish the edges—typically a wood varnish to protect the wood from drying out or changing color.
  • Document the work in Artwork Archive and on my backup hard drive and website.
  • Write a blog about the work.
  • Add the work to select projects that are in the works.
  • Submit work to shows.
  • Sell the work.

I wonder if I missed anything here?

Suzanne Gibbs, ©2019, Purple Lipped Confusion, painting on wood with mixed media collage, 24 x 24 inches. $4,200

Does this make you interested in becoming an artist? Have the steps to a single painting increased your curiosity? Do you have questions for me?

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