An insight into my painting process

Dear friends and fellow colour enthusiasts!

I get asked a lot about how much my paintings are planned out before I begin. There are many ways I approach my paintings. With my mandalas- sometimes I have the colour scheme completely pre-chosen, others I make up as I go along. With my scenic paintings I also usually have an idea/plan/sketch that I work from- but that I am also open to changing once I begin.

Let me bring you on a journey into the process and inspiration behind one of my newest paintings "Hope of Spring".

Earlier this year I drove past the most glorious blossom tree in full bloom. It was an old tree and I was drawn to its gnarly shapes. As I passed the sun was streaming through it creating heavenly light beams. Overcome by this beautiful scene, I wanted to paint it. I did not have my phone or camera with me so I took a "snapshot" upon my memory.

I returned another time to take a photo for reference. It was an overcast day, so didn't have the stunning light play, but the tree was still a beautiful sight to behold.

 
blossom tree
 

I have a journal where I do very basic sketches of my ideas. I keep these sketches very simple as I like to allow room for spirit to guide me as I am painting. After I finished this sketch, the name for this piece came to me "Hope of Spring".

 
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After I have prepared my canvas with a few layers of gesso, with pencil I sketch out my idea and start testing colours.

prepping the canvas

A common misconception about my paintings is that I use only one dark colour base coat. I do that for mandalas but for my paintings I actually block in the different areas in darker tones. I do this so that the colour matches and harmonises with the dots and so the dots *pop*.

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Now begins my favourite part- the dots! I select the part of the painting that is in the most foreground. In this case it is the blossoms as the tree branches will sit behind this, then the sun rays sit behind those. Here is an example of where spirit leads me... As I began painting the outline of the blossoms I had a vision that it was like a cloud of petals. I like how for a moment you look and think- is this a tree or a cloud? If you look back to my original sketch and the canvas sketch- you see these spirals aren't there. I love allowing a painting to evolve.

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With this outline done, I can now fill it in! I chose to use a variety of golds/light orange- to create the sense that the tree is glowing with the warmth of the sun. I then fill in the sky- as I like to work from the top to the bottom of a painting.

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At this next stage, I hit a bit of a wall- I was going to outline the tree- and then I couldn't decide if I wanted to outline the sunrays or just let the different colour tones of the rays create the division. You can see above that I painted in just one line of the rays- unsure if I should continue. With doubt like this, I leave the painting for a few days until I am confident with my decision. 

I decided I did want to outline the sunrays as I really wanted them to be bold and crisp- just like I remembered them. Once outlined I then went about filling in these rays with beautiful warm tones. I decided this colour scheme to give a sunset feel.

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This is the part of any painting where I get excited- where the end is in sight. It is bittersweet- because I have so enjoyed the process but I do long to see my vision come to completion. With just the sun and hills to dot in- it only took a matter of hours to finish- and here it is...

hope of spring

I hope you enjoyed that little journey into my process! Everyone of my paintings tells a story, captures a moment, wants to share a feeling and I have really enjoyed putting this together!

Prints of "Hope of Spring" can be found here.

 Photo by Ross Bodenmann

Photo by Ross Bodenmann

With gratitude,

Elspeth