Posted on Leave a comment

The Process of Packaging Paintings

Whether I’m in my element or trying something new, I’m very rarely nervous in the studio. While painting, I get into the flow. I’m usually energized and curious, open to experimentation and/or peacefully plugging along. When it comes to shipping my paintings, however, it has taken some practice to get comfortable. Shipping artwork entails various steps, all with the main goal of ensuring that the work reaches the collector in a safe and timely fashion. In this blog post, I share my process of packaging paintings from the logistical steps to the emotional rollercoaster of letting a painting go!

Although packaging artworks has been an aspect of a few of my former jobs, I needed a refresher when I decided to launch my web shop. I started looking for packaging and shipping resources and quickly found a helpful and straight forward video by Agora Gallery. I watched this and other videos carefully and well before a sale. This helped me build the confidence that, when the time came, I would be ready to ship my artworks to their new homes. From there, I gathered the materials I would need from the art supply store Schleiper, here in Brussels. Below is a list of materials I keep on hand for packaging my paintings.

*The Materials:

  • Glassine paper
  • Artist’s tape
  • Packing tape
  • Bubble wrap
  • Cardboard corners
  • Pieces of cardboard or foamboard
  • Shipping boxes
  • Scissors & exacto knife
  • Ruler & measuring tape
  • Pencil & marker

When the day arrived that I sold a painting that required shipping, I knew I had to set aside a good amount of time to package this fragile and meaningful-to-me (and now owned by someone else!) artwork.

**The Steps:

1. Clear and cushion your surface. Whether small or large in size, I package my paintings on the floor so that I can spread out all of my materials and have an abundance of space. Before I begin, I sweep and/or vacuum the surface (a good excuse for cleaning). Then, I lay down a large piece of clean foam and/or cardboard to provide a cushion for my painting.  

2. Wrap artwork in glassine paper using artist’s tape. Glassine paper is an acid-free archival quality paper. This material is gentle against the paint and is the first layer of protection for the painting. I use artist’s tape for this step—a tape that is easy to remove and will not leave residue on your painting—even though I try not to attach the tape to the canvas surface. Use the glassine paper and artist’s tape to wrap your artwork like a gift.

3. Wrap artwork in bubble wrap using packing tape. Different resources suggest different amounts of bubble wrap to protect artwork. I’ve found that I am happy with the protection that a generous couple of inches of bubble wrap (all around the artwork) provides. To secure the bubble wrap, use strong packing tape. In the photo below, I’ve added an extra step of cushioning the artwork between foamboard – I explain my use of foamboard in the following steps.

4. Add and secure cardboard corners to your artwork (especially important for framed artworks). I use cardboard corners on both framed and unframed paintings. Framed paintings require this extra layer of protection as the corners are especially vulnerable to impact in the shipping process. Cardboard corners are available in art supply stores, or you can make your own. This video by StateoftheART was extremely helpful for making my own cardboard corners.

5. Sandwich-wrap artwork between cardboard or foamboard pieces. Foamboard is a material and packaging step that I added to my process when I was packaging a painting I sold through Saatchi Art. Sandwiching the artwork between two sturdy foamboard pieces adds an extra layer of protection, helping to absorb weight that may be imposed upon the artwork during shipping.

6. Insert artwork into a sturdy cardboard box. Finding boxes has been a challenge for my larger works. I have been making boxes out of larger cardboard pieces but this is time-consuming and so I continue to look for larger boxes that would fit my works. In addition to using foamboard, another tip/requirement I picked up from Saatchi Art is to always use the “H-taping” method. When closing and securing your cardboard box, use strong packing tape over the corners and along the opening sides of the box (the long piece of tape along the side and the two pieces of tape at either corner creates an “H”-like shape).

