Happy New Year! For my first post of 2013, I’d like to share some work completed at the end of 2012. This is an art commission for a family to commemorate their annual vacation on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands in Washington State (USA). It features friends and family during sunset, their kids playing on the beach and a crab cake recipe they make with their catch. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my creative process:
First, the ideas. Armed with some photos, we started with some sketched ideas. We decided to do two paintings: one featuring the location and their time with friends and family; the other of a favorite crab recipe. The two pieces could hang together or separately. I offered several versions, and this is the sketch they chose:
I keep my sketches pretty loose, just rendering placement of a few key shapes. I like to begin paintings loosely, simply blocking in large areas with color. With my watercolor background, I prefer to begin with something bright. In this case, I knew the sunset would play a major role in the end, so I started with vermillion orange.
I gradually add in other hues, working my way around the color wheel. I’m not worried about being accurate because later in the process all these colors will serve as a base for more neutral tones.
Next I start to add textures, tints and tones. I love to layer these things because it creates mystery in the end. I like to look at the details in the final piece and not remember exactly how I got there! I spend a lot of time at this phase adjusting colors, and evaluating the composition to make sure it feels balanced, has movement and that my eye doesn’t get stuck in one spot. Even with a sketch, I can really get off-track in a large piece if I’m not careful. I don’t draw everything in first, so sometimes I do have to “fix” things as I paint…I actually enjoy this process and it’s one of the reasons I prefer quick-drying acrylics to other mediums.
When I feel all the big stuff is in order, the progression of colors feels right, I finish by working on details and patterns. This is the most meditative and relaxing part for me and I wish all parts of the painting were this enjoyable. But I guess art is like life…you have to work hard to afford the fun stuff.
In the end, the client was thrilled, and that’s all that matters! Below are the final two pieces. The larger piece is 48 x 48″ and the smaller, which can be hung below or separately is 48 x 12″: