The Stages of a Painting's Developement

This section will give you the chance to follow one of my paintings from inception to conclusion. While this is not meant to show every aspect of the painting process, I will break it into the basic stages that I go through in the developement of a large canvas. When I work smaller, I tend to paint in a less formal manner, but for 30" x 40" canvases and larger, I try to keep these steps as a way of controlling the painting.

In this instance, I am beginning a 48" x 40" Grand Canyon oil painting.

Stage 1.

After the initial drawing, which is not shown here because I draw lightly and it would not show up in a photograph, I mix a basic shadow color. Generally, I like a grayish purple, and choose something in the mid range of values that I will be using between the very distant shadow color, and the closest background shadow color. At this stage I work from the back of the painting to the front. If I use all of my original color that I mixed, I will blend a somewhat darker shade to begin the value gradations that will suggest the layers of the canyon. At this stage I work in flat color, no attention to anything accept light and dark masses. I will use the direction of my brush strokes to suggest the lay of the land within the shadows, and where one land mass and another meet within shadowed areas, I will leave a pencil line width of bare canvas so that I don't lose my guidelines. The area of the canvas that will contain the foreground is left blank. When I paint a scene like the canyon, I pay close attention to the drawing detail of the formations. But I consider the foreground to be a balancing agent for the rest of the painting and this part of the design is only thought out in general terms at this stage of the painting.

Stage 2.

The next step is to take the same color that I have been using and dry brush lightly over the areas of the painting that are still raw canvas. I brush on just enough color to show the directional lay of the landscape and to build tonal qualities in the lit areas. I do this quickly, but carefully enough to create a three dimensional, monochromatic view of the painting. I leave only my areas of strongest light untouched. This is one of the most important steps in the painting, because I now have a very strong feel for how the painting will evolve, and I don't risk losing my direction in the following days. I can 'see' the whole painting. Now I will begin to refine the gradations of the shadow areas, lightening the back areas and adding more value to the layers as I move forward. On a large canvas such as this one, this is usually as far as I will carry the painting on the first day.

Follow these links to more fine art by Wm. Scott Jennings


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