Background Check


untitled work-in-progress – 24″ x 36 ‘ x 1.5″ – acrylic on wood

When I saw that the topics this week over at Inspire Me Thursday (Action Painting) and Illustration Friday (Multiple), my immediate thought was to bring both topics together and share a little bit of the process behind my paintings.


journal page – 2/1/08

Most of my paintings are conceived in a small 5″ x 7″ journal, the place where I go to play without the big elephant of artistic performance anxiety sitting on my chest. Although I rarely have any idea what I want a page to look like, I always start off with brushed, smeared or sponged-on leftover paint, experimenting with color combinations and application processes. As the background takes on a personality, I start getting an idea of what I want to do – perhaps add paper elements, drip some ink, paint a figure, stamp in texture, draw with pens, scribble with crayons. Sometimes I finish a page rather quickly, and other times I keep layering on the elements until the original background is pretty much obliterated. It starts out as an active, intuitive process that becomes more and more focused as I see what’s appearing on the page. If it really speaks to me as the journal page above did, I decide to go forward and recreate the page as a larger painting.

Like my journal pages, I build my paintings from the background forward. The large painting at the top began as a wood panel my DH made for me a while back. After applying the gesso and sanding it smooth, I used my favorite Blick’s mega-brush to paint a base layer of cadmium red and quinacridone crimson. I let it dry completely, and then used a fabric paint roller to randomly apply diarylide yellow, cadmuim yellow medium, and titan buff paint over the red. Between “rolls,” I spritzed the surface with water and blotted with a paper towel. When I had added and subtracted paint until I had a nice balance of yellow and red, I spritzed again, sprinkled salt on the surface and dried it with a heat gun. Finally, I rubbed off the salt to see the little dots and star designs it left behind, and finished the background by using a texture stamp here and there.

Creating the background was a very active and loose process, in contrast to the very deliberate and focused work I did on the figure. The final stage of this painting will be to add the details – the floral designs, and patterns in her hair, and whatever little surprise elements I might think of before I feel it’s done. I find that I lose my concentration after several hours, so a painting this size ends up taking a long time to finish! In fact, I am going to put her aside for a while and start the background for another painting.


journal page – 12/20/07 & Spirit– 18″ x 24″ x 1″ – mixed media on wood

Above is another example of page-to-painting. In this case, the backgrounds began with collaged torn paper. Below are two other page-to-painting images that I have already posted individually.


journal page – 9/9/07 & Migration– 12″ x 16″ x 1″ – acrylic/mixed media on wood


journal page – 10/10/07 & Enchantment – 12″ x 16″ x 1″ – acrylic/mixed media on wood

More Action Painting here… and more Multiple(s) here… Enjoy!

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