Designing a painting project - Lady Grey, part 1

Summer or no summer, we had a couple of chilly days here in El Cerrito and I was craving nothing more than a hot cup of tea. So when the sun came out and the kids darted out in the backyard, asking for paint to play with, I thought, why not join them? We took the afternoon for a painting party, two kids and me.

While the kiddos were busy with their own creations, I started sketching out what I've been fantasizing about for days - a hot cup of tea. I wanted to shoot for a subtle, subdued color world (at least subtle for me! I tend to infuse bright colors even into plain white surfaces when I paint) and a cozy warm brown of tea. 

One wonderful technique that makes colors brighter and shapes livelier in a painting is creating an underpainting with the dark, light and middle values of a single color, and then add the other colors on tops of that in thin, transparent layers. Being able to see through one layer and find the other layer peeking through always makes me feel the picture has more depth, yet I'm always reminded of the many wonderful faces of the paint itself. 

structural sketch with notes.JPG

SO I sketched out the rough structure of the picture lightly. At this point I'm not worried about accuracy; I will have many opportunities later to fix contours and outlines, I just want to find more or less where things fall on the page.  And what if they are not accurate? I'm not making a teacup, I'm making a picture, and as long as I like the picture and am having making it, precise circles and perfect outlines are beside the point. One thing is very important though: notes! If I want to share this project with others and make it part of a Fono party, I gotta be able to tell you how I made it. 

Next step: underpainting! I picked a cool blue-green color to balance out all the warm tea browns  and ceramic beige in the finished picture and make the colors more interesting in the finished piece. 

I adjusted some of the loosey-goosey contours from the first sketch, but I'm really just focusing on one question: find the lightest, the darkest, and the middle areas of the picture. I get reeeeeeaaaaally up close to the canvas and find triangles, ovals, weird funny shapes that are more-or-less the same level of dark or light. One step at a time! I found that giving myself just one task at a time instead trying to "make an awesome picture" helps me get over the dread of the white page and just let go and have fun with it. 

After the underpainting is done and the light and dark ares took shape, time to take a break! The first big challenge is tackled! Time to start adding colors. But, just when I started finding my tea-tones on the palette, the tiny human monkeys were done with their projects and were clamoring for snacks and being pushed on the swing. So, to be continued...



Part 2: Transparent color layers and fixing mistakes (Oh, boy, mistakes galore!)