View Full Version : Hi Dusties. I am back and still alive. LOL

Tom Behnke
02-18-2010, 10:43 AM
I had to stop drawing or doing anything creative for a time. But that is another long story that I have to pay a therapist to tell, lol.

But I have a question now that I am back.

First, I have this very weird thing about art. I am a computer technician, and I did not take any classes. I simply read the books, and took the test and was certified. I did formally study music, and I do formally study poetry and writing and have many instructional books on both subjects that I have found quite useful.

But when it comes to art instruction books, they might as well be in greek (i don't speak greek btw, lol). I have never been able to do the step by step things, you know draw the circle then the triangle on the sides and blend it all in and you have a kitty cat. OK, so that is just me. I am not knocking art instruction at all. I just can't learn that way. I can learn in classes which I have taken.

my question is not a right or wrong one, or yes or no. I want to know how other work in this particular area.

When I begin a project, I usually select a specific size it is going to be. And usually it is a common size so I can get a cheap frame to protect it until it is sold, and don't have to custom frame because I am poor, lol. And people's tastes in frame are so widely different I just sell them it matted and let them frame it. cuts my price down and also a lot of hassle.

So I will usually measure off, say a 16 x 20 area of paper, and use masking tape to delineate it. When I am done I will cut it so that there is enough room for matting.

Ok, now sometimes I will be working and lose perspective, so that my painting no longer 'fits' with the ref pic. I have to rework it, or just improvise if I am so far gone in it that I can't rework it.

So my question is this. How do you guys and girls set up and begin a drawing. I am not really talking about plein air, because then you are more free. But I do pet portraits, and commisions of things, usually working from a photo.

I would just like a sample of how you wonderful artists out there go about it, and maybe one of them will be an improvement on mine.

Thanks. And thanks for being here, and being artists and being so kind. I have always loved this site, and if all the people I have told about this site joined, I think you would have had to double your bandwidth lol.

When you begin a painting, do you

02-18-2010, 12:04 PM
Hi Tom, welcome back! I've had long periods of burnout when I didn't feel like drawing or writing at all, it's so great when that ends.

I like using standard sizes too, for the same reason. If they're smallish, under 9" x 12", I might branch out to some other sizes and shapes because I can mat them up to a standard size well enough. I started doing 6" x 9" or 6" x 8" ones in ESP: Still Life the Colourful Way instead of always doing 5" x 7" or 8" x 10" and have been enjoying that size.

I mark off borders with a margin when I remember to. I'm horrible about not remembering to and working right out to the edge of the paper. I constantly mention "leave generous borders for color tests and putting under the mat" in articles and still work to the edge sometimes. It's a bad habit I'm trying to break, since I'd rather not have to order spacers!

Many times I just start with a hard pastel or a pastel pencil right on the final surface with no planning. This can sometimes come out all right, especially in studies. But it also leads to otherwise good, detailed paintings that have composition nightmares, because I didn't plan them out.

The full method when I do it right is pretty complex. I start with thumbnails and notans to decide the composition and organize values. Sometimes the real composition isn't in any of the notans, but doing them let me work through all the bad ideas for it to get to one that works.

Then I'll do a quick color sketch of the final painting. You can see this process on my Spotlight painting for this month. I got fixated on one of the Spotlight references and have spent all month working out everything for this one square painting that's now in progress.

I'll also do studies of specific elements in the scene or reference before getting started if I'm planning something that thoroughly. Sometimes I'll do those studies more than once. The results for the Spotlight painting are encouraging because I'm a lot more confident now about the shape of the big pine tree that's the focal point.

Then if I'm using the Colourist method, I have four stages to go through that are described in detail in the library in ESP: Still Life the Colourful Way by Colorix. All my life I've liked the screaming bright intense colors the best, and Charlie showed me a method that doesn't involve hunting for that one particular green-gray in the right value.

I also fooled around using that same method with more muted colors and got good results there too, but it's great to be able to use the full intense spectrum colors and still come out with something natural. The paintings just glow when I use that method.

It also broke me fully of the bad habit of doing details first for accuracy. I'd do these immensely detailed sketches and then work over a painting one small area at a time getting that to polished completion. Sometimes I'd work from the wrong area of the painting and smudge whole finished passages with my hand doing that. Often I'd get background elements way too overdetailed that way too.

Working loose to tight is a lot faster and the results come out looking better. So I think my methods are in the middle of a growth spurt and constantly changing as I learn more about pastel painting.

Great question, thank you!

02-18-2010, 01:34 PM
Weclome back Tom. For myself, I start with the size I want. Lets say its a 8 x 10 but when framed will be a 11 x 14. So I start with a little bigger then 8 x 10 paper and mount it to a 11 x 14 foamcore or gatorboard board. Then I do the painting. When I am done, I can either store it until its sold or frame it. This method will keep me from going over my aloted size. hope this helps, james

02-18-2010, 01:48 PM
Hi Tom,

My method is fairly similar to yours, I would say. I don't usually worry about the size being a standard one or not - but it is a good idea if you plan on selling or framing. I tend to work on a piece of paper that is slightly larger than the painting itself, and lightly sketch in my "rectangle" to show my boundaries. My paintings often need a bit of modifying in terms of adding a bit to one side or top/bottom, so I like to have some paper available! I just framed a painting for a show and, unfortunately, it was one time that I painted right to the edges of the paper. Alas, the composition would have been improved (and the framing made easier) if I had another inch of sky at the top!


02-18-2010, 02:37 PM
Hi Tom, nice to meet you!

Life has this irritating habit of happening... Glad you're painting again.

Any time I just dive into a painting, I find myself regretting not doing prelim work. I've come to really like the pre-planning, and I do quite a bit of it. First I start with The Idea, and play with a pic in the computer, trying different crops, keeping in mind the standard sizes of simple frames. Then I do notans with brush-pens on paper. I cut a piece of paper to the size of the frame, mark where the opening of the mat is, and sketch in the 'cartoon drawing' of the painting. The large size of the paper has two purposes: to have the painting sit nicely in the frame without having to attach it to anything, and to have margins to doodle in, plus (OK, I said two, but it is three) it has saved me when I've needed to expand the painting in some direction. I paint over the line indicating the window of the mat, so there is a bit of 'extra' painting going a centimeter under the mat.

This works for me, as the four first lines of a painting are the edges, and the motif is placed within that framework. And, it means I can not only use simple protective frames, but also get pre-cut standard mats, saving a lot of brimstone vocabulary that contaminates the air when I cut mats myself.

And, I maintain that good planning allows for much greater freedom and improvisation once I start painting. Happened in my latest, which I'll post tomorrow.