The first artwork I sent out of the country was nerve-wracking. As soon as I scheduled the pick-up with the delivery company, the clock began ticking. I was concerned about having all the right materials and packaging my work safely and professionally. My perfectionism reared its head by zooming in on details like how consistent my tape-job was. Packaging my first painting for international shipping took hours as I made my own box, weighed, measured, cut and recut cardboard pieces, and added more layers of bubble wrap and tape than necessary. When the courier came to pick up the painting, I both couldn’t wait to have it out of the door and felt a little emotional saying goodbye.

With practice, packaging my paintings for shipping is getting easier. Trusting that they will get to their destination safely comes from having seen this happen successfully. Having high standards in terms of getting the work to the collector safely is of utmost importance. While the presentation is important, bubble wrap and foamboard can only look so good!

While I especially like to hand-deliver my paintings, to meet collectors, and sometimes even see where the paintings will be hung, I’m thrilled that my artwork is now in a few European countries, including The Netherlands and France, and in Canada. By including a greeting card and my business card (along with a Certificate of Authenticity) with my shipped paintings, I’ve found ways to add a personal touch to delivery. When someone connects with my work and brings it into their home, the very important element of artmaking is achieved: sharing.

Thanks for reading!

* These are the materials I most often use for shipping. This list is not exhaustive – sometimes I use brown paper to add an extra layer over the glassine and bubble wrap, for example. This list is based on the needs of my paintings, which are acrylic paintings on stretched canvas. I continue to research best packaging methods and advise the consultation of a few different resources to decide what is best for you, if you’re an artist shipping your work. Finally, galleries may have their own in-house guidelines for packing that they ask the artist to respect or artworks may be packaged by representing galleries.

** These are my standard go-to packaging steps. I may adjust the steps depending on the size and fragility of the work. My paintings do not come framed with glass. As the Agora Gallery video (linked above) explains, extra safety measures are required to protect glass during the shipping process. Make sure to follow the packaging steps required of your specific artwork.

If you like what you’re reading, please join my mailing list list to get updates on my latest posts.

Success! You're on the list.

Posted on 1 Comment

Building Layers Using Acrylic Paints

No matter what I’m painting—whether it’s a forest scene, a seascape, or a portrait—I’m always building layers of paint. Moreover, no matter the style I am working in, from more impressionistic to semi-abstract, layering is the foundation of my painting technique. In what follows, I’ll share my technique of building layers using acrylic paints.

In this previous post, I’ve described my painting process from the first rough sketches to the final highlights. When describing this sketching stage, I’ve used the term “wash”. This is a painterly technique that refers to sketching out the main colour values of a scene: the lights and darks and sometimes specific tones or colours. A wash lays down the composition of the painting, including the larger shapes. By loosely sketching the main lines and values of a scene, I can, at this early stage, assess and potentially amend the proportions of the composition before delving too quickly into the details.

A wash treats the entire surface of the canvas equally by putting down the first layers evenly. This builds a strong foundation for the work. Here are two images of the “wash” stage of my latest work in progress:

I work with acrylic paints, which are versatile. When diluted with a little water—be careful not to over dilute—acrylics can give a transparent result, similar to that of watercolour paint. Alternatively, when applied to a surface directly and generously, acrylic paint can provide a result similar to an oil paint – thick and opaque. Acrylic paints dry quickly and are thus easy to work with. I like to apply the paint in thin layers, straight from the tube, to ultimately achieve an opaque result overall. However, I do not want my brush strokes to be too visible. I want the colour application itself—the blending or colour blocking—to create visual interest and texture rather than the surface of the painting itself to be textured (raised off the canvas in any way–this can be achieved using a variety of mediums and/or thickly applying paint).

Detail of my painting, “Berry Passage”.

As I progress in my painting, the layers shift from semi-transparent to opaque. Working in layers—slowly building my scene over the whole canvas—keeps my painting fluid. It keeps my options open. I assess the work as a whole as I go. I step back from the easel. I come back again and make changes. It is only in the last stages that I put down the thickest layers of paint. At this point, I know I won’t be making any significant changes, though the final marks are some of the most important. There is a certainty and confidence in these finishing marks, usually highlights.

Detail of my painting, “De Haan Large Forest”.

