Constructing a Painting
Coast Trail Sunset went together as easy as 1, 2, 3, but it doesn't always work out that way. So I don't always follow the same process. Sometimes my original sketch is only a very rough idea about what I want in a final painting. If a painting includes people, I may draw them individually, make paper cut-outs, and then move the cut-outs around until I find the composition I want. In other words, I don't stick to any set formula to get what I want. When you're first learning to paint it's probably smart to stick to a set formula. Then, gradually, you learn what maneuvers work best for you and develop a personal bag of tricks. I use cut-outs, photographs, things I've clipped from magazines, something I've doodled on a napkin, anything that gets me where I want to go.
I had a teacher, Kent Rupp, who said to look for the basic shapes in a subject and think of them only as shapes. That sounds simple enough, but, really, it's a big deal. Once you learn to think that way you've made a giant step forward. Sometimes Kent would have us paint with a canvas upside down or on it's side. Now that really forces you to look at shapes, instead of getting caught up in self-defeating details. I still do it sometimes. Another thing is music. When I've got the right music going, my mental editors shut down.Things get more intuitive. Sometimes I'll crank up Dave Brubeck so loud the walls vibrate. Shazam! Automatic pilot. Poor Steve slips out through the pet door to escape the strange behavior.