Category Archives: Process of a Painting

One on One Mentoring Session

This week I had the opportunity to give a one on one mentoring session. It is a very efficient way to learn. In a one on one session you get undivided attention.  For some people it is a preferred method of learning rather than in a classroom setting. This was the case for G. (who wants to remain anonymous).

We spent three and a half hours together and he went home with a painting ready to hang.

He had an idea of what he wanted to do and needed help achieving it.

Here was the process.

Fist he blocked in some colour using a catalyst straight edge blade. Raw umber, yellow oxide, nickle azo and red iron oxide.

Initial Layer

Blow drying speeds up the process-even though acrylic dries fast G did not want to watch paint dry!


Next he added some umber to the foreground to tie it to unify it more with the top and give it a more rock like feel. Notice he is holding his brush at the end so he does not have so much control. This makes for more interesting lines.


He got ahead of my picture taking! He added another mountain shape in the background. For the tree he used a veil coat of watered down titanium white. This was misted with water so it would leave some texture and bring some of the umber to the top. The last step was to glaze over it with Nickle Azo gold. I love how the tree looks back lit. It makes it the focal point.  The edges where finished with raw umber before putting hanging hardware on the back.

G. went home with a painting he created ready to hang in his new home.



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Using a Jump Board to Start an Abstract Painting.

Lately I have been working on large paintings. Because of the time involved I was missing the instant gratification from doing smaller studies. So I set aside some time to do a “rapid series”. This is freedom at its best! I work on paper and set up to do 6 at once. As I usually work from pure intuition in this approach I do a series of thumbnail sketches. I get my idea by using my plein air viewfinder and looking for strong compositions in magazine photos. These are not the entire photo but just a little part of something. This really hones your eye for composition. I then take my idea and draw several value studies and variations on the idea.


Now I am ready to get to work. I am using 300 lb. Arches cold press watercolor paper for these. I start by tearing the paper into half the long way and then into thirds. This gives me 6 pieces that measure 10 x 11″.  I then use the blue low tack painters tape and tape a boarder. Because I like working square I use two rows of tape at the bottom. My finished painting will be 8×8″. I learned this tape trick in a Gwen Fox workshop I took.


Now it is time to gesso the paper. The reason for this is to seal the edges of the tape and to reduce the absorbancy of the watercolour paper as I am going to be painting with acrylic. Today I choose white gesso for my ground.

I want to set some parameters before I start so I am not like a kid in the candy store!

  •  Limit my palette, I am using Quinacradone Nickle Azo Gold, Titanium White, and Cadmium Red
  • Charcoal for mark making ( I like how this smudges with the paint and greys it down)
  • My trusty kitchen timer (I use the Pomodoro technique to keep my focus)
  • A working matt to fine tune my progress ( that blue tape is distracting)
  • One Catalyst blade
  • Fine liner Bottle
  • 2 flat paintbrushes

I think I am ready to get started.  I set the timer for the first twenty five minute session.

I work on all six paintings simultaneously. The first thing I did in this series was to make some marks with the charcoal.

charcoal on paper

Now it is time to start adding in the colour. I am using the Titanium white and the Nickel Azo Gold for the back ground layer. I love how the charcoal mixes a muted gray because it is not fixed.

Charcoal with wet paint

I refer to my value study to block in some mid tones with the Nickle Azo Gold

Blocking in mid tones

Now it is time to add some black  shapes. Notice how I scratch back to reveal some of the under colour. I use a bamboo skewer or  a knitting needle to do this.

adding black shapes


The cool thing about working on six is by the time you get back to the beginning of the row the acrylic is dry.  Oh oh-the timer just rang!  Time for a five minute break before another session. This keeps my focus strong!

Finishing up is where you need more focus. I start by looking at them individually in the matt now to get a sense of what they need.

I will use the Fineliner to draw some black lines and the Cadmium red to add my accent circle. How I get that perfect circle is my little secret!  I go back and add some more white and scratch back with my catalyst blade.

Blossom Tree Progression

Layer 6

Scrivener -Blossom Tree 48 x36″

This is another painting that really took a change when I changed the orientation. I turned it from  horizontal to vertical  and saw the tree emerge. It reminds me to never get locked into the orientation of the painting.

Transitions of a Painting

The result of my abstract demo from the Island Arts Expo and the documented process.

Finish the trunk, add some darks and unify and soften the sky.

Scrivener 24×24″ Acrylic on gallery wrapped canvas $1000.00

Don’t Give Up


Here you can see the process of my painting form the first layer through till the end.

This painting came into being while listening to Josh Groban’s Awake album and the song “Don’t Give Up” really started to resonate with me. I started writing the words on the canvas although they are faint now with all the layers built up.  When I reflect on the imagery in this painting it reminds me of relationships and happier times. Flowers and figures. The space in between the two figures on the left and the one on the right show a division, perhaps a difference in opinion.  Don’t give up can mean so many things. For me at that moment after doing the 30 Paintings in 30 Day challenge it meant don’t stop now – keep going!

I feel so loved and supported by my social media family. Here is an example of the little things that make a difference. Tracy took the time to message me with these words;  “You inspire me so much… I am a total novice… only ever had 6 painting classes… but your style of art is what makes me tick… thank you for beautifying the world”

This was so special to me. Even though I do not know Tracy personally and she lives on the other side of the globe I felt so connected to her at that moment. It really gave me a sense of purpose to know that not only am I feeding my own soul but also feeding someone else’s.

You can draw your own conclusions about the painting. I have put the lyrics to the song below.

Let me know your interpretation.


“You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)”

Josh Groban

Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
When your heart’s heavy
I…I will lift it for you

Don’t give up
Because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you
I…I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt that you hide
When you’re lost inside
I…I will be there to find you

Don’t give up
Because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you
I…I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved

You are loved
Don’t give up
It’s just the weight of the world
Don’t give up
Every one needs to be heard
You are loved