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  • Writer's picturecarolyn land

Stages in the Painting Process

The notion that a painter suddenly imagines a composition expressive of his feelings and straightaway puts it down is untrue.  He begins with a general idea…He proceeds by trial and error…the process is one of exploration as well as expression”.            Joyce Carey

I work on more than one painting at a time, and if I am outside of my studio doing this, I am usually asked why?  Sometimes it is just practical to do that, when there is drying time involved. However, there are other reasons that are a little more complex.  I believe there are stages in the process of creating art.  First you begin, then you work, then you “tweak” and evaluate.  They all take a different amount of creative energy and time.

When we start a project we need to, have some idea what we want to do. We plan how we are going to approach the painting, gather the supplies we will need to proceed. If we are painting an abstract we might want to start with a format, plan a color scheme, and think about where we want our value changes.  If we are painting a realistic painting, we will have to have a reference. We need to decide where we want our center of interest and lay in our large under lying shapes. Here we make choices. We have an idea about what we want to express. We decide how to express it. We decide how we want to develop our idea in visual form.

The middle stage is creating.  Here is where we as artists can get into the “zone”. Good art is a complex marriage of our accumulated knowledge, experience, intuition, and experimentation. While working in the zone, our intuition flows freely. We unconsciously use our accumulated knowledge and may even unknowingly experiment while in the “zone”. But we are not making deliberate choices.

Collage by FL artist Carolyn Land

Rhythmic Stream                             Collage

The last stage is evaluating what we have done.  We are again in control. We want to take what we see and balance it with what we feel. We want to see if we have applied the “Principles of Design” to what we have done and ask ourselves the hard questions. Do I have a center of interest? Is my painting balanced? Do I have good value changes?  Do I have a variety of shapes that make my work interesting?  Have I created a rhythm, so the viewer can get around my painting? Is my painting harmonious; or is there something that does not feel like it goes?

Our art isn’t the depiction of objects, but a new language we create with: line, color, shape / form, and texture.  Art is all about starting with something “real”: object, scene, or feeling, and pulling it and stretching it, into something new. We do this by putting our personal twist on that which we want to: remember, record, or tell about, because it has meaning for us.

Each stage takes a different kind of creative energy and time.  If I have several paintings going I can choose which fits my mood, and time schedule.  If I am feeling very creative and high energy, I will start something new.  If I want to lose myself, I will work on a piece I have started, and hope I get in the “zone”.  If I am being thoughtful, it may be time to analyze the piece I did the other day and make notes about what I want to do to make it stronger.

“Between beauty of expression and power of expression there is a different function.  The first aims at pleasing the senses, the second has a spiritual vitality which for me is more moving and goes deeper than the senses”.      Henry Moore


I have a new 4 week session of  “Painting from a Photo Reference”  starting Monday February 5th at the HUB.

Pastel Painting by Fl artist Carolyn land


Remember to stop by during: “Off the Beaten Path Studio Tour” February, 10th 10:00 – 5:00  and February, 11th 12:00 – 5:00.  5420 Swordfern Ct.  Port Orange, FL 32128

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