The technique of layering adds depth and a richness of colour. For example, I am currently working on a commissioned seascape in which the layering plays a central role. In this painting, I used a 1.5-inch brush to put down light layers of colour. Using a thick flat brush allows me to put a thin layer of paint down while evenly covering a large surface. This simultaneously creates a smooth effect and depth of colour in the work; what I am going for to describe the sky and sea in this case.

Detail of the layering technique, work in progress.

I like the effect of the blending I was able to achieve with this brush. Although it is possible to put colour on top of colour directly, I sometimes let the paint mostly dry between layers. This way, I’m not mixing the colours, but letting them show through in some parts and disappear in others. If I’m trying to achieve a more transparent look to a layer, I will only add a little paint to my brush. This creates a dusting of a fresh colour over the last layer.

In contrast to the above example of my work-in-progress seascape, layering looks a little different when I’m painting light coming through leaves. Instead of working with a large brush to sweep colour across the canvas, I’m working with patches of colour. Sky blues peek through branches. Light shinning between and through leaves calls for some greens to be very light, yellow, or semi-transparent. Pale yellows and opaque white highlights are the last layers.

Detail of my painting, “Villers Abbey Forest”.

My method of layering involves patience and experimentation. Building layers is a balance between working towards an idea of an expected result and staying open for new things to happen. Like so many aspects of painting, the experience of building layers with patience and curiosity applies to other areas of my life. Working in layers has instilled in me a sense of flexibility: to add, to retract, to try again, or to try differently. Different stages in the work call for different approaches. With a knowledge of how the paint works, some predictability and planning is possible, but each painting is unique and unforeseen events happen along the way. This is how I build my layers using acrylic paints and I look forward to continuing to grow and experiment!

Thanks for reading!

If you like what you’re reading, please join my mailing list list to get updates on my latest posts.

Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

On Winter: A Season, A Subject, A Practice

We are in the darker months of the year and the winter season has been on my mind, becoming the subject of my work. My latest painting, “Winter Path,” is based on a scene I came across while out walking in late December 2020. The catalyst for this painting was how wonderous it felt to see the sun peaking through the clouds, shinning brilliantly on a forest path that was just up ahead. I wrote about the winter colour palette I used—dark purples and light mauves and browns—for this painting in my last post, but this seemed just a beginning of a reflection on the topic.

I have always loved winter: the magic of watching snow falling softly against the dark night sky, the coziness of a crackling fireplace, (usually) the gathering of loved ones and the sharing of warm drinks and meals. But for all its wonders and joys, the winter season is also long and difficult; in Canada, it’s the cold, in Belgium, it’s the dark. I am always just on the cusp of purchasing a sunlamp.

I still recall the winter three years ago, which was one of the darkest on record in western Europe. One day during this winter, a faint beam of sunlight entering my apartment window was such a shock to my system that I walked toward the light with a trance-like awe, my eyes immovable from the pale orange breaking through the dark sky for the short time it lasted.

In her recent book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, author Katherine May explores winter not only as the season it is but also as a verb (“wintering”), as a practice of serious self care. May explains that during life’s difficult times we often feel a call (or sometimes, a demand) for a slowing down and a prioritizing of our basic needs—think: breathing, resting, walking. While the season of winter itself invites rest and retreat—sometimes in the form of cuddling under a warm blanket, gazing out a frosted window to appreciate the cold season at a distance–wintering, May posits, as a practice, is something in which we can engage (by choice or necessity) in other months of the year too. The need to winter can occur when we are dealing with life’s myriad struggles and refueling is a non-negotiable.

May explains that during life’s difficult times we often feel a call (or sometimes, a demand) for a slowing down and a prioritizing of our basic needs—think: breathing, resting, walking.

