Sometimes a painting is completed in my mind before I ever commit it to paper or panel. Like driving a fast car on the Autobahn! And sometimes a painting follows a meandering road, like taking a slow sight-seeing tour through the country. This new painting falls into the latter category. Here is a tale of my meandering creative process.

The beginning of my process

I wanted to try out some of the casein techniques I had been playing with on paper on panel. More specifically, some of the more ‘watercolor’ type techniques, such as letting a wet wash drip and spread as it will. That wouldn’t work on my normal choice of gessoed panels which are very smooth even though absorbent. Keeping in mind all of my upcoming shows, I also hoped I could turn it into something to exhibit.

With that in mind, I bought two Ampersand Aquabord 2″ cradled panels even though I had the same size in non-cradled panels in my stash. It is an archival textured clay surface that absorbs water-based media and I have played with watercolor on them but not casein. We artists LOVE to buy new supplies even when we don’t necessarily need them or even know how to use them – a subject for a future blog post, perhaps!



Random beginnings

I was working on a casein painting on paper and when I had finished the layer for the day, I opened up one of my aquabord panels and jumped in! What did I have to lose? Especially as most paints can be wiped clear off these panels without any pigment staining. Okay, I did have a sorta concept in my head – a flying bird of some sort. Here is the result of that first layer of paint.

The first layer of casein on my Ampersand aquabord panel.

The first layer of casein on my Ampersand aquabord panel.

The meandering process continues.

There were aspects that I liked about this first layer such as the drips. But I didn’t like the roughness of the edges of the drips and the uneven edges in the color at the top. So, holding my breath, I jumped in again with a second layer and the magic started to happen for me! I smoothed and softened, heightened color and lightened color, and it all started to come together for me. I suddenly had a complete vision of what the final painting might be, and even a title. AND more paintings to go with it to create a quadtych… see how my mind meanders?!

Refining the first layer, smoothing edges, knocking back some areas and heightening the color in others.

Utilizing technology in the process

Now what? Normally, before I start anything, I create little thumbnails on paper for compositional ideas. In this case, the randomness of the drips and the areas of bigger color now dictate my composition. I had recently seen great egrets flying over the Niantic River and also at the Quinnebaug Fish Hatchery. My impression both times were of a beautiful white bird glowing against a jewel-blue sky, so that is what popped into my brain to try and capture with this piece. Since I had photographs of those birds I now turned to new technology instead of thumbnails and used Photoshop to superimpose the birds I photographed on the background and play with placement and scale.

Now the fun begins…

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I started with placing the bird flying from left to right in the left hand side of the sky area, but it felt a little crowded. So I then placed it into the right side where it just felt ‘right’ sitting in that space. However, it is now a more dynamic composition as the bird is just about to ‘fly off’ the page, whereas the other bird has the ‘space’ to fly into. It depends on what I want to say – there are many times I do see them flying off past where I can see them, so this perspective might be cool. To explore it further, I found one of my photos of an egret flying from right to left and tried the same thing. Now I have a bird ‘settled’ into the space on the right but with the room to fly off to the left. Hmmm, choices. So I decided to do this next step.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

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Sometimes reducing an image to grayscale helps me in my decision-making process. It takes away the influence of color and lets me see just the values in the painting. At this stage it will also help me makes decisions on the values I will eventually paint the bird that might differ from the values in the photographic image.

What will my decision be? Any thoughts? Have I lost you on this meandering road of my creative process? I will post the final painting in my next blog post, I promise!