In some ways, living through this ongoing pandemic is a wintering: we stay indoors and pare down to the essentials of rest, exercise, and new or old hobbies of baking and crafting. For many of course—essential workers and parents, for example—demands during this time grow exponentially and there seems little possibility of recharging. A recent episode of one of my favourite podcasts, Forever35, focused on the experience of essential workers and asked how they were getting through this demanding time. It was an important reminder that while we are all going through this strange time, the experiences of this pandemic period are vast: its difficulties affecting us all in different ways.

I was in the middle of my own wintering when the pandemic began, and that experience has actually helped me cope with staying home this past year. During my own wintering, I had to slow way down (stand still, really) and redefine my own understanding of daily productivity. Starting with the basics of rest, exercise, and a healthy diet, I added painting to my daily activities–a practice I had always loved but which I’d put on the back shelf for too long. The experience of slowing down could be, at times, frustrating. Painting, as I have written about here, helped me to practice patience. These colliding wintering seasons have taught me that the basics–including painting, for me–are not indulgences, extras or after-thoughts, but essential parts of my own well-being. I connected to the following passage of May’s book, where she describes deciduous trees in winter (p.80 e-book):

“The tree is waiting. It has everything ready. Its fallen leaves are mulching the forest floor, and its roots are drawing up the extra winter moisture, providing a firm anchor against seasonal storms. […] It is far from dead. It is, in fact, the life and soul of the wood. It’s just getting on with it quietly. It will not burst into life in the spring. It will just put on a new coat and face the world again.”

What I’ve learned from my own experiences, and what I appreciated in May’s book, was this idea that a wintering period is not detached or separate from life, though it may sometimes feel that way. Resting serves the purpose to regain our strength; eventually we will “put on a new coat and face the world again.” For me, the practice of painting is a quiet and meditative practice. It requires slowing down and looking intentionally. At the same time, painting is a rejuvenating experience, something that gives me an abundance of meaning and renewed energy, even and especially in darker seasons.

Winter Path, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 cm, 2021.

Thanks for reading!

I publish a new post every second Wednesday. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog to get updates on my latest posts and receive 10% off your first purchase.

Success! You're on the list.
Posted on 1 Comment

Seasonal Colours: Winter

One thing I love about painting is that I am always learning from the process—I am continually surprised by what happens on the canvas. If I had been asked a few weeks ago what colours I think of as the seasonal colours of winter, I might have replied: the white of snow or the dark grey skies of the early winter sunsets here in the northern hemisphere. I might have thought of cool colours, like a bright icy blue, that reflects the cold I experienced growing up in Canada.

In addition, the winter season recalls bright lights strung along rooftops and wound around trees during the holidays: the ruby red and shiny gold of Christmas ornaments against the forest green of a tree’s needles comes to mind. Indeed, jewel tones of deep reds, greens, and purples, tend to be at the heart of winter fashion and a crimson or burgundy lipstick is especially nice to wear in winter—the colour of a spicy mulled wine. As I write this, my faux-fur white and green wrap is keeping me cozy on a cold January day.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been busy working on a new forest scene based on a photograph taken during a walk I took late December 2020. As usual, I was walking when I saw a scene that struck me as full of painting potential. I was particularly interested in the especially long and especially thin path that came into view on my right. It was mid-morning, and the sun was shinning brilliantly onto the path. The trees were bare and dark against the light blue-grey sky. While it was the sunny path that drew my attention, as I looked at the ground and trees more closely, I noticed beautiful shades of mauve, even lilac, and a range of browns, some of which were rust-gold. I couldn’t wait to paint this scene. Here’s a look at the main colours in my winter painting colour palette:

As I’ve outlined in other blog posts (here and here), I like to use photographs for an initial composition and then allow the creative process and experimentation with colour to take over and unfold. Due to the dark areas on the ground near the path, I’ve been using a lot of purples. I like to use a deep purple for trees rather than black, as various shades of purple mixes well with highlights of various browns, greens, blues, and reds—all of which can be found in different bark, in different light. I wanted the trees to be distinguishable from the dark purple of the ground and so opted for a dark blue, with purples and browns, for the trees.

I’ve been having fun playing with this colour palette and building up layers with a wide variety of colour, which allows for textured transitions between shadow and light. I am pleasantly surprised by the delicacy of the light mauves and golden browns and the warmth that this palette is creating not only with darker colours but with these lighter ones as well. At the time of writing I am about three-quarters finished this work. Here are some details of my work in progress painting (size 60 x 60 cm, title to follow):

Thanks for reading!         

I post a new blog biweekly on Wednesdays. If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog to get updates on my latest posts and receive 10% off your first purchase.

Success! You're on the list.
Posted on Leave a comment

Painting as Welcoming Love and Loss

I just finished reading Forever is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagán, a novel about love and loss and how they intertwine when it comes to youth, friendship, relationships, and life in general. The intertwining of love and loss feels especially palpable during this pandemic and this holiday season. Many families have lost loved ones to COVID-19, as well as other circumstances. Many families won’t be seeing each other over the holidays. I won’t be going to Canada this year and, although it is the right decision given the circumstances, I am feeling the loss of the usual traditional activities, which allow me to enjoy the company of friends and family.

The end of one year and the beginning of another inspires both reflection on times past and anticipation of the time ahead. The holiday season is a time of introspection and also largely a time of shared rituals. When a season’s traditional markers change, how we deal with that change is personal. For me, not visiting my family this year has meant getting a tree (even) earlier, baking up a storm on my own, appreciating the twinkling lights around my neighbourhood, and trying to accept feelings of both joy and sorrow. It has also meant reading comforting Christmas stories.

Charles Dickens wrote a short story entitled, “What Christmas is as We Grow Older”, originally published in 1851.* I had to read it twice through—for the message and the Old English—but was immediately stirred by the theme that times past still hold powerful meaning in our present and that it is seasonal rituals that underscore this connectivity of time. Dickens begins his story describing Christmases past, those enjoyed in youth, as “[…] bright visionary Christmases […]! That was the time for the beatified enjoyment of the things that were to be, and never were, and yet the things that were so real in our resolute hope that it would be hard to say, now, what realities achieved since, have been stronger!

As we grow older, we inevitably encounter and undergo many small and large changes in all aspects of our inner and outer lives. Change is how we grow but growth can be accompanied by pain. When we are in the thick of change, growth, pain, loss, or all of these together, the relationship of these difficult experiences to what we have loved or what we value doesn’t always seem to help in the moment. The knowledge that loss is born out of love can, however, eventually soften the sting of grief. Whether we are mourning dreams or projects imagined in childhood, paths not taken or not worked out, or loved ones deceased, those parts of our hearts can be welcomed during the season of remembrance. Of later Christmases, Dickens expresses that:

[…] the circle of our Christmas associations and of the lessons that they bring, expands! Let us welcome every one of them, and summon them to take their places by the Christmas hearth.

Welcome, old aspirations, glittering creatures of an ardent fancy, to your shelter underneath the holly! We know you, and have not outlived you yet. Welcome, old projects and old loves, however fleeting, to your nooks among the steadier lights that burn around us. Welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts; and for the earnestness that made you real, thanks to Heaven!  

I usually start a painting from an external scene. For example, I see a tree in the forest and want to communicate the impression of sunlight through the leaves that gives me a feeling of joy. Presently, I can feel a painting beginning in me that is inspired by the season of remembrance and, even more so this year, of loss. However, I am not really interested in dwelling in loss alone. Rather, what has helped a feeling of loss begin to transform into the inspiration for a creative work is Dickens’ invitation to “welcome”; to “welcome, all that was ever real to our hearts.” This phrase is moving; to me, reading it managed to rustle my experience of the emotion of loss out of its stiffening. This idea of “welcoming” emphasizes that our experiences of loss can hold our experiences of love, from which they were born.

My next painting—only real in my imagination at the moment—will be called, “At the Hearth”. I usually title paintings when they are completed, but I am looking forward to working backward this time. The title “At the Hearth” is inspired by the sentiment of Dickens’ story, to welcome our meaningful experiences past, “all that was ever real to our hearts,” into the present. This season, I will be remembering those special people in my life who are no longer with us, friendships and relationships past, family and friends dear yet far away, the young me who painted in her Opa’s garden, and the more global losses we’ve endured and continue to endure. Welcoming, experiencing, and moving through emotions is part of the painting process.

Painting to follow! (If it’s not only dreamed!)

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog to get updates on my latest posts and receive 10% off your first purchase.

Success! You're on the list.

* Dickens’ short story can be found in The Complete Christmas Books and Stories, published by Moon Classics in 2020.

Posted on 1 Comment

Patience in Painting

When we think about painting, we might, at first, think about things like subject matter and all the tools needed to undertake a project: surfaces, paints, brushes, mediums, water, etc. All of this is the ‘stuff’ or materials of painting, but lately there has been one word that seems completely bound to painting and which has come to mind often when I think of, or am in the midst of, painting: patience.

I consider painting, like writing, to be a kind of thinking, or a general working out process. Like any process, there can be moments of intensely focused action and quieter moments of pause or reflection. In this post, I want to draw attention to the important role that patience plays in my painting practice (and I think that of most artists). When I refer to patience in my painting practice, I am thinking mainly of the moments in between ‘active’ painting—that is, brush in hand, at the canvas, working away. While this sounds like a distinction (active versus passive), these phases are complementary and both integral to the overall painting process and the finished product.

I’ve noticed that I usually work for about 1-to-1.5-hour sessions at a time. During this time, I regularly take a step back from the canvas to have a quick look and see how things are shaping up. But after a session, I take a longer and more intentional look at my work. I turn my easel towards a chair that is about 5 meters away from my painting area and take a seat. This is indeed a break from the literal hands-on active part of painting, but while my hands are resting, my mind is still (though differently) analysing what I’ve done and considering where I can go.  

I sit in my chair and look at my painting. In contrast to my quick steps back during my ‘action’ session—something I was encouraged to do in studio art class—I let my eyes linger and travel over the canvas. Here, I get a general answer to my question of: How’s it going? I check in with myself from the comfort of my lounge chair and look at the work as a whole.

If I’m satisfied with the work in general, I zoom in on areas that I see need attention. I might find that a certain angle isn’t working or that I am not getting the depth effect I’d like in a certain area. I notice the interaction of colours and forms and ask myself how I can make adjustments where needed. I see things that I want to fix and a little list forms in my mind. I am careful, however, to only focus on a few priority to-do’s: I might go back to my easel with three areas I want to tackle. When I’ve addressed these areas, minor issues may resolve themselves or new areas to work on may emerge—I’ll take stock of these during my next sit-down.

This moment of reflection is also a time to take stock of what is going well, and I allow myself some time to feel good about those areas too. I ask myself what I like about these areas and how these successful bits can inform how I tackle other areas of my work. During this time of ‘passive’ painting I take stock and ask generally: Am I going in the right direction? It’s a time to refuel and refocus for the next session of the day.

Settled in my chair, I sip a coffee from my favourite mug. This is my little ritual. The coffee gives me the energy for my next ‘action’ session, and it encourages me to really sit down and take a good five to ten minutes to look at my work. When I’m anxious to rush back to the easel, my coffee stops me and reminds me to just look (and sip). Looking, considering, and reflecting takes time and patience. This is when I slow down and slowing down and looking is, anyway, how a painting begins: I stop and notice what is around me, what I find attention-grabbing and inspiring. Looking is the main activity in the process of painting. It is a continual stop and start of action-reflection, reflection-action.

Looking is the main activity in the process of painting. It is a continual stop and start of action-reflection, reflection-action.

Patience comes into play in painting not only in these “coffee break moments” but also in relation to my expectations. The practice of painting requires a continual assessment and reassessment of one’s work. Sometimes I encounter an issue and have to make the call to push through or try a new direction. I draw on skills of improvisation and need to find the courage to make changes. Taking these steps in the painting process can be frustrating and scary and patience seems always to be part of the equation. 

Taking breaks between sessions or workdays allows our ideas about our paintings to settle. An area we can’t quite figure out today might look totally different tomorrow in a new light. Practically speaking, stepping away and coming back to the painting gives the paint a chance to settle. Acrylic paints dry very quickly so it’s not necessary (or necessarily a good idea) to walk away while working on a section. However, I like to build up layers and so putting down the brush after I’ve completed a layer to return to the work later on allows me to build on top what I’ve done to the desired effect.

Like so many aspects of painting, the fact that I need to flex my patience muscle helps not only to improve my work but extends beyond the studio to other areas of my life. Sitting in my “looking chair” encourages me to I take a step back. I take a breath and take stock of where I find myself presently. I remember that taking distance is not in opposition to finding a solution to the difficult areas in painting and in life, but is often the best thing I can do when I’m struggling and wondering where to go next.

Thanks for reading!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog to get updates on my latest posts.

Success! You're on the list.
Posted on 3 Comments

The Joys of Painting on Commission

One thing I love about producing a commissioned artwork is already knowing whom the work will be going to when the process begins. Already knowing whom the work is for and, sometimes, knowing in which space it will be displayed, gives the yet-to-be-produced artwork an already existent context: a home destination. As I’m working, I keep the person in mind. Thinking about how this work is already theirs makes it something shared between us from the start. This extra element of having the work intended for a particular individual adds a special sentiment to the creative process.

In this case, for what would become “Blue Sunset”, I discussed the theme, the main colours, and the mood of the artwork with the customer. I used the theme (sunset on the beach/abstract) and the main colours (warm blues and greens) to help me select some inspiration. I looked through my portfolio of photographs of sunsets taken at De Haan’s beach. I looked for composition and colours. I kept the mood in mind too: calm/zen/a little mysterious/bright. I find that working with key words like this keeps the mood-intention front of mind while I’m painting.

The Inspiration

While working from a photograph is great for the initial composition and colour palette, the key for me is knowing when to set the inspiration aside and focus on making the painting work by itself. Abandoning the photographic inspiration too soon or, alternatively, not letting it go at the right time, can inhibit the painting from working itself. Like any adaptation, a painting based on a photograph should become its own unique thing, creating another experience from its initial inspiration. My style lends itself well to leaving the inspiration behind since I am not going for a photo-realistic or realistic style but rather something between impressionism (a style interested in colour and light perception) and expressionism (based on feeling/mood/experience). In this case, I also wanted to include an abstract flare to the work.     

What I really liked about this composition is that the image has four roughly equal parts horizontally: a blue band; a light green & clouds band; a darker purple & clouds band; and lastly, a water, sand & reflections band. This gives the painting a strong and simple structure while allowing a lot of room for creativity within those fields.

The Process

I wanted to see how this project would take shape step by step. Here are the series of photographs that I took of the painting from beginning to end. The first steps included doing a wash to get the main colour blocks of the composition. I sketch out the lighter and darker areas. Here I have to resist the temptation to get into details too quickly: the more intricate brush work and mixing of colours is for me the most playful and fun part.

I built up the painting in thin layers. I did this as evenly as possible so as not to work on one area and ignore the others. Gradually, my colour blocks and sketched marks became more solid. I added more layers and focused on mixing colours to further define and build the light and dark effects. As I am building up the painting, my strokes become more confident and I apply a thicker amount of paint. As the painting takes shape, I feel out where the highlights should be and it’s here that most of the experimentation happens. My last marks will usually be bright white highlights.

An essential part of the painting process, which I take with me from the early days of painting class, is to regularly step back from the painting. I take regular breaks and sit or stand back from the canvas to consider the relation of colours and forms as a whole.

Here I am with the final product!

Interested in a commissioned artwork? Get in touch via the chat function or the contact form!

If you like what you’re reading, please subscribe to my blog to get updates on my latest posts and receive 10% off your first purchase.

Success! You're on